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Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Remember my mantra? When it comes to Campaign 2008, nobody knows anything. But here goes nothing:

This race for the presidency gets "curiouser and cusiouser."

The latest polls show Romney and Edwards ahead in Iowa. Admittedly, Romney is a minor surprise for me, although it probably should not be. McCain begins in a hole, as he by-passed Iowa in 2000, and Giuliani is just not a great fit for the Hawkeye State. As for Edwards, he has been running hard in Iowa for four years. If Edwards is not strong there, he is not a viable candidate anywhere.

The question of the day, however, is this:

Does Iowa matter?

Some things to think about: Although Iowa Democrats have a respectable record of selecting their eventual party nominee, the Republican straw poll has been much quirkier. The GOP caucus in Iowa is the same group that passed over Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, selected Bob Dole and Pat Robertson over George H.W. Bush in 1988 and made a contender out of Pat Buchanan in 1992. I defy anyone to find a pattern in all that, other than kooky randomness. The Iowa GOP is not impressive as a bellweather even under normal circumstances.

And these are not normal circumstances. Iowa has even less meaning for 2008. As important delegate-rich states rush to move their primaries forward to the earliest possible dates, we are on the verge of having a national primary over a fortnight. That is, over a few nights in January and early February, all the candidates will be competing in a large number of states for all the marbles.

To reiterate, we are talking about a national primary, which means the winner will be the candidate who builds the best national organization, proves the most adroit at manipulating the national and local media and raises enough money to keep all these balls in the air.

Iowa has always been mostly psychological and momentum building, but that is especially true for this election cycle. Iowa (and more accurately the pre-Iowa polls) are mostly about creating the aura of electability.

Having said all that, I still would rather be on top in Iowa at this moment than running second or third there.
Let me belatedly associate myself with Senator McCain's remarks from the debate this week:

"Spending is out of control. We didn't lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq; we lost it because we in the Republican Party came to Washington to change government and government changed us. We let spending go out of control. We spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of my colleagues."

Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dana Milbank's column in the Washington Post today considers the potential for a Chuck Hagel campaign for President as an independent (read here).

As Milbank notes, Hagel keeps hinting he will run. More puzzling is the fact that pundits keep reacting to this flirtation as if the question had some relevance to the 2008 race.

A better question: Who would vote for Hagel?

Hagel is currently vying with Ron Paul for the dubious distinction of Republican least-likely to succeed with Republican voters. Paul is on top right now as a result of name recognition following this week's debate--but, if Republicans knew Hagel better, there is no doubt that they would despise him just as much.

And then there are the Democrats, who, for the first time in a generation, feel confident that they are on the brink of a fortuitous electoral swing back in their direction. Why would they embrace Hagel? True enough, Democrats enjoy his attacks on the President, and he is something of an anomaly as a defeatist Republican, but given the opportunity to vote for John Edwards or Barack Obama or any number of truly retreat-oriented Democrats, Hagel immediately loses his uniqueness.

There are no votes out there for Hagel. Why do we keep talking about this guy?

08/05: More Romney

Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dan Gilgoff's insightful column today supports Tocqueville's recent prediction that Romney will secure the Republican nomination:

Gilgoff (regarding Republicans and the Christian Right):

Republican presidential candidates who fall on either end of the continuum, who either embody the Christian Right (Pat Robertson in 1988) or who reject it (Texas Senator Phil Gramm in 1996) lose the nomination. The two most electorally successful Republican presidential candidates of the last 30 years -- Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush -- took a different path, embracing the movement even though they were outsiders to it. If the next Republican to occupy the White House must follow that same strategy, Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, may be in much better shape than polls suggest.

What Reagan and Bush knew was that the Christian Right was too small a force to nominate its own nonestablishment candidate but too large a force to ignore or offend. This year, Romney is acting likewise, attempting to persuade the Christian Right that he has seen the light on abortion and gay rights. At last week's debate, Romney went furthest in speaking the language of the Christian Right, declaring he "won't apologize to anybody for becoming prolife" (unlike Giuliani), that he opposed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (unlike McCain) and that he thinks the American family is "the heart of the Republican Party" (unlike Giuliani or McCain).

Of course, Romney's Mormonism makes him a tougher sell to the mostly evangelical Christian Right. But with the two other Republican front-runners staking their independence from Christian conservatives on some key issues and the true Christian Right candidates stuck at 1 percent in the polls, Romney sees his opening. And if it is another candidate who winds up winning the Republican nomination, he will need to prove that, when it comes to the Christian Right's role in presidential politics, the math has changed.

Read the entire Gilgoff piece via the Boston Globe here.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I saw it again today in Ken Walsh's U.S.News piece on the ever sinking fortunes of President George Bush (here):

"[0]nly McCain [among the Republican candidates] has made [standing firm on Iraq] a frequent talking point, which is considered one reason why he has faded from front-runner status."

Wrong Again. Republican primary voters are not deserting John McCain because of his courage in the face of declining support for the American mission in Iraq. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

What explains John McCain's troubles?

Part of it is the erroneous context in which his campaign is habitually framed: the fallen front runner. Many months ago, some beltway media types named John McCain the front runner. He wasn't. There was no election going on back then. There was some public opinion polling that asked voters to pick between John McCain and a lot of guys they had never heard of. Surprise, they picked McCain. At the same time, in the same rounds of meaningless polls, McCain showed that he would win in the general against Hillary.

What do the polls say now? The polls say that the Republicans are disoriented and looking for a Messiah. Giuliani? Thompson? And there will be others.

The same beltway types now characterize McCain as the guy who blew the big lead, which is preposterous.

By the way, McCain still bests Hillary in the national polls (as does Rudy).

Cautionary Aside: Take absolutely no hope from those canvases; those surveys are still absolutely meaningless. The Democratic candidate will kick off the campaign with a 20 to 30 point lead on Labor Day. Then things will tighten significantly.

A year ago the large contingent of McCain haters in the Republican Party went to great pains to reject the bogus pronouncements from the mainstream media that McCain was the front runner for the nomination. However, now that a fallen front runner story serves them well, most of the same anti-McCain people are quietly accepting or gleefully adopting the storyline.

Why are the MSM so down on McCain? He betrayed them. They loved him when he was the straight-talking maverick who was always a thorn in the flesh of George Bush. Now, to hear them tell it, he has made a politically motivated decision to support the President and inherit his base. And, irony of ironies, there is no base to inherit.

This is a fallacy, for the most part. McCain (like Joe Lieberman) could have gained much more by deserting the President and the policy, but he (they) proved more intrepid than expedient. McCain (and Lieberman) are great Americans; either one would make a great president. PERIOD.

The other obvious MSM reason for antipathy: the fallen McCain story advances the anti-war story.

Why do the Republicans hate McCain? That is a more complicated question to which I do not have a compelling answer. But here is an overly simplistic nutshell-type explanation: For many hardcore Republicans, they also feel betrayed: Tax Cuts, McCain-Feingold, the deal on filibuster, etc. None of that strikes me as altogether fair--but that's life.

The McCain Paradox: The Bush base doesn't like him to begin with. Therefore, fidelity to the President and the nation doesn't help him with the people who would most likely admire his courageous stand. However, his convictions on Iraq alienate all the folks on the periphery who once were inclined to follow the maverick McCain. If it was an attempt at a master political stroke, it was a poorly drawn strategy.

An Epilogue: McCain is down but not out. His great advantage is his tenacity. He will be there in Round 15 throwing punches. You never know, one might land. You can't count a McCain out until they carry him away.