June 6th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Here’s another roundup of things I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks but haven’t had time to cover in depth.

First, a post on Politico.com from Jonathan Martin, which compares the approaches to economic matters of Mike Huckabee and Tom Coburn, and illustrates why Huckabee was never really a serious candidate for the Republican nomination and should never be considered as one:

[From Huckabee]

The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says, “Look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and health care, so be it.” Well, that might be a, quote, pure economic conservative message, but it’s not an American message. It doesn’t fly.

[From Coburn]
Compassionate conservatism’s starting point had merit. The essential argument that Republicans should orient policy around how our ideas will affect the poor, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten and the “other” is indisputable — particularly for those who claim, as I do, to submit to an authority higher than government. Yet conservatives are conservatives because our policies promote deliverance from poverty rather than dependence on government.

Compassionate conservatism’s next step — its implicit claim that charity or compassion translates into a particular style of activist government involving massive spending increases and entitlement expansion — was its undoing. Common sense and the Scriptures show that true giving and compassion require sacrifice by the giver. This is why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, not his neighbor’s possessions. Spending other people’s money is not compassionate.

Next, Jim Geraghty at National Review Online pokes fun at a recent introduction of Obama at one of his events, which is part Harry Potter, part Ephesians 6 (the parentheses are from Geraghty):

“The candidate of the people. Skinny young man. Big ears. Funny name. Armed with the experience of humble beginnings. Educated in Ivy League suites. Trained in legislative seats. Toughened in inner-city streets.”

(Okay, this is more like it.)

“Wearing the helmet of good judgment.”


“The breastplate of hope. Wielding the shield of unity. Carrying the sword of truth. And feet marching to the beat of change!”

Nice further evidence of the hysteria generated by the Obama charisma.

Thirdly, this piece from Hot Air, which takes a recent Washington Post article on Obama as its starting point. This is a topic I’ve covered before here and here. The summary at the end does a great job of capturing what’s going on here:

Obama doesn’t really have ideas of his own, not even an overarching governing philosophy as a prism through which policy could get made. He just wants to be President, and figures that he can charm his way to the White House.

Lastly, this ridiculous set of stories (once again captured by Hot Air) about the fact that Barack Obama and his wife did a “fist bump” at a rally. Watch the second video at that link and see how delighted Obama is when Williams asks him about it. “I got these guys hook, line and sinker” he seems to be thinking to himself… Is there anything this man does that the media doesn’t love?

April 25th, 2008 by Rightsideup

CNN has a piece today about Huckabee’s forthcoming book:

Two weeks after the next president is elected, Mike Huckabee will publish a book sharing details on his failed bid for the White House and offering his vision for remodeling the conservative movement.

It’s those last few words I take issue with. Huckabee does not represent the “conservative movement” – he represents one wing of it – Christian evangelicals (and to an extent, though not wholly, social conservative s generally).  The group he never brought on board and has virtually no appeal to is fiscal conservatives, who are famously the other half of the conservative coalition that has been winning elections for so many years. His “fair tax” plans and happy-go-lucky approach to public spending (“add an extra lane to I-95”) made fiscal conservatives hugely skeptical of both his seriousness as a candidate and his commitment to the issues that are dear to them.

As such, Huckabee can only really articulate a vision for the social conservative movement, or even more narrowly, Christian evangelical conservatives. He successfully acted as if he was the conservative candidate once Romney bowed out, but no-one but him and his campaign believes this nonsense. He carried a certain percentage of the base – arguably, a segment roughly equally as radical as the Ron Paul crowd – which refused to go for McCain even once it was obvious no-one else had a chance of winning. Do we really want this crowd dictating electoral strategy for the Republicans for the next four years. I’d much rather have Romney, who – for all his changes in position – at least now espouses solidly conservative positions across both the social and fiscal policy fields.

