Deflating the “Independents in ’08!” Meme (and Taking a Knock at Howard Fineman)

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Howard Fineman is once again following my lead. Hot on the heels of my blog post speculating about a Hagel-Bloomberg independent ticket in the 2008 presidential race, Fineman writes in Newsweek that, yes, an independent ticket in 2008 is a real possibility, but no, Hagel shouldn’t be considered its most likely torchbearer. He cites Bloomberg, Gore, and get this, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  fineman_serious.jpg It takes Fineman until the end of the piece to acknowledge that Arnold can’t run and Gore likely won’t. And having retracted two of the three heavy-hitters at the center of his article, Fineman somewhat lamely mentions Lieberman and Hagel as possibilities.

So I was right — Hagel and Bloomberg. And maybe Lieberman. But one gets the sense that Fineman was on deadline, and wanted to take the “Independents in ’08!” meme for a test drive without really having all the material he needed as fuel.

In fact, this whole “Independents in ’08!” thing feels a little like a media creation — something political journalists daydream about when bored of covering the same six frontrunners for… well, how long is the campaign season now? Two full years? It has a sideshow feel to it — I should have conveyed that better in my post about Hagel and Bloomberg.

Witness, for example, Fineman’s reasoning for why an independent candidate could win this year when such candidates have failed in every other year. The early primary schedule means that the winner of each party’s nominations could be identified by early February of 2008, seven months before the parties’ conventions. In those seven months, speculates Fineman, buyer’s remorse will set in for some members of both parties and they will go looking for someone else to support.

Okay, I guess, except no committed Republican or Democrat treats party identification that trivially, and the independent voters won’t have made up their minds that early, meaning buyer’s remorse won’t have time to set in. Besides, the GOP and the Dems probably realize there is too much time between the deciding primaries and their conventions and will likely move the convention dates up. Problem solved.

Fineman ends by saying, “Keep an eye on the independents. There’s where the action is, and will be.” I say, meh. Take it all with a grain of salt.

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