McCain Channeling Truman: An American Tradition

As whacky as this presidential campaign has been, it still complies with a few constants in political campaigning. Good thing. There have been so many surprises, twists, turns and reversals in this campaign voters are suffering electoral whiplash. Twin Peaks  was less confusing than this campaign.

So thank the political heavens for the constants. The Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, can be counted on to attack his rival as a “tax-and-spend” liberal (that the McCain campaign has gone further to call him a socialist is mere icing on the traditional tax-and-spend cake.)  Senator Barack Obama, meanwhile, can be counted on to accuse his rival of championing “trickle down” economics that favor the rich.

The vice presidential nominees, Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, are doing their best to keep to maintain historical continuity. They both are expert attack dogs. And both tend to make statements that need clarification. For example, Governor Palin didn’t mean there were parts of the country that are unAmerican, even though that’s what she said. And Senator Biden’s comment that Senator Obama will be tested with a foreign policy crisis didn’t mean Senator McCain wouldn’t be, too. 

Another hallowed tradition is also being played out. As election day draws closer, the candidate most likely to lose begins invoking the spirit of President Harry Truman. Specifically, they claim the mantel of President Truman’s come from behind win over Governor Thomas Dewey.  (This is where I’d insert the famous photo of President Truman holding the Chicago Daily Tribune edition with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” if I knew how to do that).

First, a word of caution. As I’ve written before, I don’t believe the polls are accurate this year. Further, I think there’s a legitimate scenario that leads to a McCain victory. Still, Senator McCain’s road to the White House looks awfully potholed, so it’s fallen upon him to maintain the tradition of the Truman analogy.  And maintain the Truman tradition he has. “My friends,” he said, as he often does, “when I pull this thing off, I have a request for my opponent. I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian so they can put it right next to the Chicago paper that said ‘Dewey Defeats Truman.'” (Senator McCain was referring to a New York Times storythat noted how John Podesta, now heading up Senator Obama’s transition team, drafted an inauguration speech earlier this year — when he was a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton. OK, now back to our original posting.)

There are variances on the Truman tradition, but they all involve the candidate most likely to fail claiming that the only poll that counts is the one on election day and that the media/pundits/opponents/nay sayers/ etc. are going to be surprised. It’s a long tradition. Time magazine in 1996 collected several examples. Among them:

“I don’t care what the polls say. I’m going to take this case to the American people like Truman did.” So said President Geroge H. W Bush before losing to soon-to-be-President Bill Clinton 370 electoral votes to 168.

“Harry Truman was a fighter, and so am I. My friends, this election is up for grabs.” That was then Governor Michael Dukakis before losing, 426-to-111 electoral votes, to President Bush.

No doomed underdog appears to have gone further than Senator Bob Dole, who ended his 1996 presidential campaign in the shadow of the Truman legacy, saying, “We’re approaching the end of a very historic campaign, that for many months I’ve traveled all over this country to spread my message about the future of America, and like all worthy causes, this one was done without its challenges. At times, many wondered whether my voice would be heard….  So it is fitting in the final hours of this campaign that I have come here to Independence, Missouri, the hometown of Harry Truman, a plain-spoken man, who defied the odds and challenged the prevailing wisdom and dared to trust the people.”  Senator Dole lost to President Clinton in the electoral college 479-to-159.

As CNN and other news organizations turn their electoral maps blue, be prepared for Senator McCain to ramp up his argument that he’ll surprise them all and win. He may actually pull it off even if it’s usually a sign of impending disaster. Whatever the outcome, we owe him our thanks for continuing an American tradition, one that has served the country, if not our losing candidates, well.

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Senator Palin. President McCain. An October Surprise.

OK. This will never happen, but it’s fun to think about. And considering all the twists and turns in the presidential campaign so far, this one isn’t so far fetched. After all, it only results in Governor Sarah Palin becoming a United States Senator and Senator John McCain winning the presidency. What could be so hard?

Here’s the key elements of this October Surprise:

  1. With the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens today on all seven of the corruption counts he faced, Alaskan Republicans are faced with the prospects of backing a felon on election day. Polls already show the Democrat, Anchorage Mayor Mark Gegich, to be ahead. In political circles, being convicted of seven felonies is “unhelpful.”
  2. Governor Palin is dragging down the Republican presidential ticket. Although she’s rallied the base she’s failed to help Senator McCain with the independent and swing voters he needs. By selecting Governor Palin, however, Senator McCain has demonstrated his willingness to compromise his principles in order to assuage the conservative wing of his party. In other words, he’s paid his dues.

