Campaign 2008, Politics

McCain Wins In Florida

CNN has official called John McCain the winner in the Florida primary, beating out Mitt Romney and giving himself a clear shot at the nomination. At this point, I think McCain will be the Republican nominee.

This marks the likely end of the Giuliani campaign, and already there are rumors that Giuliani will drop out and endorse McCain. That seems likely. Giuliani’s whole strategy was to wait out the early contests and pick up all his momentum in Florida. It was a risky strategy, and it appears to have backfired against him. Giuliani is a great leader, and I don’t think this is the end of his political career, but he didn’t show the kind of oratorical brilliance that I’ve seen from him on several occasions.

Mitt Romney’s strong executive experience doesn’t seem to have helped him in Florida. Romney has been a stalwart conservative in this race, but ultimately I don’t think he has enough momentum out of Super Tuesday to make it all the way. He’s certainly not out of the race, but he has a great deal of ground to gain in very little time.

Sen. John McCain is an American hero, a man of great personal integrity and someone who has always stood strongly on the side of his country. He often rubs conservatives the wrong way, and his “maverick” image causes much consternation—however, when it comes right down to it a man who agrees with us 80% of the time is better than a woman who represents the worst of American politics and a man whose great rhetoric is but a cover for a fundamental lack of real-world experience. We may have our issues with John McCain, but when it comes down to the basic principles of the party: fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense and strengthening the family, McCain has his heart in the right place.

Conservatives should make their voices heard, and they should continue to push Sen. McCain towards the mainstream of the party as they have on issues like immigration. However, if McCain gets the nomination—and it seems altogether likely that he will—conservatives cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. John McCain will cut wasteful spending in Washington, defend our troops in Iraq and our war against radical Islamist terrorism and will continue to be a strong voice for respecting human life, born and unborn. He may not be perfect, but he can lead, and we need true leadership in Washington more than anything else.

Campaign 2008, Politics

The GOP Debates In Florida

Stephen Green suffered through tonight’s GOP debate, drinks in hand. I caught the first half hour of it, but decided that was enough. This part made my evening:

7:14pm To Romney: “Are these other jokers really tax cutters?” Again, Paul got stiffed. Again, Romney appears stiff. You know what bugs me about Romney? If his hair were even only slightly curly, you’d swear he was a Viagra-laced penis. The man is erect.

7:14.5pm Mormon Erectus. . . .

7:27pm Once you start to think of Romney as a six-foot-tall erect penis, you just can’t see him any other way. I mean, watch the guy with that in mind and tell me I’m wrong. “We’re the party of fiscal responsibility. Bulging, thrusting fiscal responsibility.”

Nobody else can turn such a deadly boring event into the perfect forum for some inspired dick jokes…

I did catch the first part of the debate, and as much as it sometimes pains me to say it, I’m starting to warm to McCain. I’m a currently uncommitted voter—I want some reason why I can support one of the candidates. John McCain, for all his faults (and they are legion!), gets it on the war. He gets it on spending. He’s reliably pro-life. I’m not convinced yet, but he’s the only candidate that gave me a reason to support him.

Romney (AKA Mormon Erectus) is more strongly conservative. What I like about Romney so far is that he’s a competent technocrat. He probably could do much to turn the government around. What I dislike him is that he’s a competent technocrat—and technocrats don’t tend to get elected in this country. He’s got some good ideas, but I honestly have trouble seeing him compete against Hillary and a lot of trouble seeing him against Obama. At the end of the day, do I want someone who’s closer to my beliefs but is less likely to win or someone with whom I have major disagreements but is right on some big issues?

What keeps me out of the McCain camp is that I don’t trust him on judges yet. And as a larval lawyer, judges are a top issue for me. McCain-Feingold was an unconstitutional piece of legislation that directly conflict with the most important form of speech in this country: political speech. A judge likely to see McCain-Feingold as constitutional is not a judge I want to see on the Supreme Court.

As for Rudy, I’d like to support him, but he’s toast. I’ve seen Rudy Giuliani speak more than once, and he’s damned good when he’s on. The problem is that he’s just not on right now. He’s dry and even when he’s got solid positions on the issues he just doesn’t inspire.

When Rudy tells the story about the burly construction worker giving President Bush a bear hug at Ground Zero, he brings the house down. Rudy Giuliani can communicate. What’s frustrating is that we’re not seeing it in these debates. Florida is Rudy’s firewall state, and I just don’t see him winning it. It’s too bad in way—I supported Rudy early on, and I still think he’s a smart and effective leader. He just hasn’t performed in this campaign. In some ways, he’s a lot like Fred. By ceding the early states he ceded the momentum needed to stay viable later on. His strategy had some potential, but now it appears to have not panned out for him.

Mike Huckabee: what more can I say? The guy is not prepared and not conservative. Did he really say that we need to add more lanes to I-95 to stimulate the economy? That fixing Florida gridlock is a key federal problem? That Saddam shipped his WMDs to Jordan?! What were they smoking in Iowa?

I will say this: Huckabee is on to something. There’s a lot of middle-class angst out there, some of it justified, some of it not. Whether or not it’s rational, the Republicans have to address it. Huckabee is doing that in a way that the other candidates are not. The other candidates needn’t follow his brand of silly populism, but it would behoove them to follow his lead in at least showing some simpatico with the middle class.

