Confused? Sorry, folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. So here, as a public service, is the Lustig cut-out-and-keep Survival Guide to US Elections 2008.
1. Disregard any report that contains the words “What these results show clearly is …” The results of the primaries won’t show anything clearly at least until February 5, Super Tuesday. After that, with voters in about half of the states having chosen their candidates, we may, repeat may, have a clearer idea of what’s in store.
2. Don’t say it’s boring. It’s not. Think of it as a TV drama: great characters, improbable story lines, unexpected twists. After Labor Day (September 1), you can start taking it seriously.
3. Ignore anyone who tells you it’s all about how nicely Barack Obama smiles. Or how vulnerable Hillary Clinton looked when she cried. It’s not. Or maybe it is. No one knows.
4. Don’t forget that the Republicans might win. Just because none of their candidates is a woman or black doesn’t mean they’re not interesting.
5. Memorise a couple of interesting little facts with which to impress your friends and neighbours. For example: This is the first Presidential campaign since 1928 in which neither a President nor a Vice-President will be a candidate.
Here’s another one: If the eventual winner is Obama, Clinton or McCain, it’ll be the first time a Senator has made it to the White House since John F Kennedy in 1961. (Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush had all been Vice-Presidents; Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W Bush were all former State Governors.)
Or how about this one? If the eventual winner is boy wonder Barack Obama, who’ll be 47 on inauguration day, he’ll still be older than either JFK (43), or Bill Clinton (46).
6. Don’t believe anyone who says Barack Obama is doing better than any previous black Presidential candidate. In 1988, Jesse Jackson won seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). So far, Mr Obama has won one. But admittedly, 20 years ago, Jackson was never likely to win Iowa.
7. Keep an eye on the delegate count. Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s what matters. The winning candidate is whoever has most delegates at the party conventions in the summer. The current tally for the Democrats is: Clinton 183; Obama 78; Edwards 52. (Total needed: 2,025) On the Republican side it’s Romney 30; Huckabee 21; McCain 10. (Total needed: 1,191)
8. Don’t believe all this stuff about how for the first time, young voters are getting excited by the contest. Four years ago, they were going just as wild for Howard Dean (who?). And greybeards like me remember someone called Eugene McCarthy, who in 1968 was the hero of the young anti-Vietnam war generation. He didn’t win either.
See? Easy, isn’t it?