Holding on to the Alaskan Senate seat is critical to Republicans. If Democrats attain a 60 seat majority they can stop filibusters and make the Republican minority in the upper house nearly irrelevant. At the same time, the McCain-Palin ticket is cruising for a bruising.

Drastic times require drastic measures.

Here’s what should happen: the Alaska Republican Party should demand Senator Stevens resign from his nomination for the Senate. It should ten request, in the strongest terms, that Governor Sarah Palin return to Alaska to run in his place. Senator McCain should then replace Governor Palin with former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. While pro-life conservatives will go ballistic with the usually pro-choice Governor Ridge on the ticket, the move should put Pennsylvania in play and provide a boost in toss-up states like Indiana, Virginia, Missouri and Ohio. As Senator McCain reminds voters of his no-tax, straight talking, national security credentials, his surrogates would remind conservative Republicans that President McCain will appoint Supreme Court Justices to their liking. 

The result: well, who knows? But do Republicans have anything to lose? The chances of holding onto the Alaskan Senate seat has fallen to zero. The odds of keeping the White House are long. But this last minute shuffle would create a brand new dynamic. The confusion and chaos would leave no room for Senator Barack Obama to make his closing argument for the presidency. Meanwhile, the sheer audacity of the move would demonstrate Senator McCain’s willingness to take new approaches to big problems.

And it sure would be fun.

What if McCain Had Kept Talking — and Acting — Straight?

Always a bad sign: Senator John McCain has come to comparing his campaign to the come-from-behind win by President Harry Truman in 1948. While Senator McCain has solidified the Republican base behind his candidacy, his standing with independents is surprisingly poor. Surprising, because Senator McCain had spent decades in Congress fostering a maverick, straight talking image that should have had a natural appeal to non-partisans in the electorate. His failure to connect with these voters now is a blunder straight out of Marketing 101.

Senator McCain had a strong brand leading into the general election. He was perceived as an independent maverick, willing to take on his own party and talk straight to the American people. If he had stuck to this image, in both word and deed, he might not be playing catch-up with eight days to go before election day. Just as consumers feel uncertain about a product that changes its attributes suddenly, voters don’t take well to a candidate who changes dramatically as November approaches. Yet the vehemence with which Senator McCain has distanced himself from his (former) brand is remarkable.

It began in the primary. Having attacked leaders in the Religious Right in 2000 he now embraced them. Having proven his “straight talk” bona fides by attacking President George Bush’s tax cuts, especially on high income Americans, as foolish and misguided, he now supported them. Having promised a positive campaign on the issues he attacked his opponent, Senator Barack Obama, as an empty suit celebrity.

There were still glimpses of the old Senator McCain on display. His call for 10 town hall debates with no moderator was brilliant. If accepted by Senator Obama it would have changed the tenor of the entire campaign. His attacks on Senator Obamafor failing to keep his promise to accept federal funding was on point and, even better, reminded voters of Senator McCain’s commitment to campaign reform. His response to supporters in a town hall meeting that they need not fear an Obama presidency was noble.

Senator McCain’s campaign, however, is consistent only in its inconsistency. It seems unable to focus on any one theme for more than a few days. So instead of emphasizing the maverick Senator McCain, he put on display the erratic Candidate McCain, talking about everything and everyone from Brittany Spears to William Ayers and socialism to buying up mortgages.

What undermined Senator McCain’s brand with finality, however, was the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. On the surface this seemed like a bold and unorthodox move. Nominating a popular governor with a demonstrable record of reform and of fighting corruption made sense. That she was a woman made the move even more exciting. From a short term political perspective, that Governor Palin secured the core of the GOP for Senator McCain’s candidacy was a huge win.

Yet it also did more to push independent voters away than any other act Senator McCain took in this campaign. After blistering attacks on Senator Obama for lacking the experience to be commander-in-chief, Senator McCain selected a running mate even less qualified. Her conservative political views put her outside the mainstream where independent voters reside. Misstating her record concerning earmarks made Governor Palin out to be a hypocrite and Senator McCain to be either ill informed or a liar.

