If you did not read the "comments" sections under Looking Forward: Election 2008 and/or Explaining Bill's Odd Behavior, you may have missed an extended (and worthwhile) discussion of "where we are" right now. I am posting some highlights here from my thoughts in response to JC's provocative questions and/or assertions:

JC: I believe Clinton still has the edge over Obama. The hard-core Dems. will follow Bill (not necessarily Hillary) for the most part. Bill has enough political power to make things go their way.

WF: Some "hardcore Dems" will side with Bill--but my guess is that the majority will fall in with the Obama juggernaut, if it is still on course. They want to win more than they feel any sense of obligation to Bill. The Clintons are finding to their great surprise and chagrin that their vaunted ability to control the party machinery is wide but not very deep.

JC: There are Democrats who will have to hold their noses (big time) to put the Clintons back in the White House.

WF: Yes. More and more Democrats seem to have serious reservations about the Clintons. I find this amusing, as they are now offended by the same attributes that Rush Limbaugh has been castigating for nearly two decades. But life is funny. Enough said.

However, never underestimate the power to hold your nose and vote for your party candidate. Even as bad as things are for John McCain, the vast majority of Republicans who are fundamentally unhappy with him will ultimately "hold their nose" and pull the lever.

The Democrats are more desperate to win this time around; therefore, we can expect them to be even less reticent about "nose holding."

JC: Many Independents and some Democrats would vote for McCain/Crist.

WF: Can you really vote for McCain? The war monger? The man who says he might fight the Iraq war for 100 years? The man with an 84 percent conservative lifetime record in the Senate?

The cruelest part of this election may turn out to be the betrayal of McCain's enablers, many of whom may now feel compelled to paint the "maverick" as the reactionary. We will see.

Experience and Organization: Isn't Obama equal to Hillary in that regard?

WF: Hillary has tremendous experience. She has been actively engaged in politics since law school. It is not fair to take that away from her. She is not a political wife in the image of Barbara or Laura Bush or Pat Nixon. She played a crucial and active role in the political life of Bill Clinton. She has held her own in a very high profile senate seat. She is an incredibly polished and practiced American statesperson.

Obama's organization must be read as an endorsement of his ability to command and control. But more than organization and strategy, Obama is winning on charisma. Having said that, I take nothing away from his genius and vision in understanding this campaign better than any other candidate in the race. But I am serious when I wonder if even he wonders if he is actually ready to carry the ball on this.

JC: Obama isn't scary. In particular, his youth is less scary than McCain's age. McCain will be 72 by November, and has had some health problems. That VP choice will be very important.

WF: Obama is a bit scary on some things. He is an idealist--and they have traditionally scared the American electorate. He has no record of legislative or executive accomplishment. All we have is image and ideas. They are powerful--but Obama-mania is an unpredictable vessel on which to run a fall election campaign.

I will give you that McCain is the most UNattractive candidate in either party to come down the pike in decades. His age is dreadful. His looks are dreadful. His oratory is dreadful. Standing on a stage with Obama will be an extremely painful experience for Senator McCain. I have said before, I do not think he can overcome the surface visuals in this image-conscious age.

JC: I agree that a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would be the strongest bet for the Dems. I'm not sure either would want the #2 slot. Obama could learn a lot by traveling with Bill, and they would make quite a pair. But Obama would risk tarnishing his image and desire for a different kind of politics.

Throwing in with the Clintons would be an imperfect choice for Obama--but one thing 46-year-old idealists have to learn at some point is that this world is full of imperfect choices.

After I intimated that Obama's original anti-war stand on Iraq was more good fortune and local politics than far-sightedness,

JC responded:

As an ardent Obama supporter, I wanted to take exception to your characterization of his opposition to the Iraq war as "politically expedient". Although he wasn't yet on the national scene, Obama was gearing up for his U.S. Senate run at that time. If you think about the confusion that reigned then, and what most of us thought was a certainty: that WMD would be found in Iraq, Obama was the only Democrat (later to run for president) who saw the situation with clear eyes. Finding chemical weapons or a nuclear program in Iraq, would have immediately put Obama in a bad position for his senate run.

