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Campaigning yesterday, Barack Obama made a huge tactical mistake. He announced that chuck Hagel would be a possibility as his Secretary of Defense:

The scene is set for a tussle between the two candidates for the support of some of the sharpest and most independent minds in politics. Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.

Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary. Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a “stretch”.

Asked about his choice of cabinet last week, Obama told The Sunday Times: “Chuck Hagel is a great friend of mine and I respect him very much,” although he was wary of appearing as though he was already choosing the White House curtains.

While I regard Chuck Hagel to be an honest man, I also consider him to be a buffoon. He’s been stridently anti-war, which won’t play with the surge proving effective.

This tells me that Obama is misreading the mood of the American public. It’s an indicator that he thinks voters booted Republicans from the majority because they’re anti-war. That isn’t the reason whatsoever. The people were anti-war only to the extent that they thought the war wasn’t being prosecuted properly. Now that they’re seeing John McCain being vindicated, they’re willing to give him a second chance.

That doesn’t mean that they like the thought of war but they’ll tolerate it as long as we’re winning.

Another question I’ve got is whether Obama is believing too much of the liberal media’s take that this election is over. Michael Goodwin’s column should disabuse him of that notion:

This will come as a shock to throngs of delirious Democrats, but the winner of the party’s nomination does not automatically become President. There will be – repeat, will be – a general election. And John McCain is already showing he is going to be one tough opponent.

With their party’s huge primary turnouts and record-shattering contributions, many Dems act as though the survivor of the showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wins a cakewalk to the White House. There is talk of a landslide and big gains in Congress.

The prevailing sentiment is not that the GOP is weak. It’s that the GOP is dead.

McCain, the aging, craggy-faced warrior, begs to differ. As if to remind swing voters he knows a thing or two about elections, he unleashed a series of hard-hitting attacks on Obama last week. If his punches didn’t get Obama’s attention, the Dem front-runner is deep in denial.

McCain’s broadsides have covered Iraq, taxes and trade, each a key issue to many voters. The attacks had an echo of Clinton’s charge Obama is not ready, a fact that may help Clinton stave off elimination in Tuesday’s primaries. That, too, would benefit McCain. The longer Obama and Clinton keep fighting each other, the less time the winner will have for McCain.

By then, McCain will have started to define his opponent in the most unflattering terms. And when it comes to Iraq, he will have the help of the facts on the ground.

An illustration of how security concerns and a broad national aversion to defeat could give voters second thoughts about Democrats came from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who’s likely to be in the job when the next President takes the oath, warned against a rapid withdrawal of American troops. Both Obama and Clinton have promised just that and have mocked McCain for saying he would keep troops there 100 years if necessary.

Mullen used no names, but Dems could take no comfort in his words. “I do worry about a rapid withdrawal…[that would] turn around the gains we have achieved and struggled to achieve and turn them around overnight,” he told reporters. Asked by ABC News to define a “rapid withdrawal,” Mullen said, “a withdrawal that would be so fast that it would leave us in a chaotic situation and the gains we have achieved would be lost.”

Thinking that the GOP isn’t just weakened but dead is a fatal flaw in their thinking. military thinking is that, even if your opponent is badly hurt, you never assume that he’s powerless.

As I wrote here, the dynamics of the race will change once a Democratic nominee emerges:

McCain can contrast his leading the charge for the successful Surge strategy. As Mara Liasson astutely pointed out, all that Obama’s had to do thus far is say that he’s been consistently opposed to this war. Since everyone was fighting to out-peacenik each other, there wasn’t a need to actually defend their anti-war policies. That’s just changed in a big way with McCain pushing his pro-victory agenda.

This isn’t going to be the coronation that everyone thinks it will be. McCain still has work to do in shoring up the GOP’s activist base. his job is little easier because many of the people that sat out the midterms have seen that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are disasters on a multitude of levels. To have a Democrat in the White House and those dimwits controlling Congress is a GOP activist’s worst nightmare.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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