Feb 7th 2008
From The Economist print edition
The Republicans, at least, seem to have found a decent candidate
Illustration by Kevin Kallaugher
WINSTON CHURCHILL, that famous half-American, once said that his mother’s countrymen could always be counted on to do the right thing, after exhausting the available alternatives. His words would apply well to the Republican Party just now. Having lengthily lionised “America’s mayor”, Rudy Giuliani, looked longingly at Reagan-lite Fred Thompson, flirted with millionaire Mitt Romney and sung along with preacherman Mike Huckabee, the party’s voters have sensibly plumped for John McCain, the only Republican whom pollsters give a chance of keeping the White House out of Democratic hands (see article). It is possible—just—to imagine Mr McCain failing to carry the nomination after Super Tuesday, which saw him win three times as many delegates as his nearest rival, Mr Romney, who suspended his campaign. But that would now require spectacular intervention by the Almighty on behalf of the admittedly pious Mr Huckabee.
Given George Bush’s failings, the Republicans face an uphill challenge, but they have given themselves a chance. Mr McCain is a man of courage. He showed it in Vietnam, while Mr Bush and Bill Clinton found themselves other occupations; as a prisoner-of-war, he refused to be released without his comrades even though he had already been tortured for a year, so earning four more years of agony. He has been brave politically, too. It takes an exceptional individual to court the hatred of his own party rather than compromise on issues he believes in, such as the need for immigration reform, the wrongness of torture under any circumstances or the need to tackle global warming. Should Mr McCain become president, the world will see an American with different views from those it has sadly learned to expect from Republicans recently.
Those atypical positions, and his willingness to team up with Democrats in the Senate, may have earned Mr McCain the support of many of the independent voters who will be crucial to Republican chances in the general election. But it would be wrong to think the senator from Arizona is simply pandering to them. On a host of other issues, he has risked alienating the centre. He is a passionate believer in free trade (which endears him to this newspaper, at least), and he was a supporter of the “surge” in Iraq when all Democrats, most independents and a fair few Republicans thought the best thing to do was for America to leave. Some of these beliefs, alas, will surely hurt him, but it is much to his credit that when advisers urged him to moderate them he angrily refused.
A few chinks in the armour
Mr McCain is certainly the right man for the Republicans, but we are not yet ready to endorse him for the presidency. His age is one drawback: at 72, he will, if elected, be the oldest president ever to take office (though Ronald Reagan was older when he was re-elected in 1984). His health has not been perfect—though his 96-year-old mother looks reassuringly sprightly—and his choice of a running-mate is therefore a subject of more than the usual concern. One danger is that he might feel constrained to select Mr Huckabee, who won five southern states this week and appeals to the evangelical Christians who mistrust Mr McCain. Likeable though he is, Mr Huckabee is tainted by an anti-business strain of populism and a literalist faith that sometimes blinds him to basic science. The possibility of a Huckabee presidency would give many independent voters (and this newspaper) pause.
麦凯恩先生无疑是共和党的最佳人选，但拥护他登上总统宝座仍为时过早。年龄是一个问题：他已经72岁了。若能当选，他将是美国历史上最年长的总统（虽然里根在1984年获得连任时比他大几岁）。他的健康状况也令人担忧，尽管他96岁的母亲看上去非常健朗。最令他头痛的是副手人选。他可能迫于形势压力与赫卡比搭档，本周赫卡比赢得了南方五州，在基督教福音派选民中享有很高的支持率，而这他们正是那些不信任麦凯恩的选民。尽管赫卡比人气颇旺，他却是个反对商业的民粹主义者，而且他的宗教信仰过于死板，以至于否认一些基本的科学常识。如果要让赫卡比担任副总统的话，相信很多选民（包括本报）都会重新考虑是否要将选票投给麦凯恩。 Mr McCain’s other problem is his temperament. He has not been mellowed by having had to run a state—a shortcoming he shares with his Democratic rivals, but still a disadvantage. The flip-side of his courage is a short temper. There have been too many blow-ups with fellow senators. At a time when America needs to rebuild its relationship with the rest of the world, a prickly patriot who supported the Iraq war (though he was the first to call for Donald Rumsfeld’s head after things started to go wrong) and who has been known to sing “Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann” could be improved on from a diplomatic point of view.
麦凯恩先生的另一个问题就是他暴躁的脾气。他没担任过州长，因此缺少一定的政治手腕，尽管两位民主党候选人也没有担任过州长，但相比之下，这仍是麦凯恩的劣势。在他敢做敢的个性背后，正是他那暴躁的脾气。他曾多次对其他参议员大发雷霆。当下正值美国需要与世界各国重建友好关系之际，这位棱角分明的爱国者一面支持伊拉克战争（尽管在出现问题后使他第一个向拉姆斯菲尔德兴师问罪的），一面唱着麦凯恩版的“芭芭啦 安：“轰炸，轰炸，轰炸，轰炸，轰炸伊朗”，从外交的角度来讲他是该改改了。Don’t give up on the Democrats
So a Democrat may yet impress us more, but first they must put their own house in order. Luckily for Mr McCain, that will be a while coming—and in the meantime he can start raising money for the general-election campaign. Most analysts argue that Barack Obama would have a better chance against Mr McCain than Hillary Clinton would. The young black senator is better at appealing to the centrist voters who like Mr McCain; and the prospect of another Clinton co-presidency would do much to compel Republican right-wingers to get behind a man they think is not a true conservative.
That calculation ought to help Mr Obama in the weeks to come after a Super Tuesday that was, on the Democratic side, a dead heat. Another 22 states, including big ones like Texas and Ohio, have still to vote in primaries, and half the delegates have yet to be chosen. Mr Obama will also gain an edge from the return to a battle that is fought state by state, since this plays to his superior abilities at firing up big crowds. But the formidable Clinton machine grinds on, and the fact that she won in most of the big states that were up for grabs on Super Tuesday has buoyed her team no end. Mrs Clinton’s solid support among Hispanics will help a lot in Texas, though at the cost of keeping race as a live, and nasty, issue on the hustings. On the other hand, this week Mr Obama won in more states and may have secured one or two more delegates as well, so he can make a strong claim to have superior momentum.
The fight will be long and mucky, but the Democrats may yet emerge sharpened by the contest. Both Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama have the necessary attributes to take on Mr McCain: they are two formidable campaigners who have offered detailed and generally intelligent policy proposals and have been forced to work exceptionally hard for their votes.
So Mr McCain is still no more than half-way to the White House. But the fact that the Republicans seem to have learnt from their mistakes enough to line up behind a credible candidate augurs well for their country—and for the world.