||Jeff Greenfield is senior analyst for CNN. He will provide weekly, Web-exclusive analysis during Election 2000.|
Jeff Greenfield: Random thoughts of a McCain operative
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Why is it I keep thinking about the last line of "The Candidate" -- you know, just after Robert Redford's won the Senate seat (his character's name was "McKay," by the way), and he's going down to the ballroom to claim victory, and he yells to his campaign manager, "What do I do now?" and there's no answer.
It's not that we don't know what to do now -- it's what do we do if everything keeps working the way it has and it's still not enough?
Think about it: let's say we pull off South Carolina, which is a real possibility. We're even or a little ahead in the polls, money's coming on over the Internet like it used to pour into Scrooge McDuck's office, and the Bush campaign is a little flummoxed. (Shore up Bush's credentials with a Dan Quayle introduction?) More important, independents and Democrats can vote here, and there's no Democratic primary to get in the way.
Okay -- we win, and the panic starts setting in big-time among all those Republican officeholders who signed on with Bush (we're already getting some feelers on that front). Now let's say we win Arizona -- actually, we damn well better win our own state or we're the campaign in trouble -- and Michigan on February 22. (Independents and Democrats vote there, too).
So now comes March 7th. And there's California sitting there, a state with a whacked-out primary ballot with all the simplicity of Hillary's old health care program. Everybody votes in one primary -- Republicans, Democrats, independents, whatever -- but then they take the ballots -- color-coded -- and count only registered Republicans for the purpose of counting delegates. And out there, it's winner-take all. So: suppose we win the total vote -- with lots of independents and Democrats -- but Bush edges us out among registered Republicans. He gets all the delegates around 15 percent of what he needs for the nomination.
Then we go to Florida and Texas -- two states Bush has got wired -- and the rules say, the winner in those states gets just about all the delegates.
Then what? We could wind up winning Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey -- hell, we could wind up with a lot more primary votes than Bush -- and he could win the nomination.
What happens then? If the McCain phenomenon is real, if in fact he clearly could win the White House, do we try and stage an all-out battle at the convention? Could we shake some of those delegates loose? If John thought he had been shafted by the party, would he follow the example of his hero Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and run as an independent? Would he take the vice presidential slot as a consolation prize?
Well, at least I know the answer to Redford's question: What do we do now? Win South Carolina. What do we do then? Sorry, our time is up.