As much as I criticize Huckabee, I’d take him as the spokesperson for evangelicals above a Jerry Fallwell or a Pat Robertson. Even though he isn’t cut out for the Oval Office doesn’t mean that he’s politically irrelevant. The rest of the field shouldn’t be following his lead on policy, but they’d do well to pay attention to his rhetoric.

And then there’s Ron Paul. 80% right, 20% completely flippin’ bugnuts. What we need to do is scientifically figure out how we can remove the crazy anti-war conspiratorial Ron Paul from the libertarian Ron Paul and then you’d have something. Sadly, that isn’t possible. Instead we get a screeching paranoid who probably does more harm to the libertarian cause than good—and a cult-like peanut gallery that follows him around. I’m not sure who’s cynically using who, whether Paul is cynically exploiting the radical anti-war left or they’re using him to give themselves a forum. Either way, he’s ended up as a political bedfellow with 9/11 “Truthers”, John Birchers and isolationist paleocons. I’ll be greatly relieved when his irritating nasal whine and paranoid rhetoric goes away.

NBC had to try to make every question some silly “gotcha.” Moderate the debate, don’t try to push it. Charlie Gibson so far has done the best job, and no one else has come close. This wasn’t quite as bad as the Iowa debate, but it was close.

This uncommitted voter remains uncommitted, although McCain did move me a bit in the part that I saw. I doubt anything changed as a result of this debate, and the race seems to be a match between Romney and McCain with Rudy hoping to keep up.

The winner? Stephen Green for comparing Mitt Romney to a six-foot phallus. The loser? Anyone else who suffered through the whole insufferable debate.

Campaign 2008, Politics

The YouTube GOP Debate

I managed to catch the CNN/YouTube debate tonight, and it certainly was different from most others. The problem was that the questions that weren’t planted tended to be questions based more on Republican stereotypes rather than on substantive issues. Yes, it’s somewhat interesting to know whether a candidate believes in the Bible or not—but is it the sort of question that should come up at a national debate?

The Good

I think this debate was “won” by Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Huckabee came off as the candidate I’d most like to have a beer with some time, and John McCain came off as the elder statesman. McCain put Ron Paul in his place (which is always a good thing for a Republican to do), and he spoke with great moral authority on torture against Romney’s non-answer. Huckabee’s answer that Jesus was too smart to run for public office was a great line. Huckabee came off as very natural and very personable. McCain came off as a man of integrity and honor.

Mitt Romney was also confident and poised. He confidently failed to give a clear answer with great poise. Both he and Giuliani hurt themselves by fighting over abortion—neither one of them are strong on that issue, and both hurt themselves there. Romney’s a very poised candidate, and he has an impressive business background. His honesty on the abortion issue was questioning. It’s nice to have a candidate willing to come out and admit his mistakes.

There were some decent questions that wouldn’t normally be asked in a Presidential debate. As a space exploration fan, I liked the question about the candidate’s vision for space exploration. NASA consumes a very small amount of the federal budget, and the candidates missed the opportunity to talk about private space exploration. Huckabee’s answer wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

Fred Thompson was very poised and gave very responsive answers. He didn’t knock it out of the park, but he showed the best mastery of the issues. The problem is that he needs to do better—it’s a crowded field and he needs to stand out more. He’s got the substance, but he needs more flash. He has some great ads out that would have done much better than the attack ad he used.

The Bad

First of all, I think Rudy hurt himself with his exchange with Romney. He’s the front-runner (at least nationally), so he doesn’t need to go on the offensive. Hitting Romney below the belt won’t help him, and made him look like a bully. Overall, his answers weren’t a strong as they could be. Rudy needs to get a boost, and this wasn’t it. While he’s still ahead nationally, he’s vulnerable.

The same applies to Fred Thompson’s attack ad. While all the others talked about themselves, Thompson’s offensive seemed out of place. Not only that, but Romney came back with a very human answer that helped him. Huckabee also had a good response. The other campaigns are calling the video an act of “desperation”—and while I don’t think that’s the case, it wasn’t the right call. I’m in Fred’s corner, but even I don’t think that running an attack ad at that point helped him at all.

Ron Paul is a nut. When given a question that basically asked him whether he believes in a bizarre conspiracy theory, he basically said “yes.” I’ll give him some credit for eschewing an independent run, but he’s still the sort of paleoconservative on national defense issues that we don’t need now.

Rudy also hurt himself with his Second Amendment answer. This was not the right crowd to split hairs on regulating guns. This was not a good night for Rudy, and it may hurt him.

This was a solid and substantive debate (at least on the part of the candidates, if not CNN), and it could end up changing the dynamics of the race. Rudy and Romney, the two frontrunners, engaged in a fight that ended up making them both look bad. Mike Huckabee demonstrated once again why he’s gaining the most traction—he was confident and had a decent command of the issues. Fred Thompson did nothing to take him out of the race. John McCain’s campaign was on life support only a few months ago, but he’s not out of the race by any chance, and many may be willing to take a new look at him after tonight.

The biggest loser: CNN. Having a Clinton campaign advisor not only be allowed to ask a question, but then to follow up live demonstrated incredibly poor judgment. At the very least CNN could have Googled the people they were having speak. Either they were trying to bias the debate or they were simply asleep at the wheel—either way it reflects badly on them.

This race is still entirely up in the air, and even with weeks left until the Iowa Caucuses the rankings could change dramatically. Fortunately, the Republican Party has a solid group of candidates to pick from. The problem is that eventually the field must be narrowed to one—and who that may be is anyone’s guess.