“I must now stand aside, for our party and our country. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win.” With an eye to 2012, Governor Mitt Romney is out, meaning the GOP nominee is now, for all intent and purposes, John McCain.
So, now part of the question for our party becomes, which Democrat is more likely to beat McCain? I’m betting you can guess my answer. As Nicholas Kristof notes: “When pollsters offer voters hypothetical matchups, Mr. Obama does better than Mrs. Clinton against Mr. McCain. For example, a Cook Political Report poll of registered voters released this week found Mr. McCain beats Mrs. Clinton, 45 percent to 41 percent. But Mr. Obama beats Mr. McCain, 45 percent to 43 percent. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found similar results.“
See also David Broder: “In either scenario, women break for the Democratic candidate. McCain leads Clinton by 13 points among men, but only runs even with Obama. Party lines are sharp, and the battle for independents would be close. Currently, independents give McCain a 12-point lead over Clinton but favor Obama by 6 points over the Republican.“
Update: Another TIME poll agrees: “Obama captured 48% of the vote in the theoretical match-up against McCain’s 41%, the TIME poll reported, while Clinton and McCain would deadlock at 46% of the vote each…The difference, says Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll for TIME, is that ‘independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton. But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator.” Independents, added Schulman, ‘are a key battleground.’“
“My friends, as I said the other week in South Carolina, there is nothing in our country that is inevitable. We can overcome any challenge as long as we keep our courage, and stand by the principles that have made our party and our country great.“
Florida votes, and Arizona Senator John McCain is the big winner and — arguably — now the prohibitive frontrunner for the Republican nomination (much to the consternation of the conservative base.) Given that he’s easily the GOP candidate with the most crossover appeal, that’s bad news for the Democrats, particularly if we decide to get behind the one person on this earth (well, two people, counting her husband) who could manage to reunite the abysmally fractured GOP.
Speaking of which, Senator Clinton handily won on the (meaningless) Dem side — prompting much rejoicing and e-mailing by the Clinton campaign. (Although, in a bit of a shocker, it turns out she actually tied the delegate count with Mike Gravel.) Seriously, though, given that Florida is particularly choice demographic territory for Clinton, she’d probably have won the Sunshine State in any event. (As George Will and Slate have both recently pointed out, Florida is known as “God’s Antechamber” for a reason, and, as has been the norm, voters over 60 — 39% of the voting Dems — went for Hillary 59%-24%.) But, given that this ended up being basically the name-recognition primary, and that no delegates came of it, I’m not too concerned about the results. On to Super-Tuesday.
Update: Looking over the CNN exit poll numbers for the Dem side, this would seem to be the key stat in viewing both tonight and the road ahead:
When did you decide who to vote for?
Today: (10%): Clinton 34%, Obama 30%
Last 3 Days: (7%): Obama 46%, Clinton 38%
Last Week: (7%): Obama 39%, Clinton 31%
Last Month: (16%): Obama 47%, Clinton 40%
Before That: (33%): Clinton 63%, Obama 27%
Absentee/Early Voter: (26%): Clinton 50%, Obama 31%
So, among voters that have decided since the campaign took off in Iowa, Obama does rather well. It’s the long-time deciders and absentees — 60% of the electorate — where he seriously fell behind. This would indicate name recognition definitely played its part today, and that actual campaigning in Florida could’ve made a significant difference. Good to know, as we move forward.
“We ran a [9/11] campaign that was [9/11] uplifting. The responsibility of [9/11] leadership doesn’t end with a single [9/11] campaign. If you believe in a cause [9/11], it goes on and you continue to fight for [9/11] it, and we will.” Apparently, 9/11 nostalgia doesn’t extend into the sixth borough….Florida also marked the end of the road for Rudy Giuliani (or Rudy 9iu11iani, as he’s sometimes known.) The mayor is expected to endorse John McCain tomorrow. Can’t say I’m sorry to see him go, although the prospects of Giuliani as McCain’s AG are sorta frightening in their own right.
“Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort.” Uh, to be honest, not really…Fred Thompson’s officially out of the 2008 race. Can Rudy Giuliani be far behind?
