Count me as surprised by John McCain's failure to catch fire with conservative caucusees (still too early to call them "primary voters"). On my view he has always been the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination because a) I have a lot of admiration for his personal character and b) I'm pretty much diametrically opposed to his solidly conservative positions. The only thing substantive that the Party has to complain about is his zeal for campaign finance reform, and that's tactical on the part of the Party and popular with the mainstream. It seems that the same thing may happen to McCain in 2008 that happened to Al Gore in 2004: the rank and file turn out not to care for the man. It occurs to me that my admiration for McCain was always conditioned by the fact that I have no prospect of ever voting for him. It's another thing when one is actually considering sharing responsibility for installing someone in office. But note that Senator McCain has not yet, in fact, gone the way of Al Gore circa 2004; it's still much too early in the process to say that. Ironically, the polls may be going for Giuliani on the basis of perceived electability in the general election because it's still so long before the primary election: I still say that a pro-choice candidate can't win the GOP nomination, period. McCain should hang in there.
Meanwhile Al Gore is back this week at the number 3 spot in polls of Democratic voters, after Clinton and Obama. Mostly this is because the Obama campaign is hurting Edwards. Obama is occupying the ecological niche of fresh-faced, outsider insurgent, and that's the energy Edwards lives on. In general Obama is making it a lot harder for third-tier candidates (Richardson is another example) to get ink and money. In this way he helps Hillary. He also helps Hillary by taking the heat off of her as the front-runner all this time before the election. My view is that Obama is helping Hillary quite a lot. Another unexpected beneficiary is Al Gore, who has successfully rebranded himself as Party establishment (not Obama) but explicitly left-wing (not the Clintons). Anybody remember Al Gore 1988? He was the right-wing Democrat in that primary season, anti gun control, pro death penalty. That's OK, I like Gore and I'd gladly vote for him. You might think of it as getting the goodness of Clintonismo without the bother of the Clintons themselves, although for myself, I have no problem voting for Clinton either.