REMEMBER the old children's game called Rock, Paper, Scissors? You and the other kid presented your hands simultaneously, making either a fist for a rock, a flat palm for paper, or two fingers for scissors. Scissors cut paper, rock breaks scissors, but paper wraps up rock.
Looking ahead, John McCain is the rock, the most experienced, the most seasoned candidate in the running. The Clintons are the scissors, sharp as they proved to be in South Carolina, ready to cut up Barack Obama whom they perceive to be a paper tiger. But the Clinton scissors could break on the McCain rock, where the question of who is ready to serve on day one of the next administration would not be answered in Hillary's favor. Yet the youth and hope, the Kennedy-like image of Obama, could form the paper that could wrap up John McCain.
Hillary speaks of superior experience, but what about our experience of the Clintons? Their attacks in South Carolina, which exceeded the bounds of the acceptable in political knife fights, brought back all the sleaze, the scandals, and the inappropriateness of vote-for-one-get two. Many voters may not want to revisit that.
Yet some Republicans are uneasy with McCain. GOP polemicist Ann Coulter says she would vote for Hillary over McCain. But then we all know Democrats who are ready to vote for McCain over Hillary. As for Obama, race is still the wild card in the pack because people will never reveal their prejudices to pollsters, saving that for the privacy of the polling booth.
As for the would-be rock-wrapping Mitt Romney, he is not the same candidate whom Massachusetts voters wanted as their governor. Having coldly and calculatingly made himself over from a moderate to a hard right-winger, it is irony indeed that the GOP nationwide seems to prefer a more moderate candidate after all.
There has never been a day like yesterday, the closest thing we have had to a national primary. The world beyond our shores stands mesmerized at the sensational political theater that America is putting on for it. Given international opinion of the Bush administration, we have nothing to lose but our Cheneys.
H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the Globe.