“At the same time, Iowa’s vaunted precinct caucuses — especially those of the Democratic Party — violate some of the most elemental values of a vibrant and open political process. As far as a mechanism for selecting a president is concerned, you might end up with Iowa’s model if you set out to design a system that discouraged participation and violated basic democratic values.” Whoever wins the Democratic caucus in Iowa tomorrow, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield reminds us, it’s a pretty lousy process. “What if you’re in a union and want to pick someone your union hasn’t endorsed, and your shop steward is there, watching you from across the room? Or the person who holds your mortgage? Or your spouse? Tough…[In addition] a candidate who won a lot of the precincts narrowly would wind up winning a bigger portion of the delegates than a rival who piled up votes in one corner of Iowa — even if that corner yielded a higher overall number of supporters. It’s all the disproportional representation of the Electoral College, in miniature. And that was the price for forming the Union, not a guide for running elections.“
The Amazing 2008 Race claims another candidate in Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, who dropped out today, and endorsed Mitt Romney as the next-best purveyor of gibbering anti-immigrant hysteria.) “Tancredo has consistently polled at the back of the nine-person GOP field.” Well, when the Immigrants and Terrorists come to poison your homes, taik your jerbs, and devour your children, don’t say you weren’t warned.
“The two faiths have struggled with each other for years…In fact, probably no other organization in the nation has played a bigger role in perpetuating the idea that Mormonism is a cult than the Southern Baptist Convention.” In light of the Huckabee-Romney race to be seen as Christian-in-Chief (subliminal ads and all), friend and colleague Neil J. Young of Little Bit Left ruminates on the enduring Mormon-Baptist divide for Slate. And, in related news, DoL Robert Novak argues that Huckabee may suffer from lingering internecine disputes within the SBC — Apparently, for some of his co-religionists, he hasn’t been conservative enough. (Finally, while on the subject of Republican candidates, religion, and history, I was heartened to see Ron Paul knows his Sinclair Lewis.)
“Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?” Well, Governor Romney, that’s the question. I was busy the day of the “Big Speech,” so I ended up watching some of it on Youtube [2, 3] and reading the rest online. And, while I’d definitely quibble with the notion that “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” it seems Mitt waited too long to pander to the evangelicals regardless: Huckabee’s doubled up on him — and everybody else — in Iowa, and is now running second nationally behind Giuliani. And, as Drudge dredged up this morning, Huckabee has been doling out red meat to scary religious conservatives for well over a decade now, including recommending the quarantining of AIDS patients in 1992. Even though Romney will say pretty much anything, It’ll be hard for the Governor to catch up with that kind of crazy, especially if he expects to remain at all electable.
“We don’t agree with him on every issue. We disagree with him strongly on campaign finance reform. What is most compelling about McCain, however, is that his record, his character, and his courage show him to be the most trustworthy, competent, and conservative of all those seeking the nomination.” In a boon to his flailing presidential hopes, which now rest squarely on a superlative showing in New Hampshire, the right-leaning Manchester Union-Leader endorses John McCain. (IMHO, of course, for all the wrong reasons.) “McCain is pro-life. Always has been.” Uh, yeah.
“In almost every appearance as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph W. Giuliani cites a fusillade of statistics and facts to make his arguments about his successes in running New York City and the merits of his views…All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong.” The vagaries of the simmering “Schtup-gate” (so coined by Salon‘s Joan Walsh) and Qatargate controversies aside, it seems the Giuliani campaign suffers from an even more basic problem: Its candidate just makes up numbers as he sees fit. “‘He’s given us a lot of work up until now,’ said Brooks Jackson, the director of Annenberg Political Fact Check, which is part of Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that has corrected statements by candidates in both parties.“
“It ought to be borne in mind that Romney is not a mere rank-and-file Mormon. His family is, and has been for generations, part of the dynastic leadership…It is not just legitimate that he be asked about the beliefs that he has not just held, but has caused to be spread and caused to be inculcated into children. It is essential. Here is the most salient reason: Until 1978, the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an officially racist organization.” Slate‘s Chris Hitchens explains why Mitt Romney needs to start being more forthright about his Mormonism. I’m inclined to agree — if nothing else, he needs to clear the air as Kennedy did in his 1960 address to Southern Baptists (a strategy Romney avoided in his run against JFK’s little brother in 1994.)
A self-proclaimed paragon of virtue, Governor Romney has recently been publicly tsk-tsking Barack Obama’s candor about his drug use. But I doubt I’m the only American who’d feel more sanguine about my child experimenting with marijuana than he or she espousing some of the notions that the Mormon Church declared holy writ within my lifetime. “[I]n antebellum Missouri and preaching against abolition, Smith…announced that there had been a third group in heaven during the battle between God and Lucifer. This group had made the mistake of trying to remain neutral but, following Lucifer’s defeat, had been forced into the world and compelled to ‘take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro or African race.’ Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple.” As Hitchens aptly points out, “Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978. We need to know how he justified this to himself, and we need to hear his self-criticism, if he should chance to have one.” Update: Facing a surprising (to him) Huckabee surge among Christian conservatives, Mitt Romney announces he’ll discuss his faith in a major speech next Thursday, akin to Kennedy’s 1960 address. I presume he won’t be delving into this former aspect of his faith, but you never know.
