Thursday, January 31, 2008

the REAL take-away from last night's debate

First of all, please know that I didn't watch last night's debate.

I understand that there are quite a few people who think that Mitt Romney won on merit and stature.

But it doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter because most people didn't watch the actual debate.

Nor are most people relying on conservative pundits to grade the debate.

And most of all, it doesn't matter because there wasn't a blow-up by McCain. Did he act like a grumpy old man? Well, maybe. . .but who cares. Romney had his "best chance" to show McCain's vulnerabilities last night as a CANDIDATE--which is to say, let McCain's temper and disregard for the base get the best of him. But Romney didn't attack enough, and McCain didn't go anywhere near a danger zone.

See, as I wrote before, most people just aren't consumers of politics. They like their politics wrapped up in a two-paragraph story, or in a 60-second feature on a news program. And by the way, that news program probably isn't the Fox news network.

This morning, I happened to catch the Today show (normally we have cartoons on at that time of day). They talked about the debate, and political analyst Chris Matthews said unequivocally that John McCain won. "He used that timeline comment as a stick and he beat Romney about the head with it", or something like that.

Yes, I know: Chris Matthews. But here's the problem: most people DON'T think "Chris Matthews" and roll their eyes. Most people don't know that McCain is the MSM's choice for diabolical reasons--or at least "diabolical" to the interests of the GOP.

So about that timeline comment: Romney apparently didn't attack McCain's falsehoods about Romney's position vis-a-vis Iraq in early 2007. In fact, according to the reports I've read, the record would've never been set straight if Anderson Cooper hadn't chimed in. It's bad enough that McCain has gotten any distance out of these lies; it's even worse that Romney hasn't flat-out called him a liar. Why is Captain Morrissey doing oppo research on McCain's own comments regarding timelines, benchmarks, and what a failure to meet them could mean, when Romney could be USING those words to get McCain off-message in a pivotal debate?

I have a hard time being in love with a candidate who won't stand up for himself.

Whining about the "timing" of the message isn't a very "manly" way to deal with things, either. If you can find it in yourself to complain about timing, why not just "go big" and point out the ridiculous nature of the attack at all.

So while some people may see last night as a clear Romney victory, I'm afraid they are wrong.

Sure, he may have won on points. . .or merit. . .or temerity. . .or whatever.

But last night was one round. It's probably more accurate to say that last night was like the 9th round of a 12-round bout. And McCain is 7 rounds ahead.

In other words, Romney needs a knockout. And he had a good opportunity last night.

Opportunity lost.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

that noise you hear? That's a rotund female warming up. . .

All right, let's call a spade a spade.

McCain is more than a mere "frontrunner" now. Unless he steps in "it" in the next week, I think he has all but wrapped up the nomination.

Even if Romney had won in Florida, I believed the odds were stacked against him on SuperTuesday, and that he likely wouldn't be the delegate leader after that day.

Well, he didn't win FL. In fact, he lost by a surprisingly substantial margin.

And I did not foresee Rudy dropping out of the race already. I know that it hasn't happened yet, but now that those rumors are floating, he may has well pack in his tents, because his supporters have heard THAT message and are starting to look for another horse to back. At this stage, even if he WAS still in the race, he wouldn't garner 10% of the vote from here on out. He's done.

All of which makes McCain stronger.

Vocal Romney supporters today are talking about their candidate's great organization, and how that will help him on SuperTuesday.

Sorry, friends, but McCain's name recognition will bridge the "organization" gap. He and Giuliani were the only candidates who COULD run on public stature alone. . .and now Giuliani's done. McCain becomes the automatic lever-pull for voters who just don't put a lot of time into this political stuff--and I think that's a substantial amount of people.

So here's the question: how does Mitt respond to his campaign being on life support? It all starts tonight at the CNN-hosted debate in California (read: hostile environment).

I don't think Romney has any choice but to come out guns blazing. And even THAT may not be enough. Romney needs McCain to pull a Hillary--stumble so badly under examination that everything about the campaign is shaken to the foundation.

It's a tough spot indeed, mostly because it needs one of the most chameleon-like politicians of all time to put himself in a bad situation. McCain's waited for this moment for too long, and he's unlikely to play along.

I'd say the odds are stacked WAY against Romney.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home again

I'm done with my "forward reporting" from the state of Florida. Before I get too much credit for being "on the scene" during this pivotal time, please know that I didn't travel to FL to be "there" for the upcoming primary; I have family there, and it was just a good time to go visit. That it just happened to be the week before the big primary is strictly coincidence. I'm not THAT serious about this blogging stuff yet.

ALL RIGHT, my observations from the ground: I saw a few more Romney ads then I saw McCain ads; I barely saw a Giuliani ad at all. The Romney ads featured the candidate himself describing what he's done in the past; the McCain ads were split between a "he's been there" ad and a "whipping the crowd into a frenzy" ad; the Giuliani ads were not noteworthy at all.

Of the family I was visiting that divulged their intentions, I think there were three Romney votes and one McCain vote. I'd say the Romney voters were the most "in touch" with the race; the McCain voter literally said that his was the only recognized name on the ballot.

Now please keep in mind: they all voted on Friday, which is of course before Gov. Crist offered his endorsement of McCain.

Will that endorsement tilt a tight race in McCain's favor? I really don't know, but I will say this: the airwaves in Jacksonville are already lousy with Gov. Crist's face because of his support for amendment 1, a ballot initiative on the primary ticket. In fact, I saw more ads for amendment one than I did ads for all the GOP candidates COMBINED. Will the populace suffer Crist burnout? I don't know. . .but I do know it's much better to have his endorsement than to not have his endorsement.