Selecting a running mate is the only “presidential” decision a presidential candidate makes before the election. It’s the best window voters have into what their administration might look like. Selecting someone has unqualified to be president as Governor Palin undercut Senator McCain’s image. Defending her required the campaign to contort reality (you can see Russia from Alaska — well, yes, from an island Governor Palin has never visited). Contrast this with Senator Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden. No one questions his qualifications to be president. It was a solid, unflashy selection. It showed Senator Obama wanted a vice president who would be a part of his inner circle, who would be willing to challenge him, someone who would make him a better president.

Does anyone think Governor Palin will be a part of President McCain’s inner circle? Does anyone really think she could challenge him on a broad range of issues? And if she did, would a President McCain care? Does anyone think that in selecting Governor Palin as his running mate, Senator McCain put country first?

Senator McCain had to pretend the answers to all these questions were yes. As the answers are, for most independents, a resounding “no,” doing so contradicted Senator McCain’s hard won brand. Couple this with his erratic response to the economic meltdown (claiming the fundamentals of the economy are sound followed by a recognition the economy was in crisis just hours later) and an over-the-top, nasty and negative campaign, and the straight talking, honest politician disappears behind a haze of smoke and mirrors.

For the fun of it, imagine Senator McCain had selected someone less exciting, but more qualified, than Governor Palin. Governor Charlie Crist of Florida or former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge come to mind. The GOP base would have been furious (especially over Secretary Ridge, who is generally pro-choice), but it would have bolstered the McCain Brand. Either selection would be consistent with Senator McCain’s image. Either would be appealing to independent voters. The Republican base might have torpedoed a McCain-Crist or a McCain-Ridge ticket. But would they really sit idly by and let Senator Obama waltz into the White House? It’s unlikely.

Senator McCain might still win this election. If he loses a large part of the reason will be the superior campaign and message of Senator Obama and the economic crisis, two factors he couldn’t control. But a contributing factor will be his own doing. Senator McCain is responsible for turning his back on who he was and what he once stood for.

As Noted: Don’t Believe the Polls

Everyone treats them as pronouncements from on high, but this year pre-election polls are especially questionable. This year, I believe the polls will be especially unrealiable. A quick review of RealClearPolitics.com illustrates the problem. On October 22nd, a CBS News/NY Times polls shows Senator Barack Obama leading Senator John McCain by 13 percentage points. Rasmussen Reports reports the lead is seven percent. Gallup offers two polls: a “traditional” poll showing a four percent lead and an “expanded” one showing a six percent lead. Reuters/C-Span/Zogby has Senator Obama ahead by 12 percent and  Hotline/FD shows him leading by just five percent.

How can six polls released on the same day have such disparite results? It’s one thing for polls to be unreliable predictors of what will happen on election day. It’s another to be all over the map on the same day. What’s going on here?

Alan Fram of the Associated Press provides some answers in an article well worth reading. The all news stations have to talk about something and poll results are a favorite topic. After all, it has numbers. You have one person winning and another losing. It’s a heck of a lot simpler to cover than tax policy.

So, since you’re going to be hearing and reading a lot about polls from now until November 4th, you might as well understand why every poll should be read with vast quantities of salt. It doesn’t make them any more reliable, but it does help them taste better.

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A McCain Razor Thin Win or an Obama Landslide?

A lot has been going Senator Barack Obama’s way of late. The economic turmoil is sweeping independents his way. Second thoughts about the selection of Governor Sarah Palin is pushing Republicans his way. His campaign coffers are full. The Republicans look desperate. And he’s received the endorsement of perhaps the most admired individual in American politics, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. While I’ve made clear my belief that the polls this year are less reliable than usual, based on state-by-state polls, Obama is leading in states totaling more than the 270 electoral votes he needs to win on election day. All of which explains why Senator John McCain could win this election by an extremely narrow margin.

To see why, take a look at the CNN Electoral Map Calculator.  The Calculator applies various polling data to award states’ electoral votes to a candidate ifthe election were held today. (Last I checked, however, the election is not being held today). This is important. Being ahead in politics is like paper profits — or losses — in the stock market. Until you sell the stock, the gain or loss is meaningless. And unless you maintain your lead through election, the early polls don’t matter.

