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A lot of hopeful speculation recently has the Clintons losing the nomination and splitting the party; that is, many conservative observers, supremely confident that they know what makes the Clinton's tick, have predicted a "scorched-earth policy," if Hillary loses.

Not likely.

These right-wing talkers are committing the same error they always make in dealing with the Clintons: they underestimate their talent and exaggerate their faults.

For example, think about the government shutdown of 1995. Intoxicated by our own propaganda, too many on our side assumed that "Slick Willie," the draft-dodger, would turn and run in the face of a firm conservative posture. This was a fundamental and colossal misunderstanding of the man from Hope (or Hot Springs or Harlem or wherever). And we paid the price for our arrogance. I trace the decline of Newt Gingrich in American politics to that misreading and over-confidence.

Now, based on the overly simplistic characteristic we feed to our less-intelligent allies, we are casting the Clintons as so egocentric and petty that they will bring the whole party crashing around their own personal defeat.

Two reasons why this is extremely unlikely:

1. There is not one scrap of historical evidence that points to that assumption. True the Clintons are incredibly ambitious (and petty at times), but they have never been "barn-burners"?

2. More importantly, what is in it for them, if they pursue a path of destruction? Out of one side of our mouth, we chastise Bill for being fantastically legacy-driven--and, out of the other, we assume that he will destroy himself historically by executing the most petulant political blunder of all time.

If Hillary loses the nomination, the Clintons will do as wise politicians have always done; they will support the nominee. Sometimes the support is heartfelt, and sometimes it is pro forma--but it has generally been there. I have serious doubts that the Clintons will break the pattern.

So, optimistic Republicans need to come up with another idea on which to hang their hopes.
Category: Campaign 2008.10
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, Iowa State political science professor, Steffen Schmidt (aka "Dr. Politics"), lectured in Waco. During that visit and in subsequent conversations, Schmidt pointed out that the much-trumpeted Latino loyalty toward Clinton seems much more a function of familiarity (or lack of familiarity with Obama) rather than a deep-seated personal affinity for Hillary. Moreover, based on the most recent polling, Mrs. Clinton's two firewalls (Hispanics and white women) both seem to be crumbling.

Things are tough in Clinton-land at the moment.

Having said that, and keeping in mind the above analysis, here is the equation as I see it:

The nomination is coming down to the super delegates. If they voted today, they would vote for Obama because he seems unstoppable. The good news for Clinton: they are not voting today. She has time to punch a hole in his balloon.


It will be very tough, but Clinton must sweep the upcoming final big three states (very difficult but not impossible). For all that has gone sour in her campaign, Hillary has consistently excelled in these upscale high-stakes contests. Then, most importantly, she must somehow break the "spell" of Obama by casting doubt on him in some way between now and the day of decision.

One promising development: Republicans are warming to the prospect of running against Obama. The smart guys are starting to see some very appealing flaws in his defenses. There are ways to hit him. The most liberal senator. "Cut and run" in a moment where it finally looks like we might get things turned around in Iraq. Al Sharpton. His Black Nationalist church. Some oldies but goodies: taxes, gun control, abortion, etc.

I have always seen Obama as a big gamble: he could prevail in a huge way ("painting the map blue" as he says). Or we could wake up from our trance midway through the coming fall election season and suddenly look at this guy and say: "what in the hell are we doing?"

An aside: An Election Day repudiation of Obama would be a national disaster. If this great hope for and emblem of reconciliation (racial and otherwise) gets that close and loses, the collective disillusionment will be colossal. As a people, we would be loath to deny this candidacy--but, on the other hand, shall we elect a president about whom we know almost nothing simply because we desire some sort of symbolic closure to our tortured racial history?

When not caught up in the fantasy, all of this gets fairly serious, precarious, and frightening.

Between now and this summer, I can certainly envision a moment in which strategically minded Democratic Party big-wigs entertain grave doubts about Obama's electability. In that scenario, three for the price of one (Obama as VP) may emerge as a much safer bet.

