Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 6, 2008
POLITICS: The GOP's Ash Wednesday

You can listen to my take on last night's results on NPR here (although I do wish they had spelled my name right).

The takeaway: you can't beat somebody with nobody, and while McCain didn't win the nomination last night, Mitt Romney lost it, and with him the last realistic obstacle to McCain, as the race as a practical matter resolves to McCain vs. Huckabee. Romney says he will fight on (they all say that, until they stop saying it) but he is reported to be taking a day off the trail to meet and take stock with his advisers. Maybe they will decide to throw one last Hail Mary pass over the next week (Louisiana, Washington and Kansas vote Saturday, Virginia, Maryland and DC next Tuesday), and Romney has the money to stay in the race, but there's just no purpose to be served by carrying the fight beyond that, especially if Romney thinks he has some future in the GOP.

Watching Romney's speech last night, I gotta say, he sure sounded like he was giving a concession speech. His family looked, and his crowd sounded, like this is the end. And he sounded like his heart wasn't in it - rushing his delivery, not stopping for applause lines. He didn't win the winner-take-all blue states, which broke big for McCain as he consolidated the support he had previously been siphoning away from Rudy Giuliani. (Ironically, other than their actual home states, the Northeast has gone for the Arizona Senator, while the Mountain states have gone for the Massachusetts Governor). And more damaging, Romney ran third in a lot of the southern or border-south red states, which broke for Huckabee. There are no bronze medals given out in a three-man race. Romney to the end was Mr. Caucus, winning mostly caucuses dominated by organization and money - and states where he already had deep roots - but never managing to win primaries where he had to appeal to voters wholesale who didn't start off giving him the benefit of every doubt.

Huckabee, by contrast, was wearing the Eli Manning "I can't believe I got this far" face. Whatever else may be said of the man, you just can't help being impressed with what he has accomplished in this race with no money, no staff, no name recognition, etc. And it sure seems like a lot of voters across the heartland of the GOP base looked at the choice between McCain and Romney, found neither inspiring and decided to just vote their hearts.

As for Hillary, she was wearing a smile that could cut glass; both Democratic candidates won enough to claim a mandate to stay in the race for a long time to come, and while a McCain-Huckabee race would involve two candidates with very little money, Hillary and Obama have the deep pockets to run a Yankees-Red Sox style pennant race.

Obama? Listening to his speech, I started wondering if the Secret Service is screening to protect him from specifics. Perhaps it's an allergy. But man, that guy is smooth. Maybe the Man from Hope and Change doesn't need to stand for anything in particular; he stands for whatever Change you Hope he can bring.

One of today's storylines has to be precisely why McCain won so many blue states and Obama won so many red states. In Obama's case it's partly because the moderates and the white people in those states are all Republicans, clearing the field for his coalition of college students, antiwar activists and African-Americans, and partly because Obama has an in with the 50-state-strategy Deaniacs, which is how you get an Obama organization in places like Idaho (and, perhaps as well, that in the Mountain West he did well in caucuses where people don't want to be seen voting against him). In McCain's case, I think deep-blue-state Republicans are more accustomed to compromising to get the most electable general election candidate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I think you may be overestimating Clinton's war chest. Rumor has it they put in 7 figures of their personal money in over the past few weeks to keep TV ads running. They are notoriously cheap and while they are technically rich they aren't exactly in the Rommney tier of rich. Obama more than doubled her fundraising over the past month and his contributors are more diverse and larger in number (i.e. he can go back to the well more easily than can she). Also, all of a sudden she is willing, hell, pressing for every debate she can get, apparently even willing to debate on Fox. This stinks of needing free air time. There are certainly upcoming states that are certainly guaranteed to be hers (Texas, Ohio) but Central Atlantic states and the West certainly could break Obama's way, especially if he has more dough. There is the whole super-delegate issue (20% of Dem delegates) that would appear to be more largely under her nefarious control than Obama's, however if he goes into the convention w/ more delegates than her and more momentum the Dems would have a hell of a time explaining how she ended up with the nomination. I think if Obama plays his cards craftily and continues to kick her ass in the fundraising department that she could be in serious trouble. Fine by me.

Posted by: jim at February 6, 2008 12:56 PM

My visceral reaction to a McCain/Huckabee ticket...

Abject horror. That's about the only thing McCain could do to lose my general election vote.

Posted by: Joel B. at February 6, 2008 1:08 PM

As far as Romney never having faced adversity (though I agree that that's the general perception), he was in a car accident as a missionary in France after which he was temporarily pronounced dead.

http://boston.com/news/politics/2008/specials/romney/articles/part1_side/

No way that doesn't count as "adversity."

Posted by: Joel B. at February 6, 2008 1:13 PM

I agree with Joel. A McCain/Huckabee ticket would pretty much ensure I don't vote for the first time ever. If I wanted to vote Democrat, I would be one.

Posted by: Tom at February 6, 2008 1:30 PM

Romney became a very rich man by making good decisions about when and where to invest, and when and where not to. I think he has probably realized this is now a "when not to".

Posted by: Jerry at February 6, 2008 1:33 PM

Interesting final comment about why blue state Repubs are voting for McCain. I haven't seen that theory offered anywhere else. Well done, Crank.

Posted by: feeblemind at February 6, 2008 9:10 PM

"Obama? Listening to his speech, I started wondering if the Secret Service is screening to protect him from specifics."

Great line, Crank! I'll be quoting that one for sure.

Posted by: DubiousD at February 7, 2008 4:13 AM

I really think Romney had three mistakes:

1. His overall messaging was designed for a Guiliani show down. Guiliani helped McCain more by being in the race and then pulling back to Florida, then by endorsing McCain when he dropped out. You could see him re-calibrating his message to "DC is broken" versus "consensus conservative."

2. Huckabee - Romney was clearly hurt by Huckabee in Iowa, and Huckabee definitely made it hard for Romney to get to McCain. (FWIW I'm thinking McCain throws Huckabee overboard ASAP.)

(and the most important of all)
3. Dean Barnett's point: Romney's campaign message was insincere. He could have run a campaign based on his executive skill, and tried to show his conversion from the stand point of "when I got into politics some of my political positions and compromises were bad, but as my political career has matured and I've analyzed these compromises I've realized these compromises represent a starting point for those on the left who would [fill in things he fought against like gay marriage by judicial fiat, state funded embryonic research, getting gun restrictions relaxed, rule of law issues] and so we cannot compromise, and political leaders like myself, must fight for [...] - at the same time we have to be receptive to others who like myself come around"

Posted by: Brendan at February 8, 2008 8:04 AM
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