Vengeful Voters

Should Denver be hosting the Republican National Convention, too?

Assuming the Democrats can get their collective act together and actually nominate someone for the presidency, John McCain’s looking for a blue boost. Beyond the impending delegate-deadlock and superdelegate fiasco, another ominous sign for the Dems has appeared on the horizon. A recent Gallup poll, conducted with daily tracking from March 7-22, suggests that whoever emerges on top the donkey pile may be gifting voters to McCain. Because 19 percent of Democrats supporting Obama said they would vote for McCain over Hillary if Hillary was the nominee. Fully 28 percent of Democrats supporting Hillary said they would vote for McCain over Obama if Obama was the nominee.

So should McCain make a stopover in Denver next August to collect his cadre of vengeful voters?

Moreover, if Minneapolis-St. Paul insists on keeping their convention, should McCain even go? He lags, and has lagged, in most polls amongst registered Republicans, who aren’t yet convinced of his true-red beliefs. On a stage in front of die-hards in Minnesota, does McCain want to endure another reception like the one he received at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in February, where his remarks on immigration were met with cacophonous boos? With no Mike Huckabee to cast spiteful, fractious votes for, GOPers will have no distractions at their convention beyond the constant blaring of McCain’s ubiquitous stump song, “Johnny Be Goode." And without a single Huckabee guitar solo or Chuck Norris sighting.

McCain might just want to take that September week off and instead head someplace independent-minded. Gallup polls requested by Politico suggest that, for all of Obama’s bluster about winning independents, McCain snags most, 40-31 percent. McCain does even better with indies against Clinton, 48-23. Even in the fifth year of the unpopular war in Iraq and facing a bottoming-out economy, the polls suggest that McCain’s appeal stretches deeper into Democratic ranks than do the inroads Democrats have made into Republican and Republican-minded ranks. The real question for both parties is how much credence to give to mid-March polls when both Democratic contenders are still slugging out a bloody race while McCain zips around Europe and the Middle East.

Historically, every candidate benefits from the “convention bump” that boosts their polling numbers in the days immediately following the rah-rah of the party gathering. After the 2004 DNC in Boston, during which Obama gave his much-lauded keynote address, John Kerry got a modest 2-4 percent bump while President Bush lost an equivalent amount. Following the RNC in New York, Bush received a 3 percent jolt. Some attribute such marginal improvements in 2004 to a polarized electorate that already knew what they wanted, but if that’s the case, might we be looking at a convention dip for Democrats this year? In 2008, with its record turnout and registrations, could the rabid enthusiasm generated by each candidate work against the party as a whole? Will the Democratic Party, which has traditionally handled losing so well (much of that out of extensive practice), be sore enough about the outcome to start whistling "Go Johnny Go?"

At least don’t be surprised if, among the legions of local nuts, Democratic sycophants, Re-create ‘68ers, anti-war stalwarts and price-gouging, trinket-selling Western Slope gypsies traipsing along 16th Street, you encounter a sizeable contingent of Republican registrants nosing about for cranky Dems. After all, if you’re a lifelong donkey whose blood has been squeezed from your brain by six months of brawling primaries and you don’t like the look of that first African-American or female president, they have an old white military vet they’d like to sell you. -- Joe Horton

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun