GOP Primaries: Romney's Michigan Makes It a Horse Race
With Mitt Romney's victory in the Michigan primary, the Republican race promises to be a three-man battle of Romney, McCain, and Huckabee at least through February 5's Super Tuesday. But the real wild card is not a candidate but the media, which promise to engage in mischief and sabotage from here on through the November election.
With Mitt Romney’s bounce-back win in yesterday’s GOP Michigan primary, the Republican race is properly chaotic, and shall remain that way until at least through February 5’s Super Tuesday, offering the media and political junkies the equivalent of a seven-game World Series, and endless opportunities for mixed metaphors.
In Michigan on Tuesday, Sen. John “I'll build the goddamn fence if they want it” McCain (Media-AZ) lost to Romney 39 to 30 percent, with Huckabee getting 16 percent, because McCain had to count on Republicans to vote for him. McCain had won in New Hampshire, because it runs semi-open primaries, in which independent voters may vote either in the GOP or Democratic primary. In Michigan, a candidate has to win the GOP primary with GOP votes. Like Michigan, most states run closed primaries (i.e., in which one may only vote in the primary of the party in which one is registered); if McCain were so beloved by GOP voters outside of New Hampshire, he would already have won the party’s nomination in 2000.
What a radical notion. As former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, now a CNN analyst, observed of McCain, “He can’t win among Republicans. He wins among independents, he wins among Democrats.”
(Rounding out the field, Paul got six percent of the vote, Thompson four, Giuliani three, “Uncommitted” two and California Cong. Duncan Hunter one percent. Look for Hunter to drop out any day now.)
While McCain has an even chance to win South Carolina (24 delegates) on January 19, and perhaps a forty percent chance in Florida (57 delegates) ten days later, without help from the media, it’s going to be all downhill from there. (In Nevada’s January 19 caucuses, 34 delegates are up for grabs, but even “experts” don’t claim to be able to divine the will of that state’s Republicans. On February 5’s Super Tuesday, the only state where McCain is a lock is his home state of Arizona, where 53 delegates are at stake.)
When McCain gets independent and Democratic votes in primaries, while it is hard to gauge the former’s electoral significance, the latter have no significance for the general election. These are people who are voting against the Republican Party or engaging in mischief, but the “or” is a distinction without a difference. Democratic voters who voted for McCain in the primary will virtually all vote Democratic in the general election, unless Romney is the candidate, and he can develop a “Reagan Democrat”-style, populist groundswell. That is because Democratic voters understand that McCain is the same stalking horse today that he was in 2000.
But what if McCain should miraculously—or more likely, with yet more media help (say, well-timed exposés on Romney and Huckabee)—end up winning the GOP nomination? Since the media created him, they should love that, and help him win the White House, no? No. As I have previously argued, the media did not adopt McCain and his “Straight Talk Express” in 2000, in order to help him win the presidency, but in order to ensure that he and the Republican Party did not win it.
Sailer argued that McCain stayed in the reporters’ good graces in part by constantly badmouthing white bogey men: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, George W. Bush, and the three Bob Joneses.
Maybe Sailer is right about the reporters falling in love with McCain, but they didn’t marry him. They still had to dutifully report back daily to their pc editors, and at the end of the job, go back to their pc wives and pc newsrooms. The reporters did not keep McCain’s impolitic statements from their editors; the editors simply chose to sit on them, while waiting for a more opportune moment. Since McCain never won the nomination, that moment did not come. It may yet.
And while the reporters may have held McCain in personal affection, I have to disagree with Sailer as to what determined the content of their dispatches. Unless sex is involved (as in the reporter sleeping with a subject), reporters do not usually let personal affection get in the way of politics.
To appreciate the situation whereby a Republican candidate has socialist/communist/whatever reporters (for that’s what they are, as even McCain notes in his affectionate jokes about the “Trotskyite” vote he rides with on the bus) traveling along with him, whenever you read the word “reporters” in stories on the GOP candidate, replace it with “opposition researchers,” because that’s their true function. Their job is, ultimately, to help the Democratic candidate win. And if McCain should win the nomination, come October, you will read the most vicious “exposés” written about a Republican politician since Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll’s desperate 2003 dirty tricks campaign to sink Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California gubernatorial campaign in that year’s revolutionary recall election. The Times’ opposition researchers promoted the stories of women who claimed to have been “sexually harassed” by Schwarzenegger back in his Hollywood days. That the Times’ campaign failed was due to the hatred that Democratic then-Gov. Gray Davis had managed to cultivate among California voters, the racism and ineptitude of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and, most important of all, the Reagan-like magnetism of the itinerant Austrian politician.
After New Hampshire, as Romney and his people reminded everyone, he still led the pack with 24 GOP delegates to Huckabee’s 18 and McCain’s 10 (Paul had six). Following Michigan, CNN has two sets of different delegate counts.
By one count, Romney now has 52 delegates, Huckabee has 22, McCain 15, Thompson six, Paul two, and Giuliani and Hunter one each. In addition to delegates won in caucuses and primaries that have already been held, this count includes delegates from states that have not yet held primaries or caucuses but that have nonetheless already “pledged” to certain candidates. Note, however, that such pledges are not permanent. At a certain point, such as at the Party’s nominating convention, pledged delegates may be free to switch their support. (Even this CNN count is different each time I hit the link anew, a day after the vote count is over.)
The other, more conservative count is, I believe, more realistic. By that total, Romney now has 46 delegates, Huckabee 19, McCain 15, Thompson six, Paul two, and Hunter one.
Romney has overspent using his own money, is not getting federal matching funds because of that, which will hurt him down the road (Romney is wealthy, but he’s no Mike Bloomberg), and is heading into states (South Carolina, Florida) where McCain and Huckabee will be very strong. Thus, he has to raise a lot of money in a hurry.
On January 19, South Carolina is up. It’s as conservative a state as there is in the Union, its Republican voters are overwhelmingly Evangelical Christian (actually so are its Democrat voters, but for political reasons the media refuse to use the same terms—“Evangelical,” “fundamentalist”—to describe black Christians whose religious beliefs are identical to their white brethren), and it has the highest concentration of active and retired military of any state. Thus, like many observers, I expect Romney to finish fourth, behind either Huckabee or McCain in first, and Fred Thompson in third place. Because of that expectation, Romney can only be hurt there if he finishes worse than fourth. Anything better, and he comes out smelling like a rose, and whoever he beats among the other three is in trouble, especially if Romney beats Huckabee.
Looking down the road, I do not expect Romney to do well in Florida on January 26. On February 5’s Super Tuesday of 14 primaries, eight caucuses and the West Virginia state convention, I expect Romney to take the California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachussetts and Utah primaries. Illinois, with its corrupt, bipartisan “Combine,” its liberal Republican Party long at war with its largely conservative GOP base, is a mystery to me, though I give Romney at least an even chance of taking it. (To get a feel for the Illinois GOP, “The Combine,” and “the Chicago way,” read Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass.) I don’t profess to any expertise regarding the caucus states, but I would expect Romney to do poorly in the Southern ones and others where party activists are heavily Evangelical. (Caucuses will be held in Alaska, American Samoa, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota.)
Republican TV pundits and official, credentialed GOP bloggers (and Romney’s handlers, if only because of the aforementioned groups) have been obsessing over Romney’s good looks and hair. First, they worried that he was too pretty and well-groomed; now they enthuse that he perspired a little in his Michigan victory speech (Fox’ Fred Barnes), that a hair was out of place (townhall.com’s Mary Katharine Ham, says the Fox crew), and that he got excited and spoke without a script (the whole Fox team).
A national political candidate is a wondrous thing. He must look like Mr. Confidence in public, yet in private, he and his image consultants are so insecure that, like the next policy flip-flop, the next makeover is only one negative poll or primary loss away.
And while the disgruntled guardians of the socialist MSM, including the journalism school bosses, continue to recycle the same years-old talking point clichés about the supposed shortcomings of the “24-hour news cycle,” they continue to ignore the real story of that cycle. And that is a story of filler. Fox News and CNN fill time rerunning entire shows, chewing over the same polls and speeches, again and again, and broadcasting film of the same “breaking developments” and interviews on endless loop, with the occasional new splice for the appearance of change.
(The MSM/J schools’ favorite talking point against cable news—meaning Fox News—is that stories get rushed into broadcast without the proper vetting of sources, even though the MSM’s track record tends to be even worse, in this regard, as witness the Mary Mapes-Dan Rather Memogate scandal, the aforementioned corrupt conduct of the L.A. Times in the 2003 California recall election, and the massive hoaxes engineered by the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the summer, 2006 Lebanon photo fraud scandal in which Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, Guardian, ITV and NBC participated.)
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee continues to be the biggest positive surprise of the campaign.
Mike Huckabee was badly hurt by New Hampshire voters who were hostile to the Evangelical religiosity that Republican Iowa caucusers found so endearing. But with third place showings (11 and 16 percent, rspectively) in New Hampshire and Michigan, his win in Iowa, and Southern states, where his Evangelical Christian base is dominant, coming up, Huckabee’s candidacy is very much alive.
He has an even or better chance of taking South Carolina, and if he finishes at least second there, should take at least five of the 14 state primaries being held on Super Tuesday, February 5. (His home state of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.)
Huckabee has hit on a variation of the McCain formula: Play to the media over the heads of the Republican base, and count on the media to sell him to people who otherwise wouldn’t vote for him. Huckabee cannot honestly approach GOP voters, because his liberal positions (pro-welfare state, open borders, amnesty) are anathema to them, and indeed, he has come up with an immigration enforcement story for the primaries. Unlike McCain, however, Huckabee has the support of the GOP’s biggest constituency, Evangelical Christians.
‘Tis a puzzlement, when one considers that that very constituency is extremely conservative. Huckabee has mixed the McCain media formula with the Bush strategy of manipulating Evangelicals whom one privately holds in contempt. This became obvious a few years ago, through Bush’s liberal policies, and eventually became the subject of a book-length expose by an Evangelical former Bush staffer, who wrote that the Bush people considered Evangelicals nuts, and when not courting them at election time, wouldn’t give them the time of day.
While I find much to like in Evangelicals’ moral and political beliefs, their embrace of Huckabee, after having been made a fool of for eight years by Bush, does not give one confidence in their political judgment.
As Mike Scruggs has written of the Evangelicals, “A sizeable number of them feel that because [Huckabee] is a born-again Christian, he will automatically do the right thing.”
Evangelicals’ role within the GOP is not unlike that of blacks within the Democratic Party. Evangelicals are the Party’s most faithful and largest constituency, yet the Party takes their votes for granted. But the GOP treats the Evangelicals, who make up a much larger proportion of Republican voters than blacks are of Democrats, worse than the Dems treat blacks. Non-Evangelical GOP Party operatives reportedly roll their eyes in regards to Evangelical leaders, and call them crazies behind their backs, something Democratic operatives don’t do regarding the most vicious, racist black leaders.
So, when are Evangelicals going to wake up and smell the coffee? Don’t hold your breath waiting.
Actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is doing better than anyone had a right to expect. He came in fourth in Michigan, and gave a brilliant performance in Fox’ South Carolina debate. Unfortunately, even Republican voters who like him told pollsters and reporters that it was “too little, too late,” and that he is not electable. That is odd when you consider that 1,191 delegates are required for the nomination, and not even Romney has five percent of that number. And yet, people do like to project a sense of inevitability upon the candidate they choose, employing the circular psychology whereby, instead of deciding on which candidate’s views they agree with, voting for him, and hoping enough others agree to make him the nominee, they project who they think other people will vote for onto a candidate, and then vote for him, in the hopes that their belief in his “electability” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s all a hall of mirrors.
I like Fred Thompson, but for better or worse, he has failed to con voters into believing that other voters believe he is destined to win. And I’m not sure I trust him. While I don’t like candidates who cannot cogently take their case to voters (Ron Paul), I mistrust those who are a little too smooth.
South Carolina should be Thompson’s last hurrah. He should finish in the top three. If he finishes higher, it will probably be at McCain’s expense, and might mortally wound him, were it not for his media net. I expect Thompson to fold his tent after Florida, at the latest.