You should read his entire speech, if you have not.

WF: Obama's 2002 anti-Iraq speech is a great speech. And, YES, it is incredibly prescient. On the other hand, I think it is a stretch on your part to argue that it was bad politics (even if he was preparing to run for the Senate). After all, he was not preparing to run for the Senate in Texas; he was vying for a seat from Illinois. He was not thinking about a presidential run like John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Chris Dodd et al. He was planning on running for the US Senate in a state where Dick Durbin never lost a wink of sleep voting against the war resolution.

JC: I noted your description of Obama supporters... but I think I'll let that pass!

WF: As for Obama supporters: I think they are good folks--just overly optimistic about human nature. This is the endearing flaw of most progressives, who make great and compassionate friends--but often steer us into intractable problems on the macro level.

Of course, I continue to support the most naive idealist of the modern era, George Bush. So who am I to chide you for your sanguine assessment of what Obama can accomplish?
Thinking Out Loud:

1. If the Democratic "super delegates" had to decide today, thinking strategically, they would pick Obama (as he seems unstoppable). But they don't have to pick today. The imperative for Team Clinton? They must win Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania (tough but not impossible); however, that is not the hardest part. In addition to that feat, the Clintons must knock a big hole in the mystical Obama aura of purity, righteousness, and invincibility.

2. Moreover, the Clintons must convince the Democratic Party establishment and decision makers that a Clinton/Obama ticket is the ultimate "sure thing." Conventional wisdom has it that Obama will trounce McCain. I am inclined to believe that. But, in truth, there are great risks. There are some very scary things about Obama (youth, inexperience, LBJ-style liberalism, his black nationalist church, etc.). If the Democrats pick Obama, they are hoping for a potential watershed election, but they will necessarily hold their collective breath for seven months (three months--whatever). Running Obama at the top of the ticket is a big gamble. It is a good gamble, of course, for there will be great reluctance among voters to deny America our moment of "racial redemption" and a "fresh political start." This could very well be an election in which ideology and logic go out the window. Nevertheless, there will be some very tense moments for Democrats during an Obama fall campaign.

What if the Democrats pick Clinton? The conventional wisdom holds that the contest between McCain and Hillary is very close--with McCain holding a slight advantage. I disagree. While it is the probably the best match-up for the GOP, she is more likely to slug it out with McCain and, in the end, probably win a very tight election.

Practical Drop-Dead Serious Question: even if McCain picks Florida governor, Charlie Crist (a distinct possibility and a smart choice), and Crist delivers Florida, what do you do for Ohio, which is seemingly irreparably poisoned for Republicans right now? And, if you don't win Ohio, how do you win the general election--if you are a Republican candidate?

FYI: For those who want McCain to pick Joe Leiberman, he simply cannot. McCain must try to reach out to conservatives. He cannot pick a running mate whom conservatives perceive as more liberal than he. Conservatives love Joe Leiberman when he is running against Ned Lamont or slamming Harry Reid--but they don't want his 95-percent liberal point of view in a position of real power.

Back to the Democrats: What of a unity ticket? The Dream Ticket (Clinton/Obama) delivers the enthusiasm of the "Obamanation" and the crafty experience of Team Clinton. Bill and Barack can travel the world "repairing the image of the United States," while Hill stays home, works hard, and grinds out laws and executive orders. In truth, it would probably be a very efficient administration.

If Obama takes the second slot, he has the leverage to write his own ticket. He will opt to redefine the recently redefined role of the modern VP, and he will position himself well to run for president in 2016 as the most qualified candidate in that field at the still very young political age of 54. Not a bad move. And maybe even Obama realizes that he is not quite ready for prime time. As smart as he is, he may realize that he needs eight years of seasoning before he takes over the most powerful office in the world.

By the way, if Hillary snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, and "steals" the nomination, and then offers the veep to Barack H. Obama, he cannot refuse. For if BHO refused the second slot, and Hillary lost, he would never recover from the ill will generated within the party. He would never overcome the perception of selfishness.

