Obama-McCain: Political Inertia Coupling?

Inertia coupling is a phenomenon of high-speed flight in which aircraft control input in one direction leads to unexpected movement in another direction.

McCain is now, per Intrade, the Republican frontrunner, having eclipsed Giuliani and Romney over the past couple of days.

I wonder if his current popularity is in part a function of Obama’s rise in the Iowa caucuses.

I think McCain is a lousy Republican candidate: sponsor of a terrible campaign-finance law, bad on immigration, an unprincipled flip-flopper on important issues such as taxes, with a history of self-serving political maneuvering at the expense of his own Party. Compared to McCain, Hillary Clinton — a crook and, I think, a socialist at heart — seems stable. She appears to offer the possibility that she would do the right thing on taxes, spending and national defense if it were politically advantageous. Thus she becomes almost an acceptable choice for center-right voters if the Republican candidate is as flawed as McCain is.

But if Obama rather than Clinton is the Democratic nominee, McCain becomes more attractive to Republicans, because Obama is weak on national defense and looks like the kind of pol who, if elected President, would stick to failed ’60s liberalism in domestic policy out of principle. National defense is the most important issue to many Republicans, and McCain is pretty good on it, so he starts to look better if the election becomes a choice of lousy foreign and domestic policies vs. possibly-lousy domestic policy and probably-OK foreign and defense policies.

(I’m not arguing that Giuliani looks worse after Iowa. He doesn’t. It’s just that McCain now looks less bad. And if Clinton isn’t the Democratic nominee, it may be that Giuliani loses some of his relative advantage as a New Yorker who can compete effectively for some of her home-state votes.)

I think Hillary Clinton would be a lousy President but I could be wrong. But Obama might be even worse. Of the Republicans, I think Giuliani would be better than McCain. The stock market, and particularly the tax-sensitive tech sector, got drilled today, and Intrade’s contract on the odds for an economic recession in 2008 popped above 50% again. Some of today’s bad market news is certainly related to this morning’s unemployment report. However, my guess is that some of the negative market behavior is a function of the Iowa results, which improved the electoral odds of the candidates who are most likely to support bad economic policies.

Related: Obama, the Election and the Economy

10 thoughts on “Obama-McCain: Political Inertia Coupling?”

  1. The short answer: the Democrats are going to have a major sweep in the next election and it doesn’t much matter who the GOP puts up as its nominee.

  2. Joseph Hill,
    The money is on your position, but you are aware, aren’t you, that that piece is now almost three years old and a reaction to some of the movement at that time?
    The last two elections were close – and everyone said, ah, (in a regretful way by some and a “we sure escaped that bullet” by others) if the Democrats had just run someone more competent and interesting. Now we can see. I don’t agree with these guys much but they don’t seem like stick figures.

  3. “…the Democrats are going to have a major sweep in the next election and it doesn’t much matter who the GOP puts up as its nominee.”

    This is probably true, but less likely than it once appeared. Not inevitable.

  4. I would of course agree that nothing is inevitable…but the independents I know in my area, and even a number of registered Republicans, say it itime for big changes in Washington. An indication seems to be the number of Republans quitting Congress to “devote more time to their family.”

  5. People always say it is time for big changes in Washington.

    The Democrats have a majority in Congress and are ragingly unpopular.

    “Big change” may be aimed at all incumbents.

    I see no reason to think that a “big change” vote increases the D majorities in Congress.

    The biggest change happens without a vote: Mr. Bush leaves town.

  6. The Cngress in unpopular but the majority of Dems not sufficient to overturn what the GOP wants or what Bush is able to veto…we are all playing guessing games here at this point but I do predict a massive turning against the GOP. It is one of those cycles which seem to happen in our politics and mayk finally, be not so bad a thing.

  7. A twofer! (I just commented at Ginny’s oldish post re. Hillary and see that it is even more germane to Jon’s post here).

    It occurs to me that, as the candidates personalities begin to crystalize a bit (for me), that the Republicans have their own “prima donna” with an overweening righteousness and potentially dangerous ego http://blog.electromneyin2008.com/2008/01/06/mccains-temperament/
    (God bless attack ads and sites).

    There was another (also a Romney site, I think, which, unfortunately, I can’t find) which lists, chronologically, the “manchurian candidate’s” public meltdown over the last decade or so. I was particularly impressed by his pushing 90+ year old Strom Thurmond in the Senate during a heated exchange in the mid 90’s.

    If anything, McCain’s inability to contain his emotions seems greater than Ms. Clintons. Whether he is more or less self-righteious is open to debate. Politically it might be interesting to note that it seems that if McCain would dial it about one or two clicks to the left and Hillary one or two clicks to the right they’d meet.

  8. “Thus she becomes almost an acceptable choice for center-right voters if the Republican candidate is as flawed as McCain is.”

    I didn’t want to say it.

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