And, once again, I continue to wonder if Obama himself really believes in his heart of hearts that he is truly ready for this dance. He might find the second slot a welcome relief, finding a face-saving exit from a daunting task exacerbated by unreasonable expectations he has done so much to help create.
Category: Campaign 2008.10
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For years and years to come, when political historians and political junkies gather to remember the truly remarkable stories of triumph and tragedy, they will speak of the Huckabee campaign of 2008 in hushed tones of reverence. Seriously, pols will study and emulate the Huckabee achievement for decades. What makes this one so special?

Never has a candidate done more with so little.

Huckabee is a truly gifted comedian. He is funnier than Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, both of whom were genuinely quick-witted pols with exceptional timing. While he sometimes over-extends (he gets a bit over-confident when he is on a roll), night-in and night-out he is Jay-Leno funny.

His commercial with Chuck Norris may be the all-time best of its kind: YouTube here.

"Chuck Norris doesn't merely endorse a candidate; he tells America how it's going to be."

Huckabee draws from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of great lines:

"They said this was a two-man race; they were right, and I am one of them."

"Don't tell me about the math. I didn't major in math; I majored in miracles."

Although I placed Huckabee on the Bosque Boys watch list back during the summer when he was merely a funny formerly overweight governor from hillbilly country, I have, in fact, consistently underestimated him.

After I predicted he had crested during the weeks preceding the Iowa caucus, following his amazing victory, I promised to never again sell him short. But there I was on the local six o'clock news last Tuesday opining that West Virginia was an aberration, and Pastor Mike would not play a role in the national primary. He got the last laugh, and I was on at ten explaining myself.

Fortunately, I was unavailable to appear that Thursday night to explain how the departure of Mitt Romney marked the end of the 2008 Republican campaign.

During the week before Super Tuesday the conservative talkers had shrilly demanded that Huckabee cease and desist for the good of the party and the movement and the memory of Ronald Reagan. When he refused, they unanimously inferred a cabal, insisting the Huckabee candidacy was merely a stalking horse for John McCain.

Ironically, this week it is the McCain forces who are calling on Huckabee to do the right thing and pack it in before he further embarrasses the home team by defeating the presumptive nominee.

Do I think Huckabee is going to win? Not a chance--but, once again, what do I know? Nothing.

For the record, for all the talk from Camp McCain concerning "dirty tricks" and "distortions" (all while the senator gave as good as he received), the Republican establishment went to great lengths to destroy the reputation of a pretty decent fellow in Huck.

On a serious note: there are a lot of evangelicals out there who think Huckabee got a raw deal with the party. While I am not necessarily one of them, the least-reported big story of this campaign is the growing rift between anti-evangelical conservatives and the so-called Christian Right.

An observation: There is a lot of confusion, frustration, and a sense of betrayal out in the evangelical conclaves. This is problematic. Republicans generally lose when they do not energize religious conservatives.
Back in November of 2006, I reprised a unilateral discussion of McCain and his bid for the presidency, which read:

Back in March, I explored my own mind in re John McCain. I am more convinced today than I was then that McCain is likely our man. Below are my thoughts then.

My post from 13 March [2006]:

Today New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (and the Democratic Party) officially declared war on John McCain, calling him "slippery and evasive" and a "right-winger." Although I fought hard against McCain's candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2000, for the last several months I have been telling my friends that I think McCain may be our guy for 2008.

First of all, why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago? Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time. I started out an Orin Hatch supporter, and then I reluctantly settled on George Bush because he looked like he could win and I liked his family. He also struck me as an unpolished but authentic and sincere man ("I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it"). On the whole, George Bush has not disappointed me.

Why my dislike for McCain? Once committed to Bush in the early months of 2000, McCain was the enemy. I disagreed with McCain-Feingold, which was one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Perhaps most importantly, I was spooked by his boosters. Looking back, I was very suspicious of someone who courted the MSM and appealed to my hardcore Democratic friends (although I predicted back then that McCain's liberal admirers would desert him in the general election). Moreover, I felt he was playing to the Beltway press corps (and we are supposed to hate the Beltway press corps). In retrospect, my distaste for McCain based on his association with reporters who flocked to his bandwagon on the "straight-talk express" was unfair and not quite rational.