But Hill and Barack together? Forget about it. Roll Bill, Chelsea, and Michelle (not to mention Oprah) into the mix, and you have the most attractive combination since JFK, LBJ, and Jackie.

3. As for McCain, there is good news and bad news.

Good News: McCain is not a bad fellow; that is, he is a whole lot better than Hill, Bill or BarackO. The caricature created by his enemies bears almost no resemblance to the real McCain. Bad News: It does not really matter, he is not going to win.

Let us be optimistic and assume that somewhere between 92 and 95 percent of the currently irate conservatives come around to McCain. That is not enough. The GOP is running uphill this year. The victory of McCain is the result of a collective Republican funk (depression). If the GOP had any fight in them, McCain would never have won this nomination. Down deep in their bones too many Republicans believe that this race is futile. They are tired, worn down, and frustrated. Why? They see the myriad obstacles to victory, and they have a palpable sense of justified guilt over the lost opportunities of the last fourteen years.

Things are tough. To win in this particular cycle, the GOP would need 110 percent support. Ninety-two percent, 95 percent, or even 99 percent is not going to cut it.

Furthermore, Conservative Talk Radio has also sown the seeds of the McCain failure in 2008. McCain cannot appease these foes with any amount of conservative rhetoric, nor can he come up with a veep choice that completely repairs the damage done. Some conservative talkers are trying to undo the damage (like Hugh Hewitt--God Bless Him), but they are not enough. Too many (Rush, Hannity, the Great One) have gone too far in convincing their listeners (literally millions of us) that McCain is a liberal devil. Supporting McCain at this point would strike too many of those honest folks as a betrayal of conservatism. Frankly, Rush and his gang have created a monster that they cannot dismantle completely. Again, keep in mind that even 99 percent repair is not enough.

Nevertheless, at some point, I look for almost all of talk radio to support McCain to some extent--but it will not be of the genuine variety. The tenuous accords will be similar to when the Corleones made peace with Tataglia and Barzini; it will not be heart-felt support and will only mark a temporary interlude before the shooting starts again.
Is Bill Clinton out-of-control? Or is he wily like a fox?


Why was Bill Clinton out on the trail running amok?

Simple answer: after Iowa, the Clinton campaign found itself (and it remains thus) in an extremely desperate situation.

The Second Coming of JFK transformed the political landscape. The Clintons did almost everything right between 2000 and 2008 to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. They worked hard to solidify their network of admirers, contributors, and powerful friends. Hillary kept the media at arm’s-length, and they came to accept her aloofness and her inevitability as facts of life. She acquitted herself well in the Senate, earning the praise of almost every objective observer.

Following the time-tested Clinton strategy, Senator Clinton positioned herself as a moderate (centrist) Democrat. She waxed empathetic to those in need, showed herself mindful of the plain folks who wanted government to be helpful but not intrusive, and stood strong on defense during a period of international risk.

It was a perfectly executed long-term strategy.

What went wrong? Two wrinkles in the plan:

1. The war in Iraq, which Mrs. Clinton had taken great pains to support in dramatic fashion, tragically and unexpectedly, spun out of control. The "slam dunk" went terribly awry, and the scramble that ensued left the American electorate, once united in support of an aggressive projection of national strength, splintered, frustrated, and anxious to single-out politicians for blame.

Mostly, the public blamed George Bush (aka "Mr. 29 Percent"). But the majority of her political tribe is not content to blame George Bush alone for the fiasco in Iraq. Mrs. Clinton’s vote in favor of the war remains a festering wound and continues to plague her with the Democratic base. According to her plan, Iraq should have been a distant and misty-colored memory at this point in the American present. But it is not, and her remarkable challenger, mostly through good fortune, is on record as opposing the war back in 2002.

