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It’s Too Early To Celebrate A McCain Victory

It's been a tough month for Democrats, ever since Hillary Clinton won the primaries in Ohio and Texas and extended the primary campaign seemingly interminably. The main beneficiary of the increasingly bitter internecine fight on the Democratic side has been … Read More

By / March 24, 2008

It's been a tough month for Democrats, ever since Hillary Clinton won the primaries in Ohio and Texas and extended the primary campaign seemingly interminably. The main beneficiary of the increasingly bitter internecine fight on the Democratic side has been John McCain, who now enjoys his highest favorability rating in eight years, and has drawn even or slightly ahead of both Democratic candidates in hypothetical matchups after trailing them for most of the year.

Still, it's absurdly premature for Republicans to start popping champagne bottles. The Democratic primary race will end at some point. And when it does, McCain will be at a massive financial and structural disadvantage to his opponent, whoever he or she might be. Nonetheless, there's an irrational exuberance creeping into the McCain camp, of which Exhibit A has got to be Jamie Kirchick's post at The Plank speculating about a McCain victory in the Bay State. You see, a Rasmussen poll several days ago had Barack Obama ahead of John McCain by just seven points in Massachusetts. Sure, it's only one poll, and Mass is among the most liberal states in the country, the only one to vote for George McGovern. But Jamie is willing to offer an even money bet that McCain can carry the home state of the Kennedy clan, because, Jamie says, McCain has a secret weapon:

[A] Scots-Irish war veteran as the Republican nominee complicates predictions about whom Kennedy Country will support come November.

Well now that Hillary Clinton has brought peace to Northern Ireland, I'm as optimistic as anyone about the prospects for comity between Irish Catholics and Protestants. But playing up his heritage is probably not a winning strategy for McCain in Massachusetts. "Irish" in America used to mean the Ulster Scots — Protestant Anglo-Scottish settlers in Ireland who helped the crown keep the Catholics in line. Then Irish Catholics began emigrating in large numbers, and the original American Irish needed a way of distinguishing themselves from the dirty papists, so "Scots-Irish" it was. They used to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day as a provocation. Today, in a place like Massachusetts, "Scots-Irish" is a toned down way of saying "Son of Armagh and the Orange Cross," and would go over about as well at pubs where the regulars used to pass around a collection plate for the IRA. Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that Three Cheers for Ulster! and A Protestant Nation for a Protestant People! and We'll guard old Derry's walls! and Ulster Will Fight and Ulster Will Be Right! won't be the most successful slogans in Kennedy Country. What's more, Obama can pick as his running mate another Scots-Irish war veteran, Sen. James Webb of Virginia, in which case the two campaigns may be locked in a serious contest for the Paisleyite vote that has always been so crucial in Massachusetts.

On the other hand, McCain does have a leg up in south Boston if he has to run against a dahkie, but that's another story.

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