Ripped from the wires ... William Kristol offers advice to liberals on how to handle an Obama defeat:
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Barack Obama will probably win the 2008 presidential election. If he does, we conservatives will greet the news with our usual resolute stoicism or cheerful fatalism. Being conservative means never being too surprised by disappointment.
But what if John McCain pulls off an upset?
I'm worried about my compatriots on the left. Michael Powell reports in Saturday's New York Times that even the possibility of an Obama defeat has driven many liberals into in a state of high anxiety. And then there's a young woman from Denver who "told her boyfriend that their love life was on hold while she sweated out Mr. Obama's performance in Colorado.'' Well, what if Obama loses Colorado? Or the presidency? As a compassionate conservative, I'm concerned about the well-being of that boyfriend -- and of others who might be similarly situated. I feel an obligation to help.
So let me tell liberals why they should be cheerful if McCain happens to win.
1. It would be a victory for an underdog. Liberals are supposed to like underdogs. McCain is a lonely guy standing up against an unprecedentedly well-financed, superorganized, ExxonMobil-like Obama juggernaut. A McCain upset victory would be a classic liberal happy ending.
2. It would be a defeat for the establishment. Obama's most recent high-profile Republican endorser was D.C. insider Kenneth Duberstein. Liberals should be on the side of hard-working plumbers, not big-shot lobbyists -- oops, sorry, big-shot strategic advisers and consultants. And Duberstein said that Colin Powell's endorsement was "the Good Housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama.'' Doesn't that comment embody everything that liberals (and many conservatives, including me) find creepy about smug establishment back-scratching and gatekeeping in America?
3. It would be a victory for the future. With President Bush's approval rating at about 25 percent, a McCain triumph would mean Americans were making a judgment on two future alternatives, not merely voting on the basis of their resentment at the past performance of George W. Bush. It would mean voters were looking ahead, not back. Liberals should therefore welcome a McCain win as a triumph of hope over fear, of the future over the past.
4. It would be a victory for freedom. Obama supporter Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic writes that "tyrants and genocidaires would sleep less soundly during a McCain presidency.'' Liberals should be opposed to tyranny and genocide. Wieseltier also acknowledges that McCain "was splendidly right about the surge, which is not a small thing; and the grudging way Obama treats the reversal in Iraq, when he treats it at all, is disgraceful.'' The surge advanced not only our national security but the cause of freedom in the world. Liberals should be votaries of freedom.
5. A McCain victory would be good for liberalism. Look at recent history. Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Congress begat Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress produced Newt Gingrich. Who knows what would follow a President Obama and a Democratic Congress? Here's one possibility: President Sarah Palin.
So liberals shouldn't be too upset at the idea of McCain winning. Could it happen?
It's possible. What if the polls, for various reasons, are overstating Obama's support by a couple points? And what if the late deciders break overwhelmingly against Obama, as they did in the Democratic primaries? McCain could then thread the Electoral College needle.
McCain would have to win every state where he now leads or is effectively even in the polls (including North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri). He'd have to take Florida and Ohio, where he's about four points down but where operatives on the ground give him a pretty good shot. That gets him to 247 of the 270 votes needed.
McCain's path to victory is then to snatch Pennsylvania (which gets him to 268), and win either Virginia, Colorado, Nevada or New Mexico (states where he trails by about four to seven points) -- or New Hampshire, where he's 10 points behind, but twice won dramatic primary victories.
As for Pennsylvania, two recent polls have McCain closing to within four points. Pennsylvania is the state whose small-town residents were famously patronized by Obama as "bitter.'' One of Pennsylvania's Democratic congressmen, John Murtha, recently accused many of his western Pennsylvania constituents of being racist. Perhaps Pennsylvanians will want to send a little message to the Democratic Party. And that could tip the election to McCain.
It's an inside straight. But I've seen gamblers draw them.
If McCain wins, think of this column as a modest contribution to cheering up distraught liberals. If Obama prevails, I'm confident there are some compassionate liberals out there who will do the same for hapless conservatives as they hobble out to the wilderness.
Kristol is a New York Times columnist.