January 19, 2008


GOP Race Is Close in S.C.: Huckabee and McCain Lead; Winner Will Receive Critical Boost (Dan Balz and Juliet Eilperin, 1/19/08, Washington Post)

Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dueled on the final day of campaigning before Saturday's South Carolina presidential primary, with each of the front-runners seeking to avoid a costly defeat that could set back his hopes of winning the Republican nomination.

The last round of polls showed McCain (Ariz.), with support from South Carolina's large veteran population, holding a narrow lead in the state that handed him the most painful defeat of his 2000 campaign. Huckabee is counting on strong turnout from a large bloc of Christian conservatives to help him overtake the senator in the first Southern primary of the year.

The three races to watch are McCain/Huckabee--where you'd think the most reliable voting block is with the latter--Thompson/Romney--who are both done if they finish 3/4--and Giuliani/Stassen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2008 7:43 AM

"Thompson/Romney--who are both done if they finish 3/4"
Let's see, Romney currently leads the delegate count and stands to pick up more delegates in Nevada than McKeating will in South Carolina. Want to bet a couple of books as to whether Romney is still in the race on Monday?

Posted by: JimBobElrod at January 19, 2008 8:38 AM

If Romney is a loser in SC (whatever loser in this context means, and, yes, there is no such thing as a "strong fourth"), it means he is not playing in the South at all, either in the primaries or the general election. What next, he will cede the entire South, and keep winning the uncontested primaries in Guam and American Samoa?

Posted by: sam at January 19, 2008 8:53 AM

Just because SC was crucial in the Republican race in 2000 doesn't make it so this year. It's not. Nobody comes out of this weekend with clear frontrunner momentum - unless McCain and Huckabee pull away with and defy the polls with a big, big win. Not going to happen. Bottom line: Romney expands his delegate lead this weekend but nobody gets a big boost.

As to the general, I can assure you Romney will play much better in most of the South than McCain/Huckabee.

Posted by: Fugate at January 19, 2008 9:24 AM

I'm sorry to say it, but this whole, "it's the delegate race that really counts" argument is wrong. What counts is being seen to be the inevitable nominee. Right now, McCain is closer than Romney.

My problem is that I might not be able to vote for Huckabee in the general. He'll probably be okay on Judges, which is a big issue for me. But combined with a Democratic congress he'll be awful on the war, awful on regulation and awful on the economy. In OJ's terms, he's a second way guy who'll be working with a second way congress.

I'd be sorely tempted to vote for Obama.

Posted by: Ibid at January 19, 2008 9:46 AM

Romney will suppress the Rep vote in the South and in the Midwest considerably, and make some of the states (such as Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee highly competitive, if not lost). That does not even account for the almost certain losses of VA, IA, OH and CO regardless of who the nominee is.

Plus, Romney does not even make any of the blue states competitive enough for the Dem candidate to campaign in those states. Heck, can Romney come within single digits of the Dem nominee in his home state?

Posted by: sam at January 19, 2008 10:18 AM

Rudy is still leading in the FL polls (by not nearly as much, but he is ahead).

A win in FL (which is winner-take-all), and the whole race is upended. CA and NY vote a week later, and who knows what one week of media attention can do?

Most Republicans prefer Rudy's attitude towards the media and the Dems than McCain's.

Looking down the road, exactly how will a President McCain govern? Will he propose all his legislative efforts through Joe Lieberman? Robert Byrd? Susan Collins? Blanche Lincoln? His good friend John Kerry?

If McCain wanted to rise above the primary struggles, all he need do is run an ad highlighting his support of the war, and then quoting all the leading Dems who smeared Petraeus (especially Hillary). But he reflexively chooses to attack Republicans instead of criticizing Democrats. Bad move.

Posted by: ratbert at January 19, 2008 10:22 AM

No the delegate count doesn't necessarily mean much at this point, but McCain's position as the presumptive favorite is very shaky. He would have a hard time recovering from a 2nd place in SC. If Huck wins there today, I don't see how Romney can be stopped. Republicans, not independents, not democrats, not the media will be picking the Republican nominee going forward. That does not spell "McCAIN".

FWIW, I believe McCain has the best chance in the general election, because, no matter what they say now, Republicans will hold their noses and pull the lever for him. But I'm afraid that's will be a moot point.

Posted by: Fugate at January 19, 2008 10:26 AM

He's not the favorite, just the next in line. He only needs a strong second given Huckabees advantage with Evangelicals and then he's poised for a big Super Tuesday, because he's the most popular candidate among Republicans.

Romney can't explain away a 3rd, nevermind a 4th place finish.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 11:13 AM

Yes, he'd govern through the guys who can pass legislation, as Reagan governed through Tip O'Neill and W through Ted Kennedy.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 11:14 AM

As a Mormon, he has to win NV. They even elect Harry Reid.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 11:16 AM

That does not even account for the almost certain losses of VA, IA, OH and CO regardless of who the nominee is.

Calling Virginia a "certain loss" is a bit of a stretch. Virginia state politics are a bit different than national politics. I agree that it will be in play, but merely electing Democratic governors and senators is no evidence of a "certain loss" in the general, as its neighbor NC can show.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 19, 2008 11:36 AM

Uh, OJ - most of those suggested have passed nothing. Lieberman is a eunuch and Byrd is almost dead. You think Harry Reid is a better choice? He hasn't passed anything, either.

Reagan governed through the Blue Dogs and the Senate (and his own relationship with the nation), not Tip O'Neill. Phil Gramm and Kemp got the ball rolling on tax cuts, the military build-up came through several Senators (D & R). The Blue Dogs went along. When Tip pushed things, it was stuff like the Bricker Amendment and the 1982 tax increases (and then he promptly failed to cut spending, as he promised). Your memory is faulty.

NCLB is your one shining example of Teddy and W. together. Not much since, eh? Do you think Teddy will help out on making the Bush tax cuts permanent?

Obviously, a President has to have votes on both sides to get some stuff through. But on the most important votes, you'd better have some good point men from your own party, and solid party discipline to win. Otherwise, no war resolution would ever pass, and no judge would be confirmed. The Medicare drug plan was pretty much a party line vote, wasn't it? Which Democrat helped on that one? As I recall, Max Baucus was the only Dem to vote in favor (and perhaps Ben Nelson).

If McCain is elected, absent some long coattails, he will face a generally dispirited (and hostile) GOP caucus, and Democrats who will tell America that he is senile (and more dangerous than Bush). Can McCain handle the political heat better than George Bush has?

If McCain were the most popular Republican, he would have won all the primaries. The reason the GOP is going through this winnowing process is precisely because he is not.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 19, 2008 11:52 AM

The Republican party currently is in shambles in VA, and the national election is not going to revive it.

Also, I did not even mention a state such as New Mexico, which was a fluke for Bush in 2004. In a political landscape that 2008 is shaping to be, candidates such as Giuliani and Romney cannot even make the Dem nominee, whoever that is, campaign in their home states, let alone be competitive.

Posted by: sam at January 19, 2008 12:17 PM

You just keep adding guys who are happy to help McCain pass legislation, which is why he does so effectively.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 2:26 PM

W was popular with Latinos, so's McCain. He'll carry NM especially against Obama.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 2:27 PM

Democratic Senators will be happy to help McCain pass Democratic legislation, anytime.

But if that is what McCain wants to do, he should switch parties.

12% in NV? Is that all McCain could do in a state bordering AZ? If Romney had done that in NH, he would be in the political obits.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 19, 2008 6:29 PM

Yes, President McCain will have a big first 100 days legislatively.

Posted by: oj at January 19, 2008 8:35 PM