Meanwhile, on the GOP side: The Republican field shores up its right-wing cred as Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich endorses Mitt Romney, well-known evangelical crazy Pat Robertson backs Rudy Giuliani, and failed presidential candidate Sam Brownback, who I really thought would fill the conservative spoiler role now enjoyed by Mike Huckabee, instead decides to get behind John McCain. Looks like it’s still anybody’s race over there, even with NH polls currently breaking Romney’s way.
“‘The American Republic is in remnant status,’ he says. ‘The stage is set for our country eventually devolving into military dictatorship, and few seem to care.’” Remember, remember the 5th of November? The Ron Paulies do, raising over $4 million in one day for their man (with help from this site) to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day. “Mr. Benton clarified that Mr. Paul did not support blowing up government buildings. ‘He wants to demolish things like the Department of Education,’ Mr. Benton said, ‘but we can do that very peacefully, in a constructive manner.’” (Just to clarify, however much sense Paul makes occasionally on issues like the Wars on terror and drugs, I find him mostly wrongheaded and frightening.)
“Trying to encourage his studio to hurry up so an interview could start, Carl Cameron of Fox News said into his microphone: ‘The next president of the United States has a schedule to keep.’ Standing beside him, a deadpan Mr Thompson interjected: ‘And so do I.’” As his late entrance bid continues to fizzle, even Fred Thompson has doubts about his campaign these days. Well, there’s always Law and Order.
There’ s no mandate for Rudy or Romney just yet…In keeping with the strong support for none of the above discovered earlier this year, a new poll finds the Republican nomination is more up for grabs than it’s been in almost thirty years. “Not since 1979 has the leading Republican candidate had less than 40 percent support in national polls in the November heading into an election year.“
“‘In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list,’ writes Caitlin Flanagan in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine. ‘But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet has been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference.‘” So it seems Hillary Clinton, the erstwhile author of Dear Socks, Dear Buddy, apparently kicked Socks to the curb once the White House days were over. “Hillary’s insistence that we follow her example in pet ownership, when she really should be on Cat Fancy’s Most Wanted List, makes her a tiresome bore.” Well, it’s not exactly the silver bullet rival campaigns are looking for (I mean, the Clintons may abandon their pets, but Republicans seem to torture and/or eviscerate them), but it is rather sad.
“I’m running for president of the United States.” Really? No kidding. While his Republican rivals debated in New Hampshire, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson at long last officially entered the presidential race on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Given both his fumbling entry thus far and his pro-choice past, it’s hard to believe the conservative Republican base will find him any more palatable than Giuliani or Romney. That being said, could television gravitas translate into the real thing? Admittedly, there are a lot of Law & Order aficionados in this country, so he’s probably good for a lot of votes there (although, to be honest, not as many as Chris Noth might’ve pulled.)
“‘The campaign is imploding,’ said one McCain staffer, echoing a word used by others.” With his campaign leadership resigning en masse, some serious funding problems looming on the horizon, and a possible mobile phone slip-up that might prove illegal, is John McCain’s 2008 bid already derailed? Slate‘s John Dickinson surveys the wreckage. “Those who remain are trying to argue that McCain is showing leadership by holding his top brass accountable, but the episode looks more like the last scene in Hamlet — a stack of bodies piled up just before the curtain.” Update: McCain circles the wagons.
Where do they find these people? The GOP leadership has already given us Dr. William “Catkiller” Frist, he of the feline felonies. Now comes word that Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney apparently sees nothing wrong in strapping his family pet to the top of a moving car for twelve hours at a time. (To him, Seamus the Irish Setter just “likes fresh air,” so much so that I guess he’d move his bowels in abject terror only occasionally.) Um, Governor, Berk likes fresh air too, but that doesn’t mean I bolt him down to the top of speeding NYC taxis. Here’s a tip: Having animals ride atop moving cars…good for Teen Wolf, bad for dogs.
“Giuliani’s Escape from New York was already tough enough, but Mayor Mike makes it nearly impossible. Bloomberg is the Ghost of Rudy Past — a constant, high-profile reminder of the cultural distance from the South Carolina lowlands to the New York island.” Slate‘s Bruce Reed examines how Mike Bloomberg’s recent flirtations with a presidential bid spell serious trouble for the Giuliani candidacy (as does — according to Fred Kaplan — Rudy’s “greedy” behavior with the Iraq Study Group.)
