It was encouraging to see John McCain prevail in New Hampshire; still, the basic calculus of the Republican race stayed the same. McCain still needs to beat Romney in Michigan and Huckabee in South Carolina. Do both, and he wins in a cascade. Do one, and he's the leader of the pack. Do neither, and it's an ugly Romney v. Huckabee cage fight.
With Fred Thompson's collapse and consecutive underwhelming performances by Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani, the race has stratified into three men who are running to win and three others who are running in circles. I know I'm averaging a closed primary and an open caucus, but look at the Iowa/New Hampshire average vote shares:
Last night on CNN, I heard Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina gush about McCain's victory. He promoted McCain as the best potential Commander-in-Chief in the field. As I watched the candidates' names from both parties scroll across the bottom of my TV screen, it hit me how massive the advantage McCain holds in national security and foreign policy.
The ten major candidates have incredibly diverse upbringings, strengths, weaknesses, and expertise. Yet, as a whole, their experience in international relations is nearly nil. I asked myself, "Who would be the second-best Commander-in-Chief, after McCain?" It took me twenty minutes to answer the question: probably Bill Richardson. Of course, the gap between McCain and Richardson is massive, and Richardson has no realistic chance of being nominated.
If John McCain can secure the Republican nomination, I am strongly predisposed to vote for him on that competency alone. The Democratic nominee would have to be open-minded and quick to learn; Obama has the edge over Clinton and Edwards in this regard. Still, a series of Democratic foreign policy gaffes, even from Obama, would throw my vote - and the general election - to McCain.