Based on their interpretation of various polls, CNN’s calculator shows Senator Obama leading in states with enough electoral votes to exceed the 270 he needs to win. Specifically, they indicate the Democratic candidate is leading in states with 277 electoral votes, his Republican opponent Senator McCain is ahead in states with 174 and there are six states, totalling 87 electoral votes, which are too close to call.

Let’s look at those six states, moving west to east (all poll referenced below were taken on October 19th or earlier):

  1. Nevada, where Real Clear Politics’ poll of polls shows Senator Obama ahead by just 2.3 percent;
  2. Colorado, where the Real Clear Politics poll average has Senator Obama ahead by 5.4 percent;
  3. Missouri, where RCP poll average shows Senator Obama ahead by 2.7 percent;
  4. Ohio, where Senator Obama’s lead in the RCP poll of polls is 2.8 percent;
  5. North Carolina,where Senator Obama is ahead by only 1.5 percent in the RCP poll average; and
  6. Florida, where Senator Obama leads by 2.0 percent in the RCP poll of polls.

All six of these states went for President George W. Bush in 2004. If these polls are close to being right (a very big if) a shift of just one and one-half percent of voters from Senator Obama to Senator McCain would bring five of the states into the Republican column. A move by just three percent of those supporting the Democrat to Senator McCain would bring along the sixth state. This would be great news for the McCain-Palin ticket, but not great enough. Even with all 87 electoral votes from these toss-up states Senator Obama would still win on November 4th, 277 electoral votes to 261.

Running the board to take all six toss-up states won’t be easy, but it is certainly possible. These are traditionally red states and Senator McCain and the Republican Party have the resources to contest all of them. A gaffe or stumble by Senator Obama or his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, could result in the minor swings required. So could independent campaign committees hammering away on Reverend Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers or other hot button, Swift Boat worthy attacks.

If Senator McCain were to sweep the toss up states, the next president could be decided by Virginia. Currently, Real Clear Politics show Senator Obama ahead there by 8.0 percent (and the most recent poll used in the average shows the Democrat ahead by only six percent. If only four percent of those favoring Senator Obama switch to Senator McCain, the Republican nominee would win the White House with 274 electoral votes.

The last time Virginia went for the Democratic ticket was in 1964. While an influx of more liberal and independent voters in the suburbs of Washington, DC has helped elect Democrats to the Senate and the Governor’s office, down state is still conservative. There’s a large military presence in the state which should also help Senator McCain. Again, it won’t be easy. A gaffe by the Democrats combined with a strong get-out-the-vote effort by the GOP, however, could deliver the state’s electoral vote to Senator McCain.

There’s a lot of ifs in this scenario. But it does show that even two weeks before the election, there’s a chance we’ll be swearing in President McCain and Vice President Palin come January. Significantly, they could achieve their electoral college win while losing the popular vote, but it’s still a win — just ask President Bush.

Of course, it could go the other way. Senator Obama could win all the toss-up states and defeat Senator McCain 364-to-174 in the electoral college. That’s called a landslide. Even the more likely scenario of Senator McCain holding on to Missouri and North Carolina for the Republicans would result in a 338-to-200 win for the Democrats — arguably still a mandate. 

Anything can happen in the next two weeks: an international incident; a botched interview; more bank failures; more brazen political attack (whether true or not); the list goes on and on. Being ahead on October 21st does win elections. It’s what happens on election day that matters. And this election day, November 4th, Senator McCain could win small or Senator Obama might win big.

Any way you look at it, it’s not over yet.

Why Meg Whitman Should Be Obama’s Treasury Secretary

Whether it’s Republican Senator John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama taking the oath of office next January, the new president will be facing a huge economic mess. No rescue plan and bail out the world’s governments can throw at crisis will be an instant cure. The problem is huge, the solutions complicated and change comes slowly. This means who the new president chooses as his Treasury Secretaary takes on critical importance from both a policy and a political perspective.

It’s not that the Treasury Secretary will be the new president’s primary economic advisor. The president will be getting input from numerous sources, both from inside and outside the White House. While the Treasury Secretary will be only one of several developing policy, second only to the president, this person will be the Administration’s financial leader.