Why? Mostly because he was toiling outside of the national spotlight at the time when all the decisions were made. As an Illinois state senator representing a district in which the vast majority of his constituents were instinctively suspicious of US intentions and jealous of American largesse to foreign lands, Obama found it politically expedient to agree with the voters he represented. As he said in 2004, who knows how he might have voted if he had been in the big leagues and cast a vote that actually counted? But that much nuance is irrelevant in a front-loaded, media-driven, national campaign. Bottom line: Obama was against the war; Hillary was for it. End of story.

2. Obama himself. He is a remarkably charming candidate (perhaps a hundred-year storm), who has fortunately caught a popular wave of unfocused discontent, uninformed optimism, and naiveté.

So, what to do if you are the Clintons?

First, hope you can finesse your “Iraq problem.” Say some ugly things about the President. Cast some high-profile destructive votes in re the war. Revise history when possible. And hope your base will forgive you in hopes of backing a winner.

Second, hope that "kid" fades. Folks will see that he has no experience, right? This insurgent candidacy needs to draw an inside straight; he will make a mistake; he will tire; he will show some frustration. We will be okay. Don't worry. We're going to be okay.

But then Iowa happened. Then the polls in NH went absolutely crazy. What in the hell is happening here?

The original plan was for the Clintons to run to the middle, for Hillary to take the lead, and the campaign to hold Bill in reserve mostly, sparingly employing him to strengthen the core constituencies where he plays very well. Early on, this strategy was on display. Bill was fairly quiet and absent from the day-to-day contest. Every once in a while--like when Edwards looked like he might be a threat in Iowa back in the summer--Team Clinton would roll out Bill to remind the faithful of the glorious struggles and triumphs of the Clintonian past.

But when Hillary stumbled into third place in Iowa, and New Hampshire looked lost, and the brain trust sheepishly looked around at one another in disbelief, and the mainstream media began the drumbeat of "the fall of the House of Clinton," Bill and Hill asked for the ball.

You got to want it to win it, and they want it more. Bill and Hill stepped up and moved forward. What to do? Hit back. What to do? Take this to the people. What to do? Take on the media and the establishment and play the underdog.

Is Bill Clinton out-of-control? Or is he wily like a fox?

Here is how he is wily like fox.

Bill hit hard and fast and created a lot of questions concerning his wife's opponent. By the end of the week, he had the formerly calm, cool, and collected Barack Obama slinging mud and playing the race card. Was Bill winning any popularity contests? Absolutely not. Even some of the strongest Bill fans were running for cover. But he changed the conversation. More importantly, none of the trash talking seemed to be coming out of his wife's mouth.

The timing was also significant.

Wild Bill grabbed the headlines during a week in which Hillary had little chance of winning the South Carolina primary. What have we heard from Bill this week? Almost nothing. Hillary is back in front of the cameras smiling and promoting a positive message. Bill is in the background. But everything Bill said last week is still in play this week.

Having said that, Bill may also be out of control.

I am convinced that he cannot help himself sometimes. He must know that his propensity to focus on himself leads to an impression that his wife is running for his third term. When Bill is leading with "I," we too often see the Hillary campaign as "Ma Clinton," running to extend the reign of "Pa Clinton."

The bottom line: much of the red-faced, cranky Bill is a well-choreographed sideshow--but not all of it. This is the real Bill.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back in March of 2006, I began my first month of blogging by asking myself:

why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago?

My answer was uncertain:

Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time.

January 2008: I am starting to remember.

McCain is a decent fellow, I continue to believe. While his opponents ruthlessly distort his political record, he is, in truth, a center-right politician, who would make a good president, especially on issues of national security.

Having said that, he does have several personality traits that I find hard to abide. I have, once again, come to see his "straight-talk express" as a gimmick. He bellows about integrity and truth telling. He inveighs against his main opponent for distorting his record on immigration to shamelessly cover the truth that he continually revises, extends, and attempts to tamp down his unpopular statements on amnesty. Then McCain turns around and despicably invents a completely erroneous attack on Mitt Romney concerning his stance on the Iraq War. When confronted, McCain raises his voice and doubles his bet. Shameless. Moreover, McCain is also thin-skinned and petulant, and he is too quick to assume the victim pose. Everybody is always out to get him. Toughen up, John. Politics is a tough business.

