Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Abu Laith al-Libi’s death

A senior al Quada leader, really a top field commander, was killed in North Waziristan (occasionally controlled by Pakistan), and, surprisingly, this was announced by a terrorist website. Was he killed by the U.S., or by Pakistanis? No one is taking credit, but at first it was thought to be by an American drone. And, of course, no one is commenting on the specifics.
Still, if it is true that al-Libi has been killed--he was responsible for the attack on Bagram sir base that killed over twenty people when Cheney visited in February 2007--it is probably a sign that the U.S. is much more active inside Pakistan than, say, we were three months ago. Perhaps that explains why the bad guys announced the hit.

It Ain’t Right Update

1. McCain is now ahead about everywhere but Arkansas, Utah, and Massachusetts--the home states of his two opponents.

2. One (deviant) poll does have Romney and McCain tied in Georgia now, and Huck fading. In general, Romney is doing (for me, unexpectedly) better in the South, and so it might make more sense now for even Southerners to vote for him as part of the "tough love" project described below.

3. Huck’s campaign has become repulsive. It’s not directed against McCain at all and it’s all about questioning Romney’s conservative credentials.

4. Still, remember that McCain remains the second choice of (probably) most Huck voters and (certainly) most Romney voters. Taking one out wouldn’t help the other all that much. So maybe my advice is to stick with your favorite non-McCain choice.

5. There’s something valiant and tragic about Romney’s current campaign. He’s desperately trying to figure out and focus his resources where he might win, but he just doesn’t have time to get his strategy or message right. And of course he had to take time out for Gordon Hinckley’s funeral.
It’ll take a miracle for him not to be thinking very seriously about dropping out next Wednesday.


The latest poll in Georgia has McCain with an 11 point lead over Huckabee and Romney, who are tied.

Interestingly enough, in this poll, McCain wins the young overwhelmingly, with Romney getting nothing, I repeat, nothing, from them.

Conservative responses to McCain

The NYT’s David Kirkpatrick surveys the range of reactions to John McCain as the nominee. WHile some, like James Dobson, say they’ll never support him, others, who claim to be more in touch with the grassroots, can find a way of reconciling themselves.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks McCain is the candidate of the "Republican establishment," which isn’t ho it looks from where I sit. He also thinks that the "capitulation [of "Republican elected officials," who are moving into the McCain camp] signals the end of the Reagan-Bush era and the beginning of something quite different." If McCain wins the general election, perhaps. But the future of the GOP isn’t in the plurality coalition that has vaulted Mac to the top. He’s too idiosyncratic and mercurial to have a long-term effect on the party or on conservatism. My real concern remains how he, or any other nominee, is going to connect with the next generation of potential Republican and conservative voters. Someone has to get them into the habit....

Marines, panhandlers, and others

The Berkeley City Council has asked the Marine recruiting station to get out of town. "In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m." There is more. In the meantime, the ACLU
"claims a Florida Panhandle school kept students from having rainbow stickers on their notebooks, suppressing their right to free speech.

A lawsuit against Ponce de Leon High School was filed Thursday in federal court." The Ottawa panhandlers union has hired a lawyer in support of a panhadlers rights group to prepare "a human rights complaint against the City of Ottawa after it put up a fence to stop them from sleeping in a downtown pedestrian underpass." A Yale fraternity gets into trouble, but it may be OK since the freshman brother didn�t read the sign. I bet Howard Dean and Prescott Bush would have.

It Just Ain’t Right

Are we witnessing the COMPLETELY UNDESERVED victory of the Giuliani-McCain-Schwarzenegger wing of the Republican party? No candidate was ever more thoroughly repudiated than Rudy. And John has never even gotten a plurality of Republican votes in any of the primaries so far. Noboy really think Arnold is a Republican (except in some strange California sense) anymore. I’m not suffering from deranged hostility against McCain. It’s just that facts are facts and my sense of justice is offended by them.

The least that needs to happen, in my view, is that McCain needs to be chastened by a worse-than-expected showing next Tuesday. It’s not true that Romney would win in the southern states (including MO and OK) if Huck were out of the race. And Huck doesn’t have any chance at all outside the South at this point, although he’s ahead in GA and close in AL, TN, OK, and MO.

