Heading into the Super Tuesday primaries, Republican John McCain looks pretty comfortable against Mitt Romney — at least compared to the heated battle between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Republican and Democratic strategists said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Factors at play in the Clinton-Obama battle, they noted, include the Iraq war, the economy, political machinery and even the notion of a new Camelot in the tradition of John F. Kennedy when he created an image of youthful hope.
"If it's 'the economy, stupid,' in their minds, she'll do better," Democratic strategist James Carville said. "If it's Camelot in their minds, Obama will do better."
The strategists agreed that Clinton's support of the congressional resolution authorizing the president to declare war on Iraq could come back to haunt her.
"She believed the Bush administration. That was a mistake," noted Carville.
Democrat Bob Shrum went further, saying "she would have been a lot better off" had she immediately apologized.
Republican Mike Murphy said that lack of regret revealed a deeper flaw. "Every politician has a blind spot," he said, "and hers is never admitting failure or mistake, and she's paid a price."
The analysts agreed Obama had seen a surge in momentum in the last two weeks, especially with endorsements like that of Sen. Ted Kennedy, but Republican Mary Matalin cautioned that Clinton has at least one significant advantage in many of the states where the race is close: a political machine that gets her message out.
"She is a machine, and the machine is gonna matter," Matalin predicted.
The group agreed that California, one of the Super Tuesday states, is critical and that Obama is closing the opinion poll gap there.
"I'm for her, I love her to death, I think she would be a great president," Carville said of Clinton, but if she loses California "it would be really bad."
On the McCain-Romney side, Matalin urged the Arizona senator to move closer to conservative cores. "There's a unity message available to him" by focusing on core values, she said of the maverick Republican.
But Democrat Carville said McCain proved that a maverick can do well against "right-wing preachers, nutty supply-siders and talk radio" — what Carville called conservative pillars. "McCain has vanquished all three."