The biggest loser so far has been former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Fox did everything it could to help him. The network invited him to its New Hampshire GOP debate, and Hannity & Colmes host Sean Hannity had him on his talk show immediately thereafter, while the same network did everything it could to sabotage the candidacy of libertarian Texas Cong. Ron Paul, whom it refused to invite to the New Hampshire debate, and then invited to the South Carolina debate, only to ambush him.
(I understand that media companies exist as much to exercise illegitimate political power as they do to make billions of dollars, but according to tradition, they are supposed to at least feign impartiality. Bad form, Fox.)
With all of the precincts counted, Giuliani barely beat Paul, nine to eight percent, a difference of a mere 2,092 votes out of 233,381 GOP votes in New Hampshire. A few months ago, Giuliani had practically been coronated as the Republican standard-bearer. And yet in Iowa, where he did not vigorously campaign (because he knew he was going to get thrashed), he only finished in sixth place in the caucuses, with four percent of the vote. But after campaigning full time in New Hampshire, with nothing to show for it, his campaign was on life support going into Michigan. And in Michigan, he couldn’t even beat the much-maligned Ron Paul! Paul took six percent of the vote, to Giuliani’s three percent. Giuliani beat only “Uncommitted” and Cong. Duncan Hunter, and depending on the CNN tab, is either tied with Hunter for last with a solitary delegate, or off the table with none.
I am deeply disappointed in Giuliani. Not that I ever planned on voting for him. But still, this is the man who whipped Al Sharpton and the New York media. And any man who can marry his own cousin (his first marriage), and later look a reporter who asked about that choice in the eye and say, “I didn’t know that,” is clearly a liar of presidential proportions.
Look for Giuliani to hang on at least until Super Tuesday, at which point he should take New York (101 delegates) as a favorite son. If he holds on to those delegates, in a tough race, they could put him in a strong bargaining position to make a claim on the cabinet slot of attorney general or secretary of homeland security, in exchange for releasing his delegates to the candidate who eventually prevails.
Depending on how you look at it, Texas Cong. Ron Paul was a big loser or a big winner in New Hampshire. He was a big loser, because outside perhaps his home state of Texas (March 4, 140), where he runs as favorite son, New Hampshire may have been his last chance to break into the top three vote-getters. But he was a big winner, in coming in merely one point behind Giuliani, despite Fox’ closing him out of the Saturday debate, and in exposing Fox News’ machinations and causing the state GOP to publicly denounce Fox, and withdraw from its partnership with the network on the eve of the debate.
When the New Hampshire results came in, I wrote that if Paul continues his campaign, he would be running as much against Fox News as he would be against the other Republican candidates, and that the other networks should love that, and accordingly reward him with free publicity.
But early January 8, the day of the New Hampshire primary, something happened that changed everything. The New Republic published an “exposé” on Paul, “Angry White Man,” by one of its opposition researchers, an assistant editor named James Kirchick. (Why is it a virtue for a black man to be angry, but a mortal sin for a white man to be? Oh, I just remembered. It’s because the black man is reacting to the battalions of marauding whites who daily target innocent blacks for robberies, assaults, rapes and murders.)
Here is the gist of what Kirchik says. In a money-making newsletter Paul sold under his name from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s, he promoted racism, homophobia, conspiracist thinking and anti-Semitism.
And though Fox News relented to invite Paul to its January 10 South Carolina GOP debate, it was only so that it could ambush and humiliate him. And as I will show, Paul did himself no favors that night. And yet, in spite of all of the bad publicity, Paul still managed to finish in fourth place, with six percent of the vote, ahead of Thompson, Giuliani and Hunter.
Depending on how desperate the media are to stop Paul, and how driven he is to stick it to them and to the GOP establishment, a third party (or fourth party, considering the Bloomberg Factor) run by Paul could do serious short-term damage to the MSM’s—socialist and Republican alike—pc control of political debate.
The foregoing was a teaser; a later article will address the Ron Paul “scandal.” Tune in, same bat channel, same bat time!
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.