So I’m inclined to be for Romney next week in the North, where I advise him to campaign hard on McCain’s indifference and incompetence on the economy. And to be for Huck in the South, where I advise him to hit McCain hard on the socially conservative, pro-life front, while leaving religion out of it. They should both starting talking about the fake conservatism of the G-Mc-S wing... It goes without saying that my advice almost certainly won’t be taken (again). (Romney sounded way too much like the petulant Bob Dole in last night’s debate--accusing McCain of distorting his record etc.)

McCain may really be the best possible nominee--and certainly the nearly inevitable one--but he has to be given some tough love to curb his self-righteousness and bring the so-called coalition together on the real issues.

Reactions to the McCain victory

Hugh Hewitt hasn’t given up altogether, but seems to think that Huckabee’s past and future role can only be to make things harder for his man Romney. Ramesh Ponnuru makes a version of this argument in drawing a parallel with 1996--Huckabee is Pat Buchanan made young and beautiful, taking out Romney, who is Phil Gramm made young and beautiful.

I guess I don’t buy the argument that Huckabee’s presence in the race hurt Romney, because I’m not convinced that the folks who voted or will still vote for Mike would have, in his absence, voted for Mitt. Part of the reason for this, I’ve already noted: there are evangelicals who have a hard time elevating a Mormon to the highest political office in the land. But there are also these three additional considerations. First, Romney seems a little less solid on pro-life issues than is McCain. The latter hasn’t flip-flopped on the subject, and doesn’t give the appearance of taking positions in order to position himself for various constituencies. Second, a lot of evangelicals are very serious about our conflict with jihadism, regarding it as both a matter of national security and a civilizational challenge. McCain the warrior-president fits this part of their "worldview" better than does Romney the manager-president. Third, note that Huckabee’s voters are younger than either Romney’s or McCain’s. As I’ve noted before, younger evangelicals tend to have a broader range of policy concerns than their elders. This doesn’t mean (as some commentators have suggested) that they’ll trade a congenial position on global AIDS relief, human trafficking, or the environment for a less congenial position on abortion, just that they’re not natural constituents of a more or less classic business Republican. Absent Huckabee, they don’t all naturally gravitate toward Romney.

Changing the subject, I liked this NRO symposium, especially for its suggestions about how McCain and his conservative critics could arrive at a modus vivendi. I have at least one quibble, however: McCain does need a running mate that conservatives find congenial, but not the aged Hamlet Fred Thompson. A big risk with McCain at the head of the ticket and a similarly "experienced" running mate is that Republicans will lose touch with younger voters who, if they get into the habit, will vote the "wrong" way for a long time.

Dean Barnett makes the argument that the GOP has become somewhat like the Democrats--a coalition of narrowish interests that finds unity only in everyone’s dislike of the other party. Romney’s problem, in his view, is that, in trying to please everyone, he didn’t effectively energize any constituency in particular.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ll be spreading my message of hope and love (MHL) at Southern Catholic College tomorrow (Thurs. the 31st) at 7 p.m. That’s in Dawsonville, GA--an hour north of Atlanta and near the huge outlet mall on 400. (The college has a good website with directions etc.) I will speaking on American politics today.

Imitation Flavoring in American Politics

Some people buy imitation vanilla to use in their baking. I confess that I have never understood this. Granted, the real stuff is more expensive but, its flavoring is so superior to the imitation (and also so seldom needed), that it just makes good sense reach for it when concocting your favorite recipes. They’ll taste better and, because you don’t really need to eat sweets very often, why settle when you do? In politics, as in baking, I also prefer the real thing to the imitation--so much so, that I’d almost rather do without than buy the imitation. Kathleen Parker has some not-to-be-missed reflections on the GOP’s imitation of Reagan, but more on the Dems and their attempts to imitate Kennedy. A very good read.  

Vending Machine Pot

When I was a kid, I remember sometimes going to a family restaurant with my grandparents where there was a cigarette vending machine in the lobby. Since they smoked, occasionally I’d be sent on an "errand." Of course, technically, I wasn’t supposed to do this. And they might have caught some trouble (from both the authorities and my parents) if I weren’t discreet and had been discovered while on one of these missions. But I was discreet and they didn’t get into any trouble. The last time I checked, I wasn’t carrying any moral scars and--as I’ve mentioned before--I don’t smoke or even, particularly, like smoking. At some point, however, the people decided that this easy access to tobacco might not be in the best interests of all children and parents trying to raise their children not to smoke, so the machines were pulled.