Having said that, from the very beginning, I have believed that the best one-on-one match-up for the GOP is Hillary Clinton vs. McCain. He will run a very competitive campaign, which he might win. Even if he does not, he is a moderate Republican, and Hillary will need to run as a moderate Democrat to win. She will run to the center, and she cannot beat McCain and win election as president without committing to finish the war in Iraq. This is the most important issue of our time.

On the other hand, McCain most likely loses big to Obama. I am convinced he cannot get past the visuals. Obama is tall, handsome, vigorous, and youthful; while McCain is short, ugly, tired, and old. McCain is unable to stand on the same stage as Barack Obama and have a prayer of winning.

On the other hand, while I think Mitt Romney has the potential of losing to Hillary in an absolutely historic fashion, I think he matches up much better against Obama. And who knows, really, Romney might continue to improve as a candidate as the year drones on; he might very well grow into a race against Hillary.

My initial reaction to Romney was lukewarm--but, as circumstances have played out, I have come to appreciate him. Perhaps that is faint praise--but we are down to some imperfect choices.

On the other hand, the biggest problem with McCain is that he is a non-starter (make that deal-breaker) for too many important components of our party.

One more positive for Romney: the new most important issue in this election is the economy. Mitt Romney exudes confidence and competence in this area.

Bottom Line: as so many thoughtful people have written this week, things are still in a pretty big mess for the GOP.
My mantra, Nobody Knows Anything, stands out conspicuously as my wisest utterance this entire extended season of national decision. Although I have repeatedly sprinkled this caveat throughout my extensive writings on Campaign 2008, I am sure that I have not said it enough. Nobody Knows Anything--and that goes double for me.

Having said that, we are in the midst of another "Hillary is finished" frenzy, but I am not at all convinced that her opponent's recent overwhelming victory in the Palmetto State and/or the endorsement of Liberal Lion, Ted Kennedy, seals the deal for the man from Illinois.

Not that I am not in awe of Barack Obama. I am.

Although Hillary is surprisingly adept and polished as a candidate for president (she is much, much better than I thought she would be), Obama is a once-in-a-generation wonder. He is the charismatic new kid in town about whom we know almost nothing--but on whom we are anxious to project our most sanguine hopes for ourselves, our nation, and our future. He is electric. He is on fire. He is in "the zone" of maximized self-actualization.

In many ways, however, Barack Obama is playing a desperate (and undoubtedly frustrating) game of "beat the clock." He must take control of this race by next Tuesday. Surely, if this nomination process had unraveled week by week, one primary at a time, over a three-month period, the incredibly attractive and energetic Obama would have overcome the Clintons, who seem to be tired, cranky, and taking on water. But in one week, Democrats in twenty-five states and voting districts will choose a candidate. This may prove to be a contest in which organization and two decades of planning, cajoling, and social networking overcomes youthful enthusiasm and raw talent. We will soon see.

If not now for Obama, when? How long will this sensational ride atop the fickled American political culture last? No one can say. He is young. One might think, if he comes up short this time, there will be other subsequent chances for this developing phenom to ascend the greasy pole and claim his due. But political life is unpredictable. There is a saying in cattle country about "striking while the iron is hot."

Oftentimes fate turns on a dime. It seems unlikely that a more propitious moment awaits Mr. Barack Obama. Popularity is fleeting and seldom moves consistently forward and upward. Tomorrow is a mystery. Now is the time for Obama. Luck be a Lady Tonight.

The now is the frustration, however. He is so close he can taste it. He made the right decision to make his move for the oval office when he did. But Obama is not quite there--and the clock is ticking. He had a chance to stampede Hillary Clinton after Iowa--but, somehow, and no one yet has come up with a satisfying answer of just how, it did not quite come together in New Hamshire.