Making the rounds today, Hillary (and Bill) Clinton — enjoying a bounce in the polls (as is Fred Thompson on the GOP side) — hamhandedly riff on The Sopranos finale (with the aid of Johnny Sack) to announce the new Clinton campaign song, (ugh) Celine Dion’s “You and I.” Celine Dion? There’s yet another good reason to support Obama or Edwards in this primary contest.
Meanwhile, also on the persecuted prosecutors tip, McCain says it’s time for Gonzales to go. “I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do.“
“Americans are acutely aware of our problems, and their patience is at an end for politicians who value incumbency over principle, and for partisanship that is less a contest of ideas than an uncivil brawl over the spoils of power. I want my presidency to be an opportunity — an opportunity to fix what we all know needs to be fixed. I’m running for president of the United States; not yesterday’s country; not a defeated country; not a bankrupt country; not a timid and frightened country. I’m running for president of the United States, a blessed country, a proud country, a hopeful country, the most powerful and prosperous country and the greatest force for good on earth. And when I’m president, I intend to keep it so.“
With an eye on Giuliani and a nod to Reagan’s “Morning in America,” John McCain officially announces his candidacy for president. Well, McCain is — usually — good on the question of getting money out of politics, which I still consider to be arguably the most important domestic issue in America, and the one that prevents real, pragmatic solutions from occurring on dozens of other issues, from health care to economic policy to alleviating child poverty. But, let’s face it: McCain has proven time and time again by this point that his vaunted reputation for independence is a press-driven ruse, and that he’ll fall behind the Dubya line when even slightly leaned upon. The line that keeps coming back to mind when I think of the Senator from Arizona, and I’ve used it before here, is Senator George Norris’ description of the equally reputed maverick William Borah: He only “shoots until he sees the whites of their eyes.” That seems to be John McCain in a nutshell, and it’s been a long time since he’s done anything to prove that sentiment wrong.
“If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we’re going on the defense. We’ve got a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. We’re going to wave the white flag there. We’re going to try to cut back on the Patriot Act. We’re going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We’re going to cut back on interrogation. We’re going to cut back, cut back, cut back, and we’ll be back in our pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense.” Meanwhile in related news, Rudy Giuliani lapses into aggro fearmonger mode to try to shore up his right-wing cred. That accompanying giant sucking sound you might hear is all of Hizzoner’s legitimately-earned but now hopelessly squandered Churchillian cred going right out the window…He seems to have reverted to his true colors much earlier than I anticipated. Said Barack Obama, correctly, of Rudy’s pathetic stunt, “[Giuliani has] taken the politics of fear to a new low…We know we can win this war based on shared purpose, not the same divisive politics that question your patriotism if you dare to question failed policies that have made us less secure. The threat we face is real, and deserves better than to be the punchline of another political attack.” Touche.
“Two and a half years ago, John McCain swallowed his pride and hitched his ambitions to two stars — George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Both have since imploded. And so, as his campaign faces the purple dusk of twilight time, the man who might once have been an honorable president slips and slides on the stardust.” Based on a recent NYT interview with the Mythical Maverick, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan argues that John McCain’s Straight Talk Express is now effectively dismantled for good.
Some more fallout (and, in my opinion, auspicious signs) from the first money primary held recently: Hillary Clinton may have more in the bank, but Barack Obama raised more money, has more cap room to spare, so to speak, and has been peeling off some top Clinton donors to back his own efforts. “A list of Mr. Obama’s top fund-raisers released Sunday showed the extent to which the Democratic Party establishment, once presumed to back Mrs. Clinton, has become more fragmented and drifted into her rival’s camp, lending the early stages of the Democratic primary campaign the feeling of a family feud.” Update: In related news, a new poll shows the race tightening on both sides. Clinton’s up only eight on Obama, Giuliani has six on McCain (pending GOP reinforcements such as Fred Thompson.)
Yes, folks, this is how we choose a president in this country: Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. The first primary is effectively over, and Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney lead the begging and scraping for loot at $26 and $21 million respectively. On the GOP side, Rudy came in second at $15 million, with McCain trailing at third with $12.5 million. Meanwhile, for the Dems: John Edwards has $14 million, Bill Richardson $6 million, Chris Dodd $4 million, and Joe Biden a clean, articulate $3 million. Still obviously missing, Barack Obama, who is rumored to be up around the 20 mark. While I hate to indulge this stupid financing system, I hope it’s something like that, as I’m still rooting for he or Edwards over Sen. Clinton in the primary, and the Clinton money machine is, without a doubt, a sleek, well-oiled contraption. Update: Make that $25 million for Obama.