But there are always new twists on old themes. Now, in California, there’s something of an opposite movement. To be sure, no one is proposing adding cigarette machines to restaurant lobbies. Heaven forbid the demon tobacco find any toleration or sanction in health-obsessed California! No, here, we prefer Mary Jane, Hashish, Pot, or whatever you like to call it. Granted, you need to have a "prescription" and you have to use your fingerprint to make the machine function. But the argument for these machines is curious: its defenders argue convenience but also, oddly, anonymity. The machines are not in restaurant lobbies, but tucked away out of sight. So where’s the convenience? If convenience were the issue, then we’d have them in at least as many places as we have Starbucks, right? There’s still some sense of shame surrounding the purchase of pot? Imagine that!? There’s still some sense of shame (or at least embarrassment) surrounding the purchase of condoms and feminine hygiene products too, but that doesn’t prevent nearly every restaurant and bar from placing those vending machines in their restrooms. In many restrooms, you can even purchase aspirin and allergy medication from vending machines--so why not this "medication?" Why not Viagra vending machines? Or oxycontin? Penicillin anyone? (You can put that next to the Viagra, of course!) So I think these guys are making a mistake. The extremes the machine’s manufacturer took to prevent kids from being sent on an "errand," make it seem unlikely that there will be many accidental purchases by unauthorized individuals. So why not just put them everywhere? If marijuana use is just as innocuous as aspirin use, why not put them out in the open? And then, before you know it, society will accept it in the same way it now appears to accept illicit sex.

Just make sure--no matter what--you keep that tobacco behind the counter in a locked glass cabinet. Otherwise kids might get the wrong idea.

A Good Look at the Numbers

Understandably, Hugh Hewitt looks for the best case scenario within the worst case scenario for his man, Romney. Anyway, there’s an outside chance it could happen as he hopes. It’s worth looking at the numbers and considering his analysis. 1,191 delegates are needed to claim the nomination. It’s very likely that McCain will have to struggle to get to that magic number even if he’s got a plurality of delegates at the end of the day.

Edwards, Giuliani out

ABC News is reporting that Edwards will drop out this afternoon. Giuiliani is also expected to announce he is finished.

Random Concluding Observations

1. Listen (let me repeat), there’s no way McCain can be stopped. The (very un-democratic) winner-take-all process that Giuliani had put into place to help himself now pretty much guarantees McCain will simply have the delegates on Feb. 5. McCain was perfectly right to give an I’ve won the nomination speech last night.

2. Let me repeat what I said at the beginning of all this: Giuliani and Huckabee were both obviously too extreme to get the nomination.

3. On balance, McCain and Huckabee remained the authentic candidates from beginning to end. McCain on character/leadership and Huck on "values."
They were the over-performing candidates, and their strange man-love connection is not merely a marriage of convenience.

4. Some Corner people are grousing that without Huck in the race Romney would have prevailed as the socially conservative candidate. Studies don’t back that up: Lots of Huck voters in Florida reported that their second choice was McCain. There’s surely some anti-Mormon bigotry there, but there are other reasons too. Actually Romney did take a lot of Huck voters. Romney and McCain surged as Huck and Rudy faded. And they faded almost exactly the same amount. One-on-one in FL: McCain would have beaten Romney pretty easily. One-on-one in SC: Probably McCain beats Huck, but maybe not.

5. If Huck were to drop out of the race, McCain would probably sweep the South. The best Romney could reasonably hope for would be some close contests and maybe a victory in winner-take-all MO. That would not be anywhere near enough to make any difference. It’s still conceivable that Huck could win Georgia, for example. But his concession speech in FL seemed too much like a concession speech in general. Unfortunately, it’s not very authentic for him now not to assert in a manly way his superiority over McCain on all the domestic issues.

6. Let me also repeat that Romney would be a good president. It’s just not so clear he’d be a good candidate. McCain is very chancy, in my view, on both fronts.

7. I also should add that it’s crazy that this thing is over before the overwhelming majority of Republicans have had a chance to vote. Not only that, their candidate is a man who carried the plurality of Republicans (barely) in only one state and never topped 40% of vote.

More Florida

Here are the exit polls. Note that evangelicals (40% of the electorate) split their votes between Huckabee, Romney, and McCain. And while you’d think that, on some of the issues, Huckabee’s voters would have preferred Romney to McCain if their man weren’t in the race, many more told the pollsters that their second choice was McCain. Are these the evangelicals who just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Mormon?