He was supposed to win Nevada--but, somehow, he came up a bit short there as well. He got the unions (a huge coup)--but he still could not quite deliver on game day. He won huge in South Carolina--but there is a lingering worry that he might have gotten "rope-a-doped" in that round. Even as the mainstream media trumpets his successes, cynical pundits warn that he has fallen into a trap of racial politics set by his wily opponents.

And the speed of the game is increasing exponentially. He is moving fast. To shore up the Latino vote in the West (and avoid Nevada writ large), he is promoting his record of favoring drivers licenses for illegal aliens. All the polls say this is long-term poison--but the long term does not matter if one dies a political death in the now. You cannot save your ace for Game Seven, if you are the verge of elimination in Game Six. Obama is pulling out all the stops. Super Tuesday, February 5, is huge; is it bigger than his grassroots movement? No one knows. He has the money. He now has the endorsements. He is better positioned than any other previous insurgent candidate. But does he have the poise, experience, and supporting cast to pull this rabbit out of the hat when the game is on the line?

We will know soon.

A thought (on the relevance of the Kennedy imprimatur):

I will be very surprised if any Latinos on the West Coast give one solitary damn about Ted Kennedy--but who knows?

One Final Thought on the endorsements:
I am convinced that they mean very little in terms of votes (no reasonable person would change his mind because Ted Kennedy told him to), but they are an important barometer of the race. More and more heavyweight Democrats (no insult intended) see Team Clinton as vulnerable; they are taking the opportunity to kick the Clintons in the teeth and curry favor with the likely winner. This trend must be part of the calculus. Most of these folks are canny political operators.
Dick Morris has it right, essentially, in his latest column:

Clinton Will Win the Nomination by Losing S.C.

Old News: Dick Morris is a hack; that is, he has an uncanny sense for getting things right in the present (what is happening on the ground somewhere today), but he is usually completely misguided in the long term. Hillary was unstoppable until Hillary was finished; now, evidently, Hillary has won the nomination with a clever plan to take advantage of race in this campaign.

One other note: Morris views the world through a deep visceral hatred for the Clintons (especially Hillary).

One last shot: in a year in which the smartest thing I have said all season is "nobody knows anything," it is hard to take a pundit seriously who shamelessly markets his ability to "know all the answers."

Having said that, his thesis today is a near-bullseye.

Hillary will lose South Carolina in a big way as a result of a massive black vote for Obama, which will forever shatter Obama's aura of racial transcendence.

That is correct.

We love Obama because he represents a bridge to a future age in which we will realize the dream of a race-blind society. Although this truly is a contradiction-laden "fairy tale," we desperately want to elect this charismatic African American on the basis of his intellect and character. More than anything else, his ability to provide racial redemption is the foundation for his message of hope.

What Morris so shrewdly detects is the fragility of that political currency. Or, as Margaret Carlson wrote last week, when she saw Al Sharpton on TV defending Barack Obama, she "realized that the Clintons had done what they needed to do to stop Obama's historic surge in its tracks."

A racial division in this contest equals the end of the fantasy.

What Morris and Carlson both exaggerate is the conspiratorial character this latest development in a thoroughly wacky race. I am convinced that the Clintons optimistically strategized at some point that they might actually win the African American vote in South Carolina, casting Obama as not nearly as black as Bill. This would have worked just fine in their big picture. A win is always better than a loss.

However, Obama's viability awakened a race pride in African Americans all over the nation. No problem. Plan B--and I am guessing this idea come on the fly--make Obama run on race. Plan B was helped by Team Obama's lack of foresight in attacking Lyndon Johnson.

In truth, you can believe LBJ was instrumental to civil rights and not be racist, the Bill "fairy tale" remark was taken out of context, and the "moratorium" on discussing Obama's admitted cocaine use is evidence of preferential treatment based on race--not the other way around.

Team Obama stepped into a punch on this one. They needed to fight the perfect fight to win, and they made a mistake. Only time will tell if Obama can overcome the error.

22/01: So Long, Fred

Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Fred is out. A post mortem.