In related news, two more Republicans enter the 2008 fray: former Wisconsin Governor and HHS head Tommy Thompson and Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo. Well, it’s good news for alliteration. And, moreover, Tancredo is going to hammer the immigration issue like there’s no tomorrow, which will mean a lot of uncomfortable shuffling by the main contenders during the GOP primary debates, so as not to turn off swing voters everywhere. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts neither of these fellows gets anywhere close to the nomination.
Is Nebraska Senator and GOP maverick Chuck Hagel poised to join the 2008 field next week? Signs point to yes (although others see solely a Senate retirement in the offing.) “‘Perception has always been that he wasn’t viable because he couldn’t ‘out McCain John McCain,’” said Alex Vogel a Republican lobbyist not affiliated with any of the 2008 candidates. ‘Now that [Hagel] and McCain have split over the war, he’s betting there’s a road from Omaha to Des Moines.‘”
“I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States” With Rudy Giuliani pulling ahead in the still-relatively-useless name game polls, the former captain of the Straight-Talk Express, John McCain, tells David Letterman he’s in for 2008. So…Clinton, Obama, Giuliani and now McCain: With a little less than a year before the first primary, the field of major contenders now seems to be set. Gentlemen (and gentlewoman), start your begging.
True colors, or just a victim of the money madness that afflicts our political process? As he gallops off to all-important Iowa (and tries to ignore the furor over Iraq that’s gotten him linked inexorably with Dubya’s failures), John McCain also appears to be neglecting his campaign finance bona fides in his attempt to gather loot for his presidential bid. “McCain’s allies in the campaign finance reform movement seem resigned to the fact that he will not abide by many of the principles he advocated for a decade as a reformer, including public financing and its associated spending and fundraising limits.“
“Innovation and transformation have been at the heart of America’s success from the very beginning. And if there were ever a time when innovation and transformation were needed in government, it is now.” Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney officially enters the 2008 race on the Republican side. Regarding his own “innovation and transformation” in recent years, “Romney has substantially evolved on social matters…tilting away from supporting gay and abortion rights toward a more conservative stance on both.” Funny how that seems to happen.
“Search the record of history. To walk away from the Almighty is to embrace decline for a nation. To embrace Him leads to renewal, for individuals and for nations.” Not to be outdone over on the Republican side, right-wing GOP Senator Sam Brownback throws his hat in the ring as well. From what I’ve seen of Brownback, which isn’t much other than a few Sunday show appearances, he seems like the scariest kind of cultural and religious conservative — a smart and articulate one. (And, to his credit, Brownback has tried to add such important issues as prison reform and AIDS awareness to the usual catalog of medieval social positions held by the religious right.) The McCain team would do well not to underestimate him.
“In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.” Americans — and Sam Brownback — rejoice (and the stray cats of Tennessee lament) as former Majority Leader Bill Frist announces he won’t be running for president in 2008. Now he can delve full-time into his favorite hobby: cutting things…
First Vilsack, then McCain…Now Rudy Giuliani looks to be throwing his hat in the 2008 ring. But is the GOP base really of a New York state of mind? Somehow, I’d doubt it.
Is the McCain Train leaving the station? ABC News seems to think so, although they may be jumping the gun a bit here.
“There is a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate.” Yes, Virginia, you too can be President someday…if you drop out of kindergarten and start begging for cash right now. The Post looks into the 2008 presidential campaign fundraising race, already in full swing (especially, this weekend, on the GOP side.) And, if he or she brings nothing else to the table, it seems the next leader of our country will be really good at prostrating before wealthy people.
“For the past two years, the Arizona senator has seen his institutional adversaries in the Republican establishment brought low, one by one, clearing away the obstacles to his likely presidential bid in 2008. In some cases, their well-earned misfortune can be attributed directly to him; in others, he has merely observed their fortuitous ruin. What matters is that his worst, most effective enemies are distracted, disgraced or endangered by criminal investigations, and will be in no condition to threaten him in the foreseeable future.” Salon‘s Joe Conason thinks John McCain has his party’s green light for 2008 (and sounds more excited about the prospect than I am.)
“‘For people who were really strong for Bush, I feel like this was a dating meeting…He’s not quite ready to ask us to go steady. But I was a little surprised at the reaction, including my own reaction. I was much more positive than I thought I’d be going to the meeting.’” Anyone wondering why McCain has been spending recent days badmouthing Obama (and showing up on 24), look no further. Now he’s courting the Bush financiers for his own 2008 bid. Well, McCain had best be careful playing the insider, or Chuck Hagel just might steal his maverick crown come the primaries. Then again, the GOP likely prefers mythical mavericks anyway.