Another interesting feature of the vote was that McCain seems to have won among voters who regarded the economy as the big issue. Wasn’t Romney supposed to have owned that constituency?

Finally, Romney won among the more conservative (37-27), more Republican (33-31) voters, but not by enough, among enough to overcome McCain’s very substantial leads in other categories. And if I’m right about where Huckabee’s supporters would go if the man from Hope weren’t on the ballot, McCain would be gaining ground in the aforementioned categories.

Can anyone think of a scenario (not including a McCain implosion) in which Romney wins the nomination, especially if, as is likely, Giuliani pulls out and endorses McCain? Huckabee’s presence on the ballot across the South hurts McCain more than Romney. Giuliani’s absence on the coasts surely helps McCain. But I think that all that Huckabee can do, even if he should perform well in his region, is postpone the date when McCain reaches the magic number.

My last question: Will McCain approach the conservative establishment opinion leaders or will they approach him, in order to make the best of Republican/conservative prospects in November?

McCain Wins

1. FL, and it’s not all that close. As in SC, his support by the state party establishment--in this case (studies show) Crist and Martinez--made the difference. John wasn’t the maverick after all, and Mitt remained the outsider with money.

2. Giuliani, who did poorly, will and has no choice but to endorse McCain tomorrow. He wants to at least be on the winning side in NY, NJ, etc.

3. Even without any FL mo’ or Rudy’s help, McCain is leading in most of the Feb. 5 states, and in all the urban and urbane states with the winner-take-all policies.

4. Mitt might as well fight on (it’s only a week), but he’ll probably take common-sense spending limitations more seriously now. He has to hope John really screws up.

5. We’ll see if Huck will go down with guns blazing (and American flags flying) by doing what he can really to take McCain on in the campaign’s last real week.

Clever Will

George Will writes with ease about the ethically challenged Clintons, and pushes McCain into the same sewer. Still, since politics isn�t mathematics it kind�a works.

Random Observations

1. The race in FL is too close to call. If the American Research people are to be believed, there’s a slight Romney surge. But if there is, the other polls don’t seem to be picking it up. If Rasmussen is right, Romney has a very slight lead nationwide now, but Gallup disagrees.

2. I don’t believe the apparent fact that Romney had some doubts about the surge rises to the level of a campaign issue. The surge was, in fact, a risk, one that seems to be working out. And it’s quite an exaggeration to say that we’ve won or even see the future clearly in Iraq at this point. Romney is certainly not wobbly about doing what we have to do there.

3. Romney needs the mo’ that comes from the FL victory for a lot of reasons, even if only to justify the huge TV bucks he’ll have to spend in so many states in the days preceding Feb. 5. If you think about it, though, a Romney victory in FL would be the most impressive one so far in the primary/caucus process.

4. The young, admirable, Cuban, Catholic Speaker of the Florida House endorsed and is working for Huckabee. And there’s a small chance Huck’ll have his moment one-on-one with McCain for a few days. He doesn’t appear to be slipping that much in the other southern states, where he’s leading or almost... (Notice I’ve avoided the vulgar misstep of the Corner by not using the phrase "what the Huck?".)

5. The toughest thing to call right now, though, is Obama vs. Hillary. Obama is certainly not that far behind either nationwide or in the super-Tues sates.

Christians and libertarians together

Marvin Olasky shows the way. Here’s a snippet, couched in terms of advice for Mike Huckabee:

This "small government requires social conservatism" argument is not a 10-second soundbite, but Huckabee in speeches could explain that a conservative position on social issues contributes to a conservative position on fiscal issues: Individuals who are family-reliant and God-reliant are rarely government-reliant. He should also insist that same-sex marriage be opposed only in ways that treat gays as still possessing human dignity. He should assert that anyone who says "I’m righteous and you’re not" has an inadequate view of sin.

Stated another way, the libertarian theme of personal responsibility is the product of and produces responsibility to and for a community. This is not liberationist libertarianism, which is the product of and produces personal irresponsibility. And irresponsible people are rarely willing to live with the consequences of their actions. In their weakness, they’ll call for someone to bail them out. And since their irresponsibility has typically sundered relations with individuals or the proverbial little platoons, all too often they’ll have base their claim for assistance on something abstract and impersonal, like the "right to healthcare." Enter big government.

