Innocents eager to flee the endless campaign of '08 can take heart. Some people are already gearing up for the campaign of 2012. And why not? We've rarely had a field of such likely one-termers as John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
President McCain would be pushing 76 in the summer of '12, and the prospect of a second term would be giving the envelope a mighty shove. Four years of a hip-hop White House or the shrill echoes of a nagging nanny would surely be enough to sate the appetite of the hardiest masochist. How much Jeremiah Wright or Bubba Redux could one country take?
Frightened Democrats long ago concluded that their two survivors have worn their welcome thin, giving John McCain a free ride that could well last to November. Harry Reid, the bagman from Las Vegas, is worried that what happens in April and May is not likely to stay in April and May. The Iowa caucuses are already only dimly remembered, distant and fuzzy events from a previous century.
It's not clear who, exactly, elected him to tell the superdelegates where and when to get off, but he threatens to enlist Howard Dean, the chairman of the party, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, to join him in writing a strong letter of instruction. "The three of us, we may write a joint letter [to superdelegates]," he said. "We might do individual letters. We are in contact with each other." Once he gets his letter off, we can move on to something useful in 2012.
The Republicans may be a step or two ahead of him. Down in Arkansas, where funny stuff just keeps on keeping on, Mike Huckabee and some of his friends are putting on a fundraiser today in Little Rock for John McCain, and the old fighter pilot could usefully look behind him. There might be a bogey at 4 o'clock.
David Sanders, a columnist for the Stephens Newspapers of Arkansas who is well-connected to the former governor and his friends, writes that one of the friends tells him that Mr. Huckabee isn't really interested in the Republican ticket, whether he's on it or what happens to it in November.
"Did [the Huckabee guy] think that Huckabee would land the coveted second spot on the ticket? Not likely. So what then of Huckabee's future chances if McCain were to win this fall with someone else filling the No. 2 spot ... In response, the Huckabee guy discounted the chance for a McCain victory, which for [the Huckabee guy] wasn't bad news. As he saw it, McCain's demise would create a vacuum that Huckabee would then fill."
Indeed, the buzz in Little Rock is that some of the former governor's confidants, donors and backers are open about their blowing off Mr. McCain and his prospects. Mr. Huckabee met this week with several men who will be his steering committee for 2012. The timing, at least, was odd. You might think the former governor's attention would be focused on getting enough hush puppies ordered for his McCain fundraiser.
None of this surprises any of the Huckabee home folks. He has a reputation for searching endlessly for the main chance, even at the expense of presumed friends and allies. He cultivates opportunities to crack wise at the expense of the friend or foe. At the height of the Clinton bedroom scandals, he described Arkansas as "a banana republic," which was not necessarily so far off the mark, but even banana republicans are offended by deliberate insult. But what should you expect from a Baptist preacher with a rock band, which is sort of like inviting Christopher Hitchens to lead a brush-arbor revival. Alone among Republicans, he offered a defense, tepid but a defense nonetheless, of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's pulpit outrages. Baptist preachers are usually not timid about taking a whack at other preachers.
This sets up interesting possibilities today in Little Rock. "They say McCain has a temper, don't they?" asks Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times, a counterculture weekly, and faithful feeder of yellow dogs. "Maybe he'll put Huck at the kiddie table. Or back in the kitchen."