Senior Political Analyst
From about 30,000 feet, here's what the political landscape looks like to me today, just after Michigan and the Democratic debate in Nevada:
-- The terrain for the general election is moving even more strongly in the Democrats' favor. With results in from four states, Republicans have at least four -- arguably five -- candidates bunched together at the top -- each one of whom can win the nomination but no one of whom inspires all the party faithful. That's not a promising scenario for a party whose strength on election day has depended heavily upon an army of excited volunteers. Meanwhile, Democrats are choosing between two candidates, each of whom can win and can also rally the party in November.
-- Despite their strong position, the Democrats could still lose in November, not just on personality but on philosophy. Last night's debate showed plainly that both Barack and Hillary want far more governmental activism in tackling everything from the economy to health care to climate change. The public appears open to more government than in the recent past, but it isn't clear that it has yet come this far. Remember that the only two Democrats who have won the White House since Lyndon Johnson have been two southerners running as moderates, Carter and Clinton -- and neither won 50 percent of the popular vote.
-- Unfortunately, the election campaign so far hasn't yet shown clear evidence that any one of the candidates on either side is fully up to the challenges awaiting in 2009. Several of them would be fine for average times, but we are entering an extraordinary time in the presidency. Hopefully, the weeks ahead will provide a chance to explore more deeply what lies ahead -- and the leadership we so urgently need.
A post-script to last night's Democratic debate: Clinton, Edwards and Obama each told Tim
Russert they would enforce laws requiring universities to allow military recruiters on campus. As a long-time advocate of restoring ROTC to major universities, I just want to add that a huge stumbling block now is the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military, which is seen at many schools as highly discriminatory against gays and lesbians. If that is amended -- as growing numbers in the military think should happen -- we will have a much better chance of persuading schools to honor service in the armed forces in the ways that they should.