John B. Judis

Back to the USSR

John McCain likes to compare himself to Theodore Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. But, if he were to become president, could he more closely resemble Richard Nixon? Not Nixon the Watergate dirty trickster, but Nixon the statesman.

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Dear Editor: It is unfortunate to see John Judis recycling discredited allegations by the controversial government "watchdog," the Independent Review Board (IRB). The IRB was installed to root out mob influence in the Teamsters, but with the mobsters now out of the picture, this lavishly paid unit uses its unchecked authority to take sides in internal politics, curtail free speech and ride rough shod over due process against any union official they target.

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Now that he has clinched the Democratic nomination, pundits will mostly gauge Barack Obama’s prospects in the general election by looking at states he can win or constituencies he can carry. But there is another dimension to his candidacy: He represents a social group that was once on the margins of American politics, but now aspires to put one of its own in the highest office. This has happened once before in U.S. politics: when American Catholics saw one of their own nominated to be president.

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The Big Race

The issue of race is the longest-lasting cleavage in American politics. It is also perhaps the least understood. The open exploitation of racist sentiment by vote-hungry politicians was for centuries a durable American tradition.

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I am not going to get into the game of saying whom Barack Obama should choose to be his vice-presidential nominee. I am chastened from having argued for John Kerry to pick John Edwards in 2004. And I am not going to say whom he shouldn't choose either. But I want to suggest that there are pitfalls to his endorsing the "dream ticket" of himself and Hillary Clinton, which prominent Clinton supporters like Diane Feinstein are promoting. There are two arguments for Obama choosing Clinton: one is plausible; the other is bogus.

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Tuesday's results replicated much of the Democratic race during the last two months. Hillary Clinton once more showed her strength and Barack Obama's weakness among white working class voters in Midwestern swing states, while Obama proved his hold on young and college-educated voters in states where a new post-industrial economy has developed, and where college-educated voters make up about half of the Democratic electorate. For Obama, the question will be how to capture enough of these white working class voters in November to defeat Republican John McCain.

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The Local

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that last summer, Illinois Senator Barack Obama told officials in the Teamsters union that he favored ending the Independent Review Board (IRB) that was created in 1989 by the federal government to rid the union of organized crime.

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In my cover story this week, "The Big Race," I mention that white women voters who have been backing Democrats should prove sympathetic to Barack Obama’s candidacy. I had a specific study of women voters in mind, but I didn’t want to exhaust readers’ patience with the description of another psychological experiment. I will describe the study here, because I think it has important implications for the 2008 election.

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The Democratic primary is over. Hillary Clinton might still run in West Virginia and Kentucky, which she’ll win handily, but by failing to win Indiana decisively and by losing North Carolina decisively, she lost the argument for her own candidacy. She can’t surpass Barack Obama’s delegate or popular vote count. The question is no longer who will be the Democratic nominee, but whether Obama can defeat Republican John McCain in November. And the answer to that is still unclear. During the last two months, Obama has faltered as a candidate.

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The Next McGovern?

Hillary Clinton won a decisive ten-round decision over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary, but she didn’t score a knockout. The struggle continues. Clinton still has virtually no chance of overtaking Obama’s delegate lead or his edge in the popular vote. And the superdelegates will be loath to ignore this advantage. Meanwhile, Obama’s weaknesses as a general election candidate grow more apparent with each successive primary.

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