Barone’s bets

Michael Barone is guessing that John McCain has some momentum in Florida and that HRC--who apparently prefers winning ugly to losing (imagine the bile of a Romney-Clinton race)--will do well on February 5th, though he’s hedging a little on the latter.

I know people are swooning over the Kennedy endorsement, but I find it hard to believe that it will actually sway any voters.

The future of the faith-based initiative

David Kuo and John DiIulio hope that President Bush’s successor will continue plugging away at something that, as Michael Gerson has written, "was not tried and found wanting. It was tried and found difficult — then tried with less and less energy.”

For DiIulio and his fellow Democrats, the sticking point has been mission-sensitive hiring, which they all too often slam as "religious discrimination." DiIulio is better than most, but he’s quite willing to sacrifice this little bit of religious freedom in cooperation with government in order to get the dollars flowing. He’ll trade shekels for shackles.

I, on the other hand, think that, without guarantees of religious liberty, the program won’t reach its full potential, a point I made way back when.

Rallying academics during a presidential campaign

Apparently, the Hoover campaign tried it.

The Snub of Disunion

I missed the speech in favor of helping my eight year-old master her multiplication tables in between swim practice and dinner, but I could not miss this story which seems to be the only thing anyone has to say about the State of the Union speech in the local news coverage. The "Snub of Disunion" will certainly be the talk of the morning. It’s hard for me to see how this hurts Obama since all of his appeal stems from how distant from Hillary he seems to be. He is the anti-Hillary candidate (at least in the minds of his supporters). There’s an outside chance that some more mature voters will be put off by what they consider to be a childish stunt--but I think they’re likely to be voters who wouldn’t tend in his direction in any event. Much was made in the local coverage of the fact that Ted Kennedy DID shake Hillary’s hand and greet her with warmth--as if to imply that this is what is always proper in a mature and distinguished statesman of experience. It’s probably true that such behavior helped to propel the career of Ted Kennedy within the Democrat Party. But it did not, you will notice, propel Mr. Kennedy to the White House (of course, he had quite a bit of "other" behavior to consider as well and he has exhibited his share of indignation--at least to Republicans).

On the whole, I’d say this "stunt" or exhibition of righteous indignation (take your pick) probably helps Obama with his core constituency--young, anti-Clinton Democrats who have a taste for drama and who like to seem fashion-forward in their politics. They’ll love it and love Obama for doing it. Whether this group is large enough to carry him through Super Tuesday is still doubtful in my view. But my taste for drama is strong enough that I’m going to enjoy watching it . . .

Oh, and yes . . . I believe the President had something to say this evening also. Perhaps I’ll get to reading that in the morning. But let me add that Hillary Clinton couldn’t have pulled off that upstage of a President’s LAST State of the Union Address if she planned it for a year. And what’s worse . . . everyone knows that Bill could without a thought. What’s worse still? That he’d probably just as easily upstage Obama if given the chance.

Y’all come

On Wednesday next, the day after Super Tuesday, I’ve put together a little conference to pick through the entrails of the isms (liberal and conservative), the parties (Democrats and Republicans), and the nominating processes. To be held in Lupton Auditorium on the Oglethorpe University campus, "The Future of Liberalism and Conservatism During and After 2008" will be keynoted by our friend Jonah Goldberg, who will be speaking at 7 p.m.

Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with a student panel, featuring bright lights from Berry College, Mercer University, and Oglethorpe. After a lunch break, we’ll reconvene at 1 p.m. to discuss the isms. This roundtable will be chaired by the distinguished Peter Lawler, and will feature Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Matthew Franck, Bryan McGraw (currently of Emory, soon to be of Wheaton College), and Susan McWilliams of Pomona College.

At 3 p.m., we’ll discuss the nominating process led by a roundtable chaired by Berry College’s Eric Sands. We’ll hear from Alan Abramowitz, who writes here, our friend Jon Schaff, and Jay Cost. After dinner, we’ll hear from Jonah at 7 p.m. After Jonah, who knows? There’s a nice pub down the street, but drinks, unfortunately, aren’t on me.

Our big sponsors are the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and several offices at Oglethorpe, with additional support from Berry College.

Update: "Y’all come," translated into proper English, means "all events are free and open to the public. No registration required." But it’s quicker to say "y’all come."

