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Shipp: Little in this race fits the pattern

POSTED: April 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.

I have been so wrong so often on these presidential primaries that I don't know where to start cleaning up and trying to explain my record.

I said Barack Obama couldn't win outside the South. America turned out to be further ahead on racial matters than I thought. A lot of enlightened white kids liked Obama and voted for him.

Obama seems to be on a roll. I still say he can't go all the way. No matter what I say, however, Obama is the new kind of black leader we'll be seeing for the next generation. Al and Jesse's strategy of "every black a victim" may be evaporating.

Obama also is a product of the celebrity generation; he's a rock star. However, "celebrity" wears off fast.
I said Mitt Romney was the smartest guy on the field. I should have said "richest" and let it go at that.

The smartest guy: Mike Huckabee. He had no money; the white-shoe crowd made fun of him; the old Christian Coalition people (read big-church white folks) decided that they liked a Mormon better than a Baptist preacher; the D.C. brain trust jeered Huckabee's name as too country and his Ozark origin as pure Hicksville, and he still romped at the polls.

Even my daughter, Edie, said she voted for Huckabee. How can this be happening? (My other daughter, Michelle, assured me she followed instructions. She did as her mother told her, and that may be a first.)

In fact, how can Huckabee, who looks and sounds like a farm-town preacher, even think of running as a Republican? Worse than that, how can Republicans think of voting for him? This guy looks like he buys his suits at Target. I phoned Sadie Fields, head of Christian Alliance and a Romney booster, for counsel. Sadie would certainly know the answer to the Huckabee riddle. Alas, she must have taken the phone off the hook when Mitt headed for the showers.

One other thing: Huckabee may steal Gov. Sonny Perdue's thunder as a possible vice presidential candidate. (Sorry, Sonny. We tried. Maybe you can run for president next time. Neither party appears to have any bench left.)

I claim bragging rights to accurately forecasting Democrat John Edwards' fate, but I do so sadly. He ran an old-fashioned populist campaign dwelling on help for the downtrodden and health care for everybody. On paper, he looked like a shoo-in in the South, a region historically plagued by poverty. Besides, he is a native Southerner.

Edwards' plan was doomed from the beginning. In the South, blacks control the Democratic primaries. Blacks were not about to turn their backs on Obama even if Edwards promised that every dream would come true. A battle plan based on class warfare will not work in an election between a black and a white candidate. Race trumps all.

Then there's John McCain. I said he was too old (71), too mean, too candid and too militaristic. But he still won. Perhaps I confused his liabilities with his assets. His main liability seems to be his failure to kiss the rings of king commentators Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. They have used their radio platforms to denounce McCain as a nonconservative rat. First thing you know they'll be poking fun at him for being chained to his bed and tortured in a Vietnam prison.

You think I jest. The right-wing nuts thought Max Cleland being blown to pieces in Vietnam was a real knee-slapper.

That about covers it, right? No? I've left out someone. Where is Hillary Clinton on my "How I Went Wrong" list? She should be right at the top. I said at the beginning of the nomination wars that Hillary Clinton was the Democrats' champ. I opined that she probably had a lock on her party's nomination. Her toughest challenger might turn out to be Dennis Kucinich. I thought hubby Bill would be her greatest asset. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Look at the rotten campaign she has run so far. Her bid turned out to be anything but a lock, and the former president's help has not always been helpful.

Still, I stick by my guns on who'll win the Democratic nomination. Hill will. Who'll win the election? You won't get me out on that limb, not when a young whipper-snapper like Smilin' Jack McCain will be at the controls of the Grand Old Party.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesville times.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30160. First published Feb. 13, 2008.



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