March 14th, 2008 by Rightsideup

One assumption about Romney has been that if he (or anyone else) were selected as McCain’s VP, he would be in pole position for a run at the presidency next time around (whether 2012 or 2016). Most people trumpet this as if it’s received wisdom, but how much sense does that really make?

Incumbent VPs from the last 70 years fall into one of several categories:

  • Succeed sitting president through death or resignation (Truman, Johnson, Ford)
  • Seek and win nomination, win election (Nixon, Bush)
  • Seek and win nomination, lose election (Humphrey, Nixon, Mondale, Gore)
  • Seek and fail to win nomination (Quayle)
  • No running for presidential office (Cheney, Rockefeller, Barkley)
  • Resign while in office (Agnew)

Eight of these 13 men have therefore gone on either to be the nominee of their party or president, which seems good odds. But of those, four lost at least their first attempts to be elected to the presidency, and three became president through no fault or merit of their own. Just two of them – Bush and Nixon – actually won election in their own rights.

The records in office of those that did become president are not stellar:

  • Truman may be the exception, at least in some eyes, although he failed to win re-election for a second term
  • Johnson (who failed to be elected to a second term in his own right and presided over several miserable failures)
  • Nixon disgraced the office and his party
  • Ford replaced him and unsurprisingly failed to be elected in his own right even once
  • Bush won on Reagan’s coattails, but again failed to win a second term.

Taken together, none of this suggests either that VPs are more likely to be elected than anyone else (for example former Governors, who have been elected four of the last five times), or that they make particularly good presidents when they are elected. Romney, Huckabee and others (especially John McCain) should all bear this in mind.

Now, part of the problem is the kind of men chosen as VPs, often more for the states they can bring in, their unlikeliness to challenge the candidate in the personal dynamism stakes, and the balance they bring to the ticket rather than any admirable qualities they possess in their own rights. Romney might prove the exception to that rule, although Huckabee arguably fits the mold better in some ways. But anyone assuming that the Vice Presidency is the best path to the presidency is making a shaky assumption at best. I’m glad to see that Romney is also setting up a PAC to elect Republican candidates as a way of shoring up his other main option for setting himself up for 2012.

March 5th, 2008 by Rightsideup

So Mike Huckabee’s finally out of the race, now that McCain appears to have crossed the 1191 delegate line. There’s a nice bit of revisionist history in the CNN piece covering this piece of news:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee bowed to “the inevitable” and dropped out of the Republican presidential race Tuesday night after an improbable run for a politician little known beyond his home state a year ago.

I think it’s been “inevitable” for some time at this point. Now it’s moved from being inevitable to being a cold hard fact. If he stayed in it at this point it would have been evidence of insanity, nothing more.

Huckabee went on to best former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, by then the GOP front-runner, in the Iowa caucuses January 3, placing him among the top tier of Republican hopefuls.

I don’t recall anyone from CNN (or any of the other main news organisations) calling Mitt Romney the GOP front-runner at the time. Helpful for them to concede this fact now.

He lagged behind Romney and McCain in the next round of contests, in New Hampshire and Michigan, and trailed McCain in South Carolina. However, his victories in West Virginia and the Deep South states of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and his native Arkansas in the February 5 Super Tuesday contests helped force Romney out of the race.

It’s those last few words that grate here. Romney wasn’t forced out of the race: he pulled out when it was clear that staying in was likely to be unproductive, but at the time he had more votes and significantly more delegates than Huckabee. Huckabee has now been forced out of the race by the sheer fact that McCain has won, but to suggest that Huckabee forced Romney out of the race is a gross overstatement. Huckabee did siphon away enough votes from Romney to make it hard for him to beat McCain, of course, but Romney wasn’t forced out any more than Huckabee was.

It then goes on in the next paragraph with this:

“Over the past few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race,” Huckabee told supporters that night. “Well, you know what? It is, and we’re in it.”

