The Elephant's great Kansas City shuffle

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Without endorsing either of the three Presidential candidates in the US, and without suggesting any underhanded shenanigans, let me propose a thought about USA '08.

It occurred to me last week while having drinks with a dozen or so industry peers - almost all democrats, mind you. The subject of the conversation somehow shifted to politics and the candidates... and I fully expected the group to be happy about Sen. Obama's advantage over Sen. Clinton. That, however, wasn't the case: No one at the table endorsed Obama.

Let me put it in another way, which is perhaps more telling: Not one single democrat at the table trusted Obama. Not enough experience, rhetoric not matching his record, the whole crazy church thing. The underlying sentiment basically came down to this: "What do we really know about this guy? Nothing. He came out of nowhere way too fast. We aren't sure what to expect."

Call it buyer's remorse. Call it gut feeling. Call it whatever you will, but everyone's favorite campaign trail rock star, the guy the press is so quick to attach to Kennedy and MLK... well... maybe he isn't the superstar we've been so eagerly sold as the game-changer/unifier/political superhero America has been craving since Kennedy (or Ronald Reagan, depending what side of the fence you're on).

But we haven't gotten to the meat of it yet. The truly eye-opening opinion I hadn't expected to hear. I'm getting to it. Here it is: Everyone there agreed that if Sen. Obama won the nomination instead of Sen. Clinton, they would not vote for him.

I was kind of shocked since I thought Obama - based on what I gather from mass media - would be a clear favorite.

More surprising yet, most admitted that they would actually switch camps and vote for McCain. These are democrats, mind you. People who are fed up with the Bush administration and ready for a change. People who have ALWAYS voted democrat. (Even Dukakis? Really?) And yet here they are, ready to vote for McCain if Obama beats Clinton in the '08 donkey race.

I just wonder how many democrats around the US feel the same way. Probably a lot. Or rather, just enough.

I am sure every campaign manager knows exactly how many swing voters they can expect to win or lose, all broken down by demos, geos and verticals. The precise impact of these numbers must also be crystal clear to them.

Boiled down to the basics, the equation is simple:

Obama + McCain = McCain wins.
Clinton + McCain = x

What's the Republicans' play? Simple: Make sure Obama gets the nomination. Hillary is the real X-Factor, not Obama. McCain can't shred her. But Obama can with the whole "new dream"/Kennedy/"let's join hands" thing. Let him do it before we even get to the big game.


Elections are a lot easier to win when you control the entire board, not just your half of it. The Dems are still stuck in primary mode. The Republicans, on the other hand, are already five steps ahead in presidential election mode.

Which makes the whole "Hillary should just quit" movement more than just vaguely suspicious. The pressure isn't just coming from the Obama camp, and now I think I know why.

For better or for worse, I'm calling November '08 now: McCain will defeat Obama. No Chad manipulation needed. No voting machine hacks necessary. He will win because his people didn't leave anything to chance. Because they knew how to control the board from the very start.

The dems (yes, the voters) are getting played something fierce.

"Divide and conquer" and all.

As eloquently explained by Bruce Willis in Lucky Number Slevin, a Kansas City Shuffle is where everyone looks left, when they should really be looking right.


They'll be talking about this one for decades to come.

Photo: Bob Elsdale

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