Why does McCain appeal to me today? McCain self-identifies as a Reagan Republican (as he has throughout his career). He is a Westerner. He is rock-solid on conservative issues (today Paul Krugman asserts that McCain's voting record is currently ranked the third-most conservative in the Senate). Krugman has it just about right: McCain is not a radical opponent of tax cuts; McCain has a long history of toughness against rogue states (Krugman makes the important point that William Kristol supported McCain over Bush in 2000; McCain's foreign policy would have been similar to Bush's, only stronger). Krugman also fumes that McCain is now friendly with the Religious Right and positioning himself as "an extremist on abortion."

Krugman makes a lot of sense to me (did I really say that?).

Insert: Read the full Krugman piece from March 13, 2006 here, entitled "The Right's Man."

Moreover, McCain, who had the power to derail Bush in 2000 and 2004, rallied around the flag and proved his loyalty to Republican ideas. McCain set aside any personal animus and did the right thing for the right reasons. He had every opportunity for revenge, and he passed. You must admire that kind of discipline. McCain has supported the war on terror unflinchingly. Although he balked on the torture question, and he called consistently for more troops in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, arguably, he was right on both counts.

McCain drew near-unanimous condemnation from conservatives for his leadership role in the "Gang of Fourteen" (aka "The Mod Squad"), but that seems somewhat misplaced and wrong-headed now that the compromise netted us Roberts and Alito and broke up the logjam of conservative Circuit Court nominees.

Why now? In brief:

1. McCain will run as a Reagan Republican, but he will not carry the baggage of the Bush administration. The GOP faces tough times in 2006 and 2008. The next election will be a referendum on President Bush (35 percent approval). But no Republican candidate can succeed running away from George Bush. Republicans cannot nominate an "outsider," anti-Washington governor (it just won't fly). Having said that, there needs to be some distance. McCain will run on his record of integrity and independence and fiscal responsibility, at the same time promising to stay the course where it counts.

To that end, McCain is an articulate spokesman for conservative common sense. The winning candidate will need to connect with the public. The GOP candidate will need to sell a program that is not very popular right now. McCain is a great communicator. His vaunted appeal to "moderates" (much criticized in some conservative circles) really means that many regular Americans perceive McCain as a good man and wise leader.

2. McCain is battle-tested and up to the challenge. The next presidential election will prove devastatingly cruel and heartless. Think Hillary Clinton and James Carville and Paul Begala and Paul Krugman unleashed. This is no time to learn as you go along. The Republicans need a tough guy for this very tough upcoming race. McCain's life experience and his sense of humor will help him navigate the ugliness.

3. Lindsey Graham. Graham is the brightest shining star on the Republican horizon and a long-time McCain supporter. Graham will be a floor leader in the Senate in a McCain presidency, positioning him for bigger and better things to come. McCain and Graham represent the future of the party.

What say you? What are your reasons for and/or against McCain?


February 11, 2008. New Material: Much has changed--but some elements remain the same. One thing is for certain, as Krugman did twenty-three months back, we can certainly expect McCain's erstwhile allies in the mainstream press to quickly abandon him in earnest and then crucify him in support of their newest new kid in town.

A prediction: as more and more liberal commentators and newsreaders castigate McCain for being a conservative, the more conservatives will develop warm feelings for him. Many of us hate him as a result of the people who seem to fawn over him. Ironically, by November, most of us will like him in reaction to the same coterie of jackals, who will excoriate him relentlessly for his admirable lifetime record of defending the things we hold dear.

FYI: I no longer characterize McCain as a “great communicator.” I now remember what I disliked about him in 2000: his tendency to go negative while at the same time assuming a victim pose. However, he has certainly lived up to every inch of his advertised “toughness.” This fellow is as hard as an old hickory tree.

One last prediction: none of it will matter. McCain loses.