Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jon Stewart last night made what I think is a pretty shrewd political assessment:

I think John Edwards dropped out, and I believe this to be the case, to boost Barack Obama going into Super Tuesday. I feel like Edwards would have siphoned votes, I think he did it to make this a real battle between the two to see who comes out.
But then -- in, like, his next breath -- he lumped John McCain in with Barack Obama:
Stewart: I feel like a McCain-Obama presidential election would be such a tonic for this country. And I mean that, I'm not even talking about specifically policy, but both are figures that seem not products of a pure system, of a pure political system. And to have those two choices, might seem... whoever gets it, I believe could change the tone quite drastically.
Peggy Noonan: I get what you're saying. They don't seem like machine guys.
Stewart: Right, they don't seem like machine guys. They don't seem so crass, maybe, is- or craven, I should say.
I probably wouldn't have had as much of a problem with that in 2000 (though there's plenty to suggest that maybe I ought to have), but come on: he can't honestly still think of John McCain as that same Independent Maverick Moderate Whatever, can he?

Right now, this election is clearly the Democrats' to lose (as was 2004, of course, and look how that turned out). But recent polling has shown that, of all the Republicans, John McCain -- John "Jerry Falwell" McCain! John "Judeo-Christian" McCain! John "I'd Prefer a Christian President" McCain! John "Bomb Iran" McCain! John "100 Years" McCain! -- seems to have the best chance of actually holding on to the White House.

I'm hopeful that those numbers reflect mainly the fact that a lot of people are still relatively underexposed to the new McCain, and are answering pollsters' questions based on the Independent Maverick Moderate Whatever that they remember from eight years ago (and that, accordingly, a well-run campaign from either Democrat could swing those numbers pretty rapidly). But I also really do think that the continued support of people like Jon Stewart is a not-inconsiderable explanation for McCain's "moderate" street cred.

McCain's appearances on The Daily Show demonstrate very clearly that Jon Stewart holds John McCain in the highest personal regard, and I have no issue with that. But I hope Stewart's able to separate that personal regard from a tacit endorsement of McCain's candidacy. Because if we head into November with people like Jon Stewart continuing to frame the campaign as "finally, a race between two guys who aren't craven," then we could be in for a world of trouble.

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