A Petty (or maybe NOT so petty) Example of What’s Wrong with the GOP

I just heard a commercial on the radio for the upcoming presidential debates in California. The Republicans are having their debate at the Reagan Library--which, on the face of it, seems like a good and a logical choice. But consider the venue choice of the Dems . . . The Kodak Theater . . . the home of American Idol . . . the slick, glitzy, Hollywood and cool choice. Pretend you’re not a conservative political geek for five minutes. Which place would you rather visit? A library or a theater? Simi Valley or Hollywood? The home of your father’s President or the happening hot spot of the celebrity culture? Is it really a tough call? I know there are those of you who are going to be happy to criticize my attention to this matter as silly and wrapped up in appearance. Yes. I agree with you. It is. But appearance matters whether you like it or not. Would it kill the GOP to seem to have some grasp of this fact?

Talking politics in and around church

I attend a theologically conservative Reformed church. With the approach of the Georgia primary, people have begun to talk about politics on occasions when we get together. Since I’m the only "political scientist" ready at hand, they ask me what I think. Here’s what I tell them.

First, the real national race for the Republican nomination is between Romney and McCain. That doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t vote for someone else, just that, when the dust settles, it’s likely to be Mitt or Mac.

Second, since a lot of people kinda like Mike, I tell them that the only--very, very, very slim--chance for their man is if McCain and Romney split the non-Southern primaries on Super Tuesday, while Huckabee runs the table in the South.

I also tell them that they won’t simply be throwing away their vote if they vote for Huckabee, assuming that either of the likelier nominees is acceptable. A vote for Huckabee can be a "send-em-a-message" vote, the message being the issues he emphasizes and the constituencies to which he appeals need to be taken seriously by the GOP establishment, not to mention by the 2008 nominee. The Republican stool needs all three legs and, numerically, the socially conservative leg is quite significant. Where would the Republicans have been without it in the past twenty years? Republicans also have to recognize that that leg is "evolving" a bit, with younger evangelicals having a broader set of policy interests than their elders. There’s a reason why Huckabee does well, for a Republican, among younger voters.

I also spend a good bit of time explaining to my fellow church-goers that Romney is not beyond the pale, that the Constitution contains his Mormonism the same way it contains their evangelicalism. The government can promote religious freedom and cooperate with all denominations in the pursuit of limited ends, but it can’t be used exclusively to favor the aims of one denomination. This is a hard sell, not because the people with whom I sit in the pews are theonomists, dominionists, or theocrats, but because they have an ill-defined concern about Mormonism and because they think that the example of a Mormon President can’t help but help that religion in the spiritual marketplace.

Next, I tell them that, while November is a long way off, right now it seems like McCain is probably a stronger general election candidate than is Romney. The latter has spent tons of money and had a hard time beating an underfunded field. Stated another way, Romney clearly has some significant strengths as an administrator and manager, but he’s not a good campaigner. While being President shouldn’t be about engaging in a permanent campaign, you have to win the office before you can put your other skills to good use...and perhaps begin to shift public expectations back to where they should be. If electability is their principal concern--something I stress is hard to know this far out (not too long ago, Giuliani seemed to be the winner of the electability derby)--McCain seems to be a better bet than Romney.

Finally, I suggest that, regardless of the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is probably a little easier to beat than Obama. If on February 5th in Georgia you see people who ought to have voted for the man from Hope voting instead for the woman who’s visited Hope once or twice, you’ll know why.

Republicans and religion

Apparently only Mike Huckabee spent part of Sunday in a Florida church.

’’I don’t remember seeing anything like this,’’ said David ’’DJ’’ Johnson, a former state Republican Party chief. ``It’s intriguing. In a Repblican primary, the candidates stop at a large church. That’s what you usually do. But they didn’t, so they must have good reasons for that.’’

A few reasons: The religious vote might be divided or already wrapped up, Much of it is expected go to Huckabee, as it did in Iowa, with the remainder tending toward Romney.

This poll finds that roughly 40% of Florida’s Republican electorate regards itself as evangelical. But if you compare this poll, taken right after the N.H. primary, and this poll, taken late last week, and use northwest Florida as a proxy for the evangelical vote, you’ll see that Huckabee has bled in that region (going from 40% to 19%), while McCain has gained (going from 32% to 47%). (For those of you who don’t know much about Florida’s geography, the Panhandle is culturally an extension of L.A. and South Georgia.)

So, politically, Huckabee needed to go to church yesterday, but McCain didn’t.

What as that about going to the gates of Hell?

A Taste of the Slop to Come . . .

