What better way to bury the news of your party’s ouster from power in a state it’s ruled for nearly 40 years than to up the ante?
Give this to Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, he still knows how to dominate the news cycle like no one else in Germany. Angela Merkel didn’t hear the news until she was walking into the TV studios. I just saw Edmund Stoiber hem and haw about who would actually be the opposition candidate for chancellor. Squirming on the end of the moderator’s pointed questions, he was. Could not bring himself to say, “Yes, I support Angela Merkel.” Just couldn’t do it.
And there’s this:
On the old schedule, the CDU-CSU would have had a year to promise the moon, the stars and full employment. They would have stoked up a desire for change without having to make any concrete proposals. Voters would have been free to imagine anything they wanted about a future CDU-CSU government, candidate, whatever.
Now they have to be concrete. Maybe tomorrow (according to Merkel), maybe next week (according to Stoiber) there will be a concrete candidate opposing Chancellor Schr?der. That changes the dynamic substantially.
It’s not Schr?der versus hopes and dreams, it’s Schr?der versus Merkel, or versus Stoiber, or versus Koch. Stoiber’s lost once already. Koch really is insufferable. And what I told a junior producer from 60 Minutes in 2002 is still true: Merkel has negative charisma.
So I’ll give this round to Schr?der. The defeat in NRW won’t be the lead headline tomorrow. The CDU-CSU may make a hash of choosing a candidate. He caught his opponents flat-footed. And they are now forced to deal in specifics, which they didn’t want to do until next spring at least. Plus he’s seized the political initiative.
More surprises may be coming soon.