1. Fred was arguably the best candidate--but he ran the worst campaign.

2. There was always an uncomfortable paradox in my prediction that Mrs. Clinton would/will prevail ultimately in the Democratic canvass, which I base(d) on her superior organization, extensive and meticulous pre-planning, financial advantage, and her prodigious will to win, while at the same time I expected Fred Thompson to emerge victorious on the GOP side, even as he offered the worst organization, an almost spontaneous decision to seek the office, a dismal financial foundation, and an eighteenth-century-style disinterest in running.

3. Why my erroneous hunch that Fred could pull it off? I figured Fred had a chance based on the peculiar make-up of the Republican campaign; that is, since all the GOP contenders arrived seriously flawed, the race was always (and still is, most likely) vulnerable to a late-arriving charismatic candidate espousing an enticing mix of confidence, fresh policy ideas, and conservative orthodoxy.

4. Although I wrote that South Carolina was "Fred's Last Stand," in truth, this campaign remains so loony that nothing really necessitates that Fred exit at this moment. But he obviously wants out--and that is that. You can lead a horse to water--but you cannot make him run...

5. What now? McCain or Romney? Or someone else? Is there anyone else? Fred staying in for a longer run would have done more toward keeping things unpredictable, further complicating the drive to amass a majority of delegates. With Fred gone, he increases the chances of one candidate eventually emerging as the winner before the Republican convention. Is this good? The punditry declares that a deadlocked convention gives the Democrats an advantage. I am not sure about that.

6. Perhaps a contested convention would increase interest in the Republican spectacle, offering a platform for whomever might rise from the ashes of Minneapolis. A someone who might not be a currently declared candidate. A dark horse perhaps? Who knows? Moreover, a new candidate appearing in late summer would scramble the opposition research machine and might actually excite the public's short attention span, which, by Labor Day, will undoubtedly see Obama as the familiar and be looking for something new by then.

The wildest possibility: Fred emerges as a compromise choice in a deadlocked convention (with Newt Gingrich as the VP).

7. Back to reality: with Fred out, look for the rest of conservative orthodoxy to reluctantly line up behind Romney, setting up the battle royale between the McCain insurgents and the forces of the neo-traditional Rush Limbaugh wing of the party.

PS After his loss in South Carolina, seemingly, finally Huckabee should be "Hucka-was."
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few final thoughts on South Carolina:

1. The most recent numbers in South Carolina continue to indicate a two-man race between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Of course, while scientific samplings are fairly accurate most of the time, we have grown accustomed to wildly erroneous polling in recent days. Is there one more surprise out there? That is, can Fred Thompson come from nowhere to impact this contest? Unlikely on its face--but certainly not impossible.

An aside: In a real physical sense, I cannot seem to accept the idea of McCain or Huckabee winning tomorrow night. Of course, that very well may be my heart talking--rather than some prescient instinct.

2. Some positive notes:

With Romney concentrating on Nevada, the "Stop McCain and Huckabee" movement has one clear alternative in the Palmetto State: Fred.

The late-breaking “undecideds” are the element that has been giving pollsters fits. Fred has a shot at swaying this vital segment (see below).

If the conservative establishment has any power in South Carolina, Fred Thompson ought to win a lot of votes. The big boys of talk radio have pressed hard for Thompson over the last forty-eight hours. They are the noncoms of the conservative army--and they are important. How influential? We will know soon.

Fred is doing us proud, finally hitting his stride and finding his voice (to borrow a phrase). For the last fortnight, he has been heads and tails above the crowd at every outing.

3. Pointing Fingers: Fred's unorthodox anti-campaign campaign is an acquired taste; it takes time to appreciate his retro approach. I sense that he is on the verge of breaking through, but almost is not going to make it tomorrow night. No results in SC and Fred Thompson is finished.

If he does not come through tomorrow night, who to blame?

The Republican faithful for overlooking him amidst the circus; we should have worked harder to see the big picture.

The media for dismissing him when he turned out to be different than what they anticipated.

And Fred himself for not giving us more time. It is one thing to wage a laid-back under-the-radar campaign that attempts to turn back time--but he should have understood that his method might take some time to sink in. Offering the least glitzy and least dynamic style is not a good combination with the most truncated campaign.