Dems just can’t resist being Dems . . . on the other hand, they may be over-playing their hand.

Another Obama endorsement

Maybe this is as much of a surprise as the Caroline and Ted endorsements.

Race and the Democratic nominating process

Jay Cost takes a look at the primaries so far and asks whether Barack Obama can win enough white votes to prevail. The result in South Carolina might seem to place in doubt the concern that Iowa might seem to have laid to rest.

As is obvious, Obama won South Carolina by mobilizing an extraordinarily large African-American electorate...and winning a much smaller proportion of the white vote than in the previous contests.

Were this pattern--once established--to persist, Clinton would beat Obama in a walk almost everywhere. If the price of Obama’s victory in South Carolina is that he comes to be viewed as "the black candidate," then that might seem to be a price the Clintons are willing to pay.

But I wonder. In South Carolina, native son John Edwards did much better among whites than he’d done elsewhere (twice as well, for example, as in New Hampshire). About 40% of the Edwards voters said they’d be dissatisfied if Clinton were the Democratic nominee. Similarly, about 40% of his S.C. voters said they’d be dissatisfied in Obama were the nominee. I can’t tell if it’s the same people in both cases, but around that proportion of his voters called themselves Republicans or independents. I’m betting that if Edwards is less of a factor for white voters in other states--either because he’s clearly a non-factor in general or because he’s not a favorite son (except in N.C.)--Obama will regain at least his previous share of the white vote. Added to the African-American vote (generally roughly twice as large in the Democratic primaries than in the electorate as a whole), 35-40% of the white vote ought to give Obama a fighting chance against the Clintons. Any better, and Hillary would be in deep trouble, save in states, like California, where the Hispanic vote were enormous.

My question is what proportion of the Edwards vote is an "Anybody-But-Hillary" vote, which would flow to Obama if Edwards dropped out. It’s hard to predict that on the basis of South Carolina, but in New Hampshire a substantially higher percentage of Edwards voters regarded HRC unfavorably than they did Obama. If that’s "normal" (is anything about New Hampshire "normal"?), then Edwards’ continued presence in the race actually hurts Obama more than Clinton. He splits the anti-Hillary vote with Obama and makes it easier to paint Obama as the African-American candidate. Perhaps the Clintons ought to promise him a plum position if he stays in, just as Obama has mentioned him as a potential A.G. in his Administration.

Update: For evidence that at least one of the Clintons would like us to regard Obama as the black candidate, go here.

Update #2: There’s more here and here.

Random Observations

1. The most recent FL Zogby study has McCain and Romney tied with nobody else anywhere near. All the others have the race within the margin of error.

This is bigger news: The most recent Rasmussen 4-day thing has McCain and Romney tied nationwide at 29%, with Huck third at only 16%. This likely means that Mitt is surging at Huckabee’s expense, and that he may well be quite competitive of Feb. 5, especially if he get any kind of victory in FL. Right now, we have to say McCain is not surging.

3. I saw the Fox/Gigot WALL STREET JOURNAL show early this morning. It’s not so entertaining. But some of the experts were putting forth the theory that Wall Street is swooning in the face of the prospect of the McCain-Hillary choice. Others had actually had to temper that suggestion with the reasonable speculation that the presidential election probably had little effect on what’s happened to the Stock Market lately.

4. Anyway, I learned from the show that the main thing WS fears is that the Bush tax cuts will not be renewed, and that we’ll go back to a higher and more progressive tax structure. And there’s no confidence that McCain would do everything in his power to keep that from happening.
WS’s candidate was clearly Giuliani and now Romney only out of necessity and with some uncertainty.

5. One thing behind the extreme animosity that’s characterized this campaign is that "Warrior" McCain or "Preacher" Huckabee wouldn’t do what it takes to keep (or get) the economy surging. The real fear is a Democratic Congress with either a Democratic president or a non-supply-sider Republican. Actually, of course, there’s no reason to believe that Huck wouldn’t have done everything he could to preserve the cuts. But I gotta say that the fear might be reasonable in terms of McCain’s past behavior with Democratic legislators.

6. It’s also true enough that voters--both Democrat and Republican--aren’t in the mood right now to conclude that what’s best for Wall Street is also what’s best for Main Street.

7. And I echo Rob Jeffrey’s reminder that Hillary would most likely be a better president than Obama, and we should actually take comfort in the fact that the smart and flexible and relatively nonideological Bill will be helping her every step of the way.