Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Lagniappe - I would like to go on record to make the following prediction: Should Trent Lott fight for his position as Majority Leader of the Senate, and should he succeed in his efforts, both Lincoln Chafee AND John McCain will bolt the GOP and vote with Democrats to give the Democrats, once again, control over the Senate. My reasoning is simple.

Lincoln Chafee has always been considered the next potential Jim Jeffords and has been criticized for his moderate positions from within his own party. This cannot sit well with Chafee under normal circumstances. However, now that Chafee has staked his position squarely against Trent Lott, he is basically giving his party an ultimatum which, if not heeded, will make life all the more uncomfortable for Chafee in a GOP controlled Senate under Lott's leadership. Now that Chafee's on the public record against a Lott leadership, that's an easy call to make.

The McCain angle is a bit more complicated, since McCain has been relatively quiet on the Lott controversy to date. But, the clincher for the McCain switch has nothing to do with the Lott problem directly. My thinking is that, with Al Gore out of the 2004 Presidential race on the Democratic ticket, McCain's only nationally-recognized and fully publicly vetted competition for a potential Democratic nomination in the 2004 Presidential race is no longer in the picture. Switching parties to capture the Democratic 2004 Presidential nomination must be very tempting for McCain, who is considered anathema among Republicans to GOP orthodoxy, and very appealing to moderate Democratic and Republican voters - the so-called "swing" voters. If Lott prevails, it will give very good cover to McCain to leave the GOP and join with the Democrats - especially if he can "share" the burden and the criticism of such a move with Chafee and deflect such potential criticism on the basis of a "principled" rationale for bolting as opposed to an "opportunistic" rationale (not to mention extracting some plum concessions from the Senate Democratic Leadership in doing so). Put it this way: I'd vote for McCain on the Democratic ticket given what I see as the lack of available viable alternatives to challenge Bush in 2004.

But all this depends on Lott's fight to keep hold of the Senate Leadership post. I'm not at all sure Lott will prevail; and, in fact, my money is that he doesn't. But if he does, take note of what happens and, should things turn out as I have predicted, remember that, as far as I am aware, I called it first.

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