Win or lose, I think it's obvious that John McCain is going to be the last major presidential candidate of his generation. Republicans and Democrats alike are at a turning point, awaiting the next generation of leaders to step up and take the reigns of this nation. But as I pointed out in a post this past June, the Democrats' bench is looking a little thin these days. Democrats seem to only now be considering the very real possibility that Barack Obama is going to lose this election. If that happens, to whom do they turn? The obvious choice is Hillary Clinton, but in the Sarah Palin world of politics, Hillary's tired old feminist schtick has lost much of its potency, and despite her deep connections within the Democratic Party, I wonder if some of the guys at the top of the food chain aren't a little wary of giving back to the Clinton's what they worked so hard to take away from them. The alternative, one supposes, is Mark Warner. He's a business leader and a successful governor, but he's also a moderate and a tax-cutter. In order to make the Warner pick palatable, the Democrats would have to finally silence their Leftist fringe and say goodbye to the Kossacks, and I don't think they have the fortitude to do that.
Regardless, there aren't many people beyond Warner ready to step up. Maybe Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota? Possibly Evan Bayh of Indiana, who the Radical Left has already turned on? Perhaps Tim Kaine of Virginia, if he could ever prove he can do something besides ride Warner's coattails? Maybe Jim Webb, if he can survive his reelection campaign against someone more competant than George Allen? As Sarah Palin (and Barack Obama before her) has proven, a political superstar can be born almost overnight, but conversely such superstars are born once in a generation. Even then, forget superstars - there are very few Democrats ready to step up if Barack Obama loses.
Republicans, by contrast, have a deep bench. Much like how the early 1980s and then the early 1990s brought a wave of young conservatives to the public's attention, there are now many young Republicans ready to step up and take their place in the spotlight. By virtue of her selection as McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin has become the most prominent among them. By virtue of his leadership during the recent crisis in the gulf states, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is clearly next in line behind her. Tim Pawlenty, who was reportedly McCain's number two choice for the vice presidency, rounds out the trio of governors - all of them under fifty - who will lead the party on an executive level for the next several years.
But on a legislative level Republicans also have an advantage. In the House, the "Young Guns" of the GOP, including Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, have been working hard in the spirit of Newt Gingrich to bring committed young conservatives to Washington and restore fiscal discipline to our country. Adam Putnam, Mike Pence, and Michelle Bachmann have been supporting them strongly and taking leadership positions to bring energy independence to this country. And again, all six of these leaders - at least one of which will be Minority Leader and quite possibly Speaker one day soon - are under fifty.
And in the Senate we have a group of older-but-not-old statesmen ready to take over for Mitch McConnell, John Warner, and company. Their ranks include Tom Coburn, who since joining the Senate in 2005 has earned a reputation as one of the great fiscal conservatives of modern times; John Thune, who knocked off Tom Daschle in 2004 and is held in high regard for his stances on social issues; Jim DeMint, who is a staunch proponent of free speech and low taxes; and Richard Burr, one of the chief architects of the 2008 Republican Platform. All four are first-term Senators who have become increasingly prominent as the McConnell-Warner generation has begun to ride into the sunset.
Democrats like to claim that they are the party of the future, but they have bet everything they have on one man who is notable for his consistent inability to close the deal with voters. If Obama lose this fall, his party will have to deal with the consequences for years to come.