Had November 7 put an end to this year's campaign frenzy as election days normally do, political analysts would now be focusing much more attention on the Republicans' unexpectedly strong showing in the House--and on the man who has as solid a claim as any to credit for that outcome: John McCain. Throughout the fall, the Arizona senator crisscrossed the country in support of some 50 Republican congressional candidates, using campaign appearances to douse candidates with much-needed free media, headlining fundraisers (no soft-money fundraisers, thank you), and cutting commercials for radio and TV.
By custom, vice presidential candidates get the nod because they appeal to some highly sought-after constituency. Perhaps it's a state rich in electoral votes. A prized ethnic group. Or maybe just the right or left wing of the party. Look diligently enough, though, and you'll almost certainly strike upon some group the nominee was trying to propitiate. Seemingly, it appears Al Gore ignored this rule in picking Joe Lieberman. But that's only because Gore was reaching out to a constituency you might not have thought of--that maddeningly small, but terribly important, constituency called the Washington press corps.
A decade ago, if someone had told the president of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Al From, that Al Gore would be heading up the Democratic ticket in the year 2000, he would have thought the DLC millennium had truly arrived. Today, though, it's not so clear. Gore's support for free trade, welfare reform, and what some consider balanced-budget fetishism makes him seem like a DLC-style New Democrat. But some in the DLC are not so sure; and perhaps with good reason.
It's easy to overlook how much the second Clinton-Gore administration, even in its more centrist moments, has already departed from DLC orthodoxies. Consider a few examples:
Harry Dent assures me that George W. Bush is going to win big in South Carolina on February 19. "He's Mr. Handsome," the South Carolinian recently told me, "got a gorgeous wife, good family. And he believes in Jesus Christ. That's pretty strong down here." Dent should know. A longtime adviser to the state's nonagenarian Senator Strom Thurmond and a storied figure in the history of the post-civil rights era South and the Republican Party, Dent is widely credited as the principal architect of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy.
If Republicans can't figure out that George W. Bush is their man, Dent said, "they might as well go back into the hills again."