Which suggests that Huckabee said this after Romney pulled out, and it therefore made logical sense at the time. Of course, he said this on a night when Romney was still way ahead of him and it was bravado at best and downright dishonesty at worst.

And the article finishes off with this:

“To have gone this far and outlasted so many others, I think is a remarkable story. Wish it would have ended differently, but it is what it is,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee’s exit leaves anti-war Texas congressman Ron Paul, a former Libertarian presidential candidate, as McCain’s sole active opponent.

If by “outlasted” Huckabee means “had the temerity to stay in even when he had no chance of winning despite urging from most of the party to pull out already” I guess that statement is accurate… The last paragraph is a doozy too – in what sense is Ron Paul an “active” opponent of McCain? Hasn’t he completely stopped campaigning? And isn’t the fact that he hasn’t officially conceded more about the fact that he’s stopped paying attention to the presidential race than about the fact that he’s still in it?

At any rate, glad Huckabee can add to 1191 and that he’s finally out of it and backing McCain. Wonder what’s next for him. He doesn’t seem to be considered by most of the commentators as a VP candidate, but a lot of Huckabee followers seem to think that’s the logical next step.

February 23rd, 2008 by Rightsideup

Jonathan Martin of Politico has a piece up about Huckabee and what his real reasons are for staying in the race. While everyone else has been suggesting (in my opinion rightly) that Huckabee is staying in the race to keep pressure on McCain for favors down the road, or possibly just for vanity’s sake, Martin appears to have swallowed large mouthfuls of what the Huckabee campaign has fed him, to whit: he believes it’s really about 2012.

I have a draft post that’s not ready for publication yet on the 2012 field on the Republican side, and my comment about Huckabee was this:

Of this year’s candidates, few are likely to run again apart from Romney…

Of the rest, Huckabee appears to be burning his bridges by staying in the race this long – many party leaders are annoyed that he isn’t stepping aside when it’s clear he has no chance of winning. He appears to concede this fact himself too.

That link in the second paragraph is to a CNN article quoting Huckabee as saying he’s probably doing himself more harm than good, and I agree.

If you take apart Martin’s article, the comments suggesting Huckabee will be a force in 2012 come from the following people:

  • “Huckabee strategist Ed Rollins”
  • “Former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), a top Huckabee ally and frequent surrogate”
  • “Joe Carter, an aide at the Family Research Council who briefly worked for Huckabee last year”

Note, three Huckabee supporters. “Republican strategist Craig Shirley, a McCain backer and author of a book on the 1976 presidential race” is also cited, but only describing the Huckabee strategy, not subscribing to it. So all the people on whose opinions the article is based are Huckabee supporters. No independent voices, no-one from outside the Huckabee circle. And yet Martin reports it as if it’s gospel. There are one or two contrary comments, but it would at least have made sense to contrast this with the wide swathe of people who have suggested that Mitt Romney is now well positioned in 2012.

There are those who want to see silver linings on every cloud, and others who are conspiracy theorists, who believe Huckabee staying in the race is good. The only good argument for this point of view is that McCain is getting more coverage because there’s still a nominal race on the Republican side. But how does this benefit McCain? Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard of him at this point who somehow will between now and when the general election starts?

And on the negative side, finite resources are being spent on McCain’s primary campaign instead of being saved up or put in the bank for the general election campaign. Huckabee is the largest remaining barrier to the conservative wing of the party swinging behind McCain, and only gives them false hope that McCain’s nomination is not inevitable. Huckabee won’t be the nominee, McCain will, and Huckabee staying in the race smacks of egotism and vanity more than anything else, no matter how much he dresses it up in the language of giving voice to would-be primary voters. No previous candidate in recent memory has dragged out a primary campaign this far once it was clear who the front-runner was, and even Ron Paul has had to face reality and essentially drop out at this point. Why should Huckabee be any different?

One rather senses that Martin just regurgitated what he was told by Huckabee’s campaign rather than challenging it more thoroughly, in the hopes of having an interesting story to tell about what is becoming a tedious campaign. It rather falls flat in that aim.

