The Primaries

Before all the New Hampshire news comes through, I just wanted to record that I would be surprised if we were not heading for at least one and maybe two brokered conventions in the US. A brokered convention is when the Party gathering to select the nominee is not a coronation, as it has been since 1976, but actually represents a proper fight between delegates. Hillary's narrower-than expected loss tonight, which I anticipate, will be spun into a comeback or survival story and the Straits trouble will shine a light on experience and the likes of McCain, whom the phoney and robotic Romney is currently trying to paint into a 'New Hampshire favourite' corner.

The muscles that have atrophied in campaigners and the party to deal with such a situation at the convention (though one now emerging from rooms filled with something other than smoke, presumably) are quite hard to develop and we may be in for some surprises, including the drafting of outsider Vice-presidential candidates from the Diplomatic world or big media.

The reason I think this is that Iowa and New Hampshire have been historically places where interesting, intellectual, or new candidates have done well by appealing to their party's aspirations. In a mad way, Gene McCarthy in 1968, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Pat Robertson did this in 1988, Gary Hart in 1984, Paul Tsongas in 1992. However, establishment candidates with money and the backing of party Barons have often hit back. Of all of them, only Reagan made it through and that was after a failed attempt at the presidency in 1976.

So Obama, especially if as I suspect Paul has hoovered up some independents and narrowed Obama's lead over Hillary tonight, should not be too confident. John McCain will have stronger Republican backers, but a Clinton and Romney or Giuliani breakthrough in the big polls in February will restore those candidates and make life much harder for the agents of 'change' like Obama, Huckabee and Paul, and those who also bask in insurgency and independence like McCain.

What would be awful would be if we ended up with some version of a Mondale-Dole fight (yes, I know that only happened at the Veep level in 1976, but I mean their two awful campaigns for the big job and the way they won them) or a double- Dukakis because the parties have stacked the big primaries.


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