This is certainly the case today. Newsweek magazine has described the current Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, as the “face of American capitalism” and “the nation’s most powerful leader.” Secretary Paulson is clearly the General in the Administrations battle to resolve the economic meltdown. Given President George W. Bush’s low standing with the public and his lame duck status, the Secretary has eclipsed the President in terms of visibility and influence.

A new president, whether that be Senator McCain or Senator Obama, will be more visible and in command. Yet the economy is only one of the challenges the country faces. The president will serve as commander-in-chief of the war to save the economy, but the Treasury Secretary is likely to remain the general. What kind of person should the new president look for to fill this role?

Ideally, the new Treasury Secretary will understand Wall Street, but not be a part of it. Wall Street barons are the bad guys in this drama. It’s asking too much of the public to trust one of them to don the white hat and save the day. Any insider is going to have too much baggage to be effective and credible when it comes to selling tough choices to Congress and the American people.

Someone closer to Main Street would have a far better chance of pushing through innovative and controversial cures for what ails the economy. Instead of someone good at manipulating capital, the new Treasury Secretary should be someone good at using it to create jobs and build an enterprise. This person should be entrepreneurial, but have a sophisticated understanding of the nation’s economy, it’s impact on every day Amercians and on the world. The incoming Treasury Secretary should have demonstrated the capacity to make tough decisions, articulate a vision and lead an organization.

Politically, the selection for the Treasury cabinet post should symbolize change. The American people should immediately understand that business as usual is over. The appointment should demonstrate the new president’s willingness to think outside the box, to consider new ideas and new approaches. Yet, at the same time, the Treasury Secretary must be credible and solid.

Most good CEOs (and there are some good ones out there) fit this description. They will have worked with Wall Street, but are not a part of it. They understand how policy decisions made in Washington have a practical impact on people across America. There’s a large pool of credible current and former CEOs the next president can call on.

However, none fit the bill as well as former eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman. You can’t get more Main Street than eBay. It’s the digital avenue on which millions of Americans set up stores, shop and transact business. Nor can you get further away from the Wall Street than the Silicon Valley. The former creates wealth by dreaming up new and increasingly esoteric instruments that are designed to manipulate capital; the latter create capital by bringing dreams to life that provide jobs, create wealth and changes the way we live and work.

Ms. Whitman was at the center of the new technology economy for 10 years. When she started there in 1998 the company had 30 employees and revenues of more than $4 million. It’s a lot bigger now. She’s not only been in the marketplace, she helped create one of the worlds biggest marketplaces. That she would, I believe, be the nation’s first woman Secretary of the Treasury is also a plus — she’s not just one of the good old boys.

When asked during the second presidential debate who he would consider for Treasury Secretary, Senator McCain offered Ms. Whitman as a strong possibility. This isn’t surprising in that she is a Republican who has become a trusted, senior adviser to Senator McCain on the economy. Ironically, these facts make her a strong choice for Senator Obama, too. Reaching across the aisle to someone who was close to his opponent would demonstrate Senator Obama’s intention to move beyond old politics. It would symbolize the Obama Administration’s intent to lead a united, bi-partisan effort to get our financial house in order.

It makes sense for Ms. Whitman, too. She’s talked about running for Governor of California in 2010, but that could quickly end her political career. Democrats will have the edge in that race and several strong willing to seize that advantage. Ms. Whitman would be well funded (she is, after all, a billionaire) and a fresh face. She might even have the support of termed out Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even then, success is far from certain. And a loss in her first political foray could make a comeback all the harder.

Serving as Secretary of the Treasury , however, would give Ms. Whitman a chance to build a powerful, positive image as someone capable of dealing with complex challenges. While she’s well known today in some circles, it would make her a national figure with all the stature that entails. Better yet, serving in a Democratic administration would burnish her “post-partisan, above politics” credentials, always a good thing in California politics.

Nor does Ms. Whitman need to rush into state politics. She is only 52 years old. California will still be here if her goal is to be Governor. In the meantime, she’s an ideal choice for either President McCain or President Obama to help save the country.

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McCain’s Choice: Anger or Dignity

I’ve worked in fair number of campaigns over the years, most — but for the record, not all — losing ones. Some were cliffhangers. My first campaign, back in 1972 when I was a teenage press secretary, nearly elected the first woman to California’s State Senate, Cathy O’Neill. She lost by a percent, less than what the Peace & Freedom Party candidate polled. It wasn’t until nearly 6:00 am the morning after election day we knew for sure we’d lost.