February 7th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Now that I’ve had a day or so to get my head around it, I wanted to do a bit of analysis on what happened to Romney on Super Tuesday.

First, a look at where he won:

  • His home states (Utah, Massachusetts)
  • Two other Western states with high Mormon populations (Montana and Colorado), although the latter is also the home of Focus on the Family and a cluster of evangelicals
  • Some others that were less obvious: North Dakota, Minnesota and Alaska. And he won the first ballot in West Virginia, although subsequent tactical voting by McCain supporters gave Huckabee the win in the end.

The media has essentially written off his wins in the first category (even though with three home states Romney arguably has an edge over McCain and Huckabee, who only have one each). They’ve also to some extent written off the second group for much the same reason (although they don’t seem to expect Southern Baptists or evangelicals in general to vote in blocs for Huckabee, or exhibit the same dismissiveness when he wins Southern states where they form a substantial part of the electorate).

I haven’t heard good explanations for his strong performance in the other states – Ron Paul had a stronger local operation in Alaska and was expected to win, and neither North Dakota or Minnesota are obvious ones for the Mitt column. West Virginia would have been particularly impressive and if McCain’s supporters had split by their own preference rather than tactical voting he might well have taken it. One explanation would simply be that where neither Huckabee (in the South) or McCain (in more liberal coastal areas) has a natural edge, Mitt actually does very well, even with little advertising, presumably as a result of honest assessments of qualifications for the job.

Overall he did well outside the South, put in a reasonable showing in a couple of other Mid-Western and Southern states, and unfortunately did equally well/badly in almost all the California congressional districts, giving him very few delegates to show for his 34% of the vote.

But of course he has a huge mountain to climb now, with the following states remaining:

  • February 9th – Louisiana (Southern, so likely to go Huckabee), Washington (caucuses – coastal, but Western – McCain and Romney likely to both be strong) and Kansas (mid-Western, so likely to see strength from all three candidates like Missouri)
  • February 12th – DC, Maryland and Virginia (clumped together in a single media market – if Romney wanted to spend the money he could probably do well. His WV showing suggests he may be able to put in a strong showing. But MD and DC in particular may lean liberal and therefore McCain)
  • February 19th – Washington (primaries – see Feb 9th), Wisconsin (tough to call – might be influenced by neighbouring Michigan and the George Romney factor)
  • March 4th – Ohio (MO/KS), Vermont (McCain?), Texas (Southern but also very varied – McCain should be strong, but Romney may be able to compete) and Rhode Island (close to MA, so Romney gets a bump? But McCain likely strong too)
  • March 11th – Mississippi (Huckabee has to be the favourite)
  • March 22nd – Pennsylvania (Depends a lot on ad spending – if it follows the NYC cluster it will go strongly McCain)
  • May 6th – Indiana (KS/MO), North Carolina (could go like South Carolina, but lots of business in the Raleigh metro – perhaps they lean Romney?)
  • May 13th – Nebraska (KS/MO)
  • May 18th – Hawai’i (who knows? liberal but also a large Mormon population)
  • May 20th – Kentucky (Huckabee), Oregon (see WA, but perhaps more liberal so McCain?)
  • May 27th – Idaho (Romney)
  • June 3rd – New Mexico (close run between McCain and Romney), South Dakota (Romney again as in ND?)

It would take a major shift in the race to allow Romney to win what he needs from these remaining states to be close to McCain in total delegates – likely only his opponents running out of money and/or Huckabee and/or Paul dropping out would do it. He can continue spending on ads and that will make a difference, but not enough to put him into real contention. On the other hand, unless someone drops out, it will also be hard for McCain to go into convention with a majority of delegates. Of course, Huckabee’s are likely to swing behind McCain at that point in return for the VP slot, but potentially things could still go another way. But Romney ending up as the nominee has to be a minority probability at best.