||Jeff Greenfield is senior analyst for CNN. He will provide weekly, Web-exclusive analysis during Election 2000.|
Jeff Greenfield: A political junkie's dream
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- With the debates over, with the first quasi-national primary dawning, and with the end of the Democratic battle a universal conclusion, let me offer you a glimpse of every political junkie's dream:
--On March 7th, Arizona Sen. John McCain sweeps New England, wins New York and Maryland, upsets Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Ohio and wins the nonbinding blanket primary in California. Bush wins Georgia, Missouri, and the winner-take-all Republican delegate count in California.
--On March 14th, Bush sweeps Texas, and wins most of the remaining Southern states. But McCain avoids a sweep in Florida, winning a handful of congressional districts in that open primary despite Jeb Bush's presence, and wins somewhere else -- maybe Tennessee, with the help of the popular Sen. Fred Thompson.
--On March 21st, McCain wins or comes very close in Illinois, and then wins in later contests in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The process ends with a McCain victory in New Jersey, while Bush takes most of what's left out west. This leaves Bush with a slim majority of delegates, while McCain has won most of the actual votes cast in the Republican primaries.
What happens then? Something that we haven't seen since the Reagan-Ford battle in '76, sand the Carter-Kennedy fight in 1980: a convention where something actually happens.
What are we talking about? Well, how about a rules fight, where McCain's supporters argue that there is no real distinction between an open primary (permitted) and a blanket primary (outlawed as a method of allocating delegates).
How about a platform fight, reminiscent of the attempt by anti-Goldwaterites in 1964 to condemn the John Birch Society? McCain's supporters could try to push through a platform plank deploring religious extremism, or maybe even try to replace the draconian anti-abortion plank with the more forgiving language from 1980.
How about a replay of Reagan's strategy in 1976, announcing a running mate (imagine what would happen if Colin Powell agreed to be named!), and putting pressure on Bush to do the same.
Is it going to happen? Probably not; the numbers look very tough for John McCain right now. And do not mistake this lust for action for bias; if John McCain were on the verge of pushing George Bush out of the race, we'd be rooting for a Bush comeback.
But you must forgive us as we utter the quadrennial prayer of a junkie: Please, God -- once, before I die, let me go to a convention where something actually happens!