I was also there at the dawn of the Bradley Effect. That was when Joe Trippi, later campaign manager of former Governor Howard Dean and a senior aide to former Senator John Edwards, put down the phone and told then Mayor Tom Bradley that, in spite of the pre-election day polls, he was not going to win the California Governor’s race in 1982.

These are not fond memories.

Neither were the big losses, of which there were more than a few. These are the ones in which the candidate knows in his or her heart that the race is over, but needs to find the strength to keep on campaigning through election day. It’s a test of their character, poise and commitment to something beyond themselves, but it boils down to a simple choice: do they go out flailing or with dignity? 

The former approach involves often ugly attacks at the opponent, the media, and anyone (and everyone) else who comes within reach of the candidate. The candidate and his or her inner-circle just can’t believe they’re going to lose. They assume it’s a trick. That the other side cheated. Or the Fates cheated. The inevitable loss is not their fault and they want the world to know it.

In the dignified version of acknowledging defeat, candidate becomes more introspective. He or she seems to recall why they got into the fray in the first place. Instead of winnin at all costs, they focus on why they should have won. They shift from doing whatever it takes to win, to doing what’s right to preserve their standing and reputation. It’s a campaign that moves from looking for the next headline to being able to look at oneself in the mirror. In many ways, it’s the most honest period of the campaign.

Senator Hillary Clinton veered between both approaches as her campaign against Senator Barack Obama wound down earlier this year. In the end, however, she displayed her best attributes. Losing somehow freed her to speak more from the heart, to present the ideas and positions she’d long delivered from scripts by rote in a more sincere and meaningful way.

Senator McCain is fast approaching his moment of truth. He’s a smart politician. While he sees himself as the ultimate Comeback Kid, he knows winning is a long shot. His campaign has given up on Michigan. The lift from selecting Governor Sarah Palin continues to rally the core, but is becoming a drag when it comes to independents. In the final month of the campaign he’s forced to shore up support in normally safe Republican states like Virginia and North Carolina. Leading voices in his own party are suggesting his campaign is floundering. And now some of the pundits and pollsters are claiming Senator Obama is a single state away from an Electoral College majority. While I’ve written before about why the polls in this campaign should be discounted, the sheer weight of so many polls tracking the Democratic candidate’s accelerating momentum cannot be ignored.

Senator McCain’s can still hope to strike a surprising blow during the last presidential debate at Hofstra University on Wednesday night. But he’s debated Senator Obama twice already and knows the odds of a game changing result are slim.

And that’s when we’ll see the direction in which Senator McCain moves. Last week he gave conflicting clues. He let his campaign, including his running mate, make ugly, personal charges against Senator Obama. The charges went beyond questioning his judgment — they were accusations of treason by someone who fails to see America the way Senator McCain’s supporters do. The charges looked a lot like flailing and Senator McCain seemed to encourage it. His angry side was on display.

Then there was the meeting in Minnesota in which Senator McCain stood up to his own booing followers to declare Senator Obama to be a “decent, family man” and “a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.” In demanding respect for an opponent he clearly does not like personally, Senator McCain displayed the fairness and character for which he was widely admired prior to this presidential campaign.

And that’s the choice Senator McCain will soon need to face. Shortly after Wednesday’s debate, assuming no surprises there or elsewhere, Senator McCain will sit down with his advisers and face reality: his long-held dream of being President of the United States is unlikely to be realized. Yet, for the sake of his party and for his supporters, he will need to continue to continue a grueling campaign schedule of rallies, town hall meetings and  interviews. He’ll have to decide whether he wants to spend the end game as an angry politician or a dignified statesman. He will need to decide if he wants to tear the country apart or help mend it back together.

When forced to decide, my guess is he’ll take the high road. He’ll continue to insist he’s best qualified to be president. He’ll continue to point out his opponent’s failings. Yet he’s shown he’s capable of doing both in a way that maintains the principles he’s stood for throughout most of his career. In taking this path, he’ll make his points in ways that enhances his stature when he returns to the Senate, much like Senator Clinton did.

And while this approach will disappoint his most ardent supporters, it will be the right thing to do because it puts his country. It might even add to his vote total come election day.