4. Not writing Fred off (holding out some hope), but, if the worst happens, it is Romney the rest of the way by default.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Tocqueville (Wednesday PM):

Last night, Romney lifted this message directly from Rush Limbaugh's program yesterday, which I think was a GREAT move:

"Tonight is a victory for optimism over Washington-style pessimism. (applause) What we're going to see in the next few days is Democrats say that they're the party of change. (grumbling) You're going to hear Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, saying that they're the party of change, and I think they would bring change to America, just not the kind we want. You see, I think they take their inspiration from the Europe of old: big government, Big Brother, big taxes. They fundamentally in their hearts believe, that America is great because we have a great government -- and we do have a great government, but that's not what makes us the best nation, the strongest nation, the greatest nation on earth. What makes us such a great nation is the American people. I take my inspiration from Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, who said we are a great and good people. It's exactly what we are, it's why we will always be the most powerful nation on earth."

A Waco Farmer:

I agree with Tocqueville. You have to admire Romney's game. He is smart enough to understand that he cannot win the nomination without bringing along Limbaugh (unlike Huck and McCain—who seem unwilling to accept this basic fact of life). Romney is positioning himself as an acceptable alternative to Huckabee and/or McCain. In my mind, this race comes down to a contest between Romney and Thompson. Rush is clearly for Thompson, and Thompson has his last last chance on Saturday night in South Carolina. But if Thompson cannot get traction, Limbaugh et al will have no choice but to support Romney to thwart either Huckabee or McCain, both of whom he detests.

Another note: I haven't heard as much impassioned yelling on Talk Radio in years. The conservative talkers are pulling out all the stops to stop Mac and Huck--and they will.

One last note: as the economy cools down (and heats up as an issue—what war in Iraq?), Romney and his optimism becomes increasingly attractive. He is authentically the no-nonsense, straight arrow whom we can trust to fix things.

The path to victory for Romney is suddenly wide open and well lit.
An admission: I did not watch politics last night. I spent most of the evening thinking about Lyndon Johnson. Nevertheless, here is what I think last night might mean.

Some quick reactions to Michigan off the top of my head:

1. The Y2K of American politics failed to materialize last night. The season of the witches for conservative orthodoxy perhaps is coming to a close.

I have said this once before and been dead wrong, but I declare John McCain officially finished. If he cannot win in Michigan with all the available independents and Democrats, how can he win in core Republican venues? McCain will run hard in South Carolina, of course, but his chances there seem increasingly improbable. A loss in the Palmetto State places his campaign on a seemingly unrecoverable lethal trajectory.

2. Romney had a great week campaigning. A lot of observers (including our Tocqueville--who predicted this big win) sensed a renewed vigor in the former Massachusetts governor. He looks to be hitting his stride.

3. Romney is back. Since the entire canvass remains so horribly muddled, Michigan places Romney back on top of the game (at least for a brief moment). Despite all the talk over the last twelve days of his demise, Romney now rolls into the South with momentum and the aura of a winner. While South Carolina will undoubtedly take the bloom off of that a bit--the trip to the winner's circle in an important contest permanently changes public perception of this candidate. Romney is now indisputably viable.

4. No poll before last night has any meaning. We can expect a big bounce for Romney and a big dip for McCain following this telling contest.

5. Huckawho? The next must-win scenario? Mike Huckabee must take South Carolina. My hunch is that he is in trouble there--but we will see soon enough. In terms of perception, the media focus on Huckabee in New Hampshire and Michigan helped to raise his name recognition, but coming in third in those two primaries tends to color him as a perennial loser. Iowa seems like a month ago. The fresh images of Huckabee portray him as an affable also-ran.

6. South Carolina is Fred's last last chance. He seems to be surging somewhat. Will it be enough? For months I have wondered if we are waiting on a broken-down bus. Well I can hear the bus rumbling down the street blocks away. Will it arrive on cue to get us to the dance just in the nick of time?