I still feel, however, that this is Romney's primary to lose. It probably got tighter, so I no longer see a near double-digit victory for Romney, but I do think he'll win.

There is no more race for 2nd place, either. Rudy just never caught on in Florida (one of my family members asked "is he still in the race?); heck, he may finish behind Huckabee for 3rd.

Ultimately, I think that Rudy's stumbling in FL will mean ALMOST as much for McCain's camp as an outright victory on Tuesday--with Rudy out of the picture, it absolutely paves the way for huge success on Super Tuesday. Romney has already got to be thinking about where to go and how much time to spend at all those places next week; McCain doesn't have to do that because he's already so well recognized.

SO EVEN IF my prediction holds and Romney wins all the delegates in Florida on Tuesday, I still think he has an uphill climb.

Which, I would think, is something that he's not opposed to, given the history of success he touts so often. But can it be done in a week?

Ultimately, I think Romney's best strategy is to still be counted as "in the hunt" after SuperTuesday--not in the lead, but still within striking distance. When the clarity emerges on the 6th and there's really only 2 people standing (although Huckabee will be there, he just won't have a prayer to do anything 'cept play spoiler), then Romney can really focus on Virginia and MD for a week, and then Texas and Ohio for the rest of the month.

And no, I'm not totally counting out Giuliani--but unless someone gives him a shot of wakethehellup, I don't think he'll be left as viable after SuperTuesday.

3 months ago, who would've ever thought things would look so rosy for McCain? It's amazing what a little interference from the press will do for you.

Which, of course, gives me even more to worry about in the general election. The press won't be running interference for him anymore--they've got their own dog in the hunt.

As an aside: McCain's actions the last two days (the falsehoods uttered against Romney) have taken me from thinking he's the "most likely" to win a general election to thinking he's the "least likely". I used to think that his "independence" would serve well to get votes from the center of the political spectrum--a key block to control--while those of us further to the right dutifully checked his name to make sure a Republican (yes, even a McCain Republican) held on to the White House.

I don't think that anymore, though.

He'll either blow up against the attacks from the Clinton machine, or he'll be outstyled by Obama. Either way, I now agree with Hugh Hewitt and countless others who see McCain's nomination as nothing short of a final sunset before at least 4 years of darkness.

Two days to go.

Friday, January 25, 2008

too far, even for me

Yesterday, I happened to catch a few minutes of the Rush Limbaugh show. To give you some background: I never listen to Rush. It's not that I don't like him as much as I think I've got better things to do. I get the "gist" of his sentiments from other sources, and that's more than enough for me.

But there I was yesterday, listening for probably 10 minutes, and he said something that I found deeply disturbing.

Keeping in mind that this isn't verbatim, here's the "gist": woman caller takes him to task for saying that IF the Republican nominee doesn't pass his muster, then he'd probably sit on the sidelines this fall. Her question was : isn't even a non-conservative GOP candidate better than either Obama or Clinton in the White House? To which he answered something to the effect of: if I think the President is going to steer the country straight into a trainwreck, then I'd rather it happen on a Democrat's watch rather than a Republican's.

That is too far, as far as I'm concerned.

A "trainwreck" is bad for everybody--liberals, moderates AND conservatives.

And if the best we can do is hope that the trainwreck is stalled or lessened or whatever, then that's what we must do.

And there's no way that you can look at the field of 4 serious contenders for the GOP nominee and believe they will be as complicit in working with a Democrat-controlled Congress to lead the country into a "trainwreck" as will either Clinton or Obama--however you describe that trainwreck to be.

Is McCain a little too "maverick" for the base? Yes. . .but at least he won't back down from the terrorists. Is Huckabee a little too "thin" (legislatively) to fight for American foreign policy? Perhaps (it's yet to be totally known)--but at least he likely won't disappoint most social conservatives. I don't even need to address the question towards Romney and Giuliani, 'cuz the base is largely comfortable with either of those guys.

And let's keep something in mind: at least as important as the executive him- (or her-) self is the people who will be involved in the important decisions. What are the chances that at least one of those advisors for the GOP nominee will have some common sense? What are the chances of that same occurence on the Dem side?

So EVEN IF the nominee for the GOP side is someone who I don't particularly desire to be my President, I will still vote for him because I KNOW that I ABSOLUTELY don't want either Clinton or Obama in that office starting in January 2009.

I know it's not very sexy to be voting for the "lesser of two evils". . .but that doesn't make it any less important. And let's be perfectly clear here: all of the GOP candidates have a long way to go before they qualify as a political "evil" as compared to the socialist-inspired and integrity-challenged Clintons and the vacuous Obama.

Regardless of the "discomfort" one might have with the GOP nominee, ANYTHING is better than turning this country over to that other party--regardless of who their nominee is, too.

It's easy to be emotional right now, when the focus is on the conservative shortcomings of the GOP field. My hope is that as the general election approaches, and the GOP starts to really focus on the Dem candidate rather than their own, then the decision will be made much clearer.

We MUST not let either Clinton or Obama lead this country into the next decade.

And although it may not make for the best slogans or bumper stickers, it sure as heckfire is a sentiment that conservatives NEED to rally around.

maybe it wasn't as much of a draw as I thought

I was just watching FoxNews, when Carl Cameron (the Campaign guy) showed a quick tape of a McCain news conference today where apparently the Senator took dead aim at Mitt Romney, attacking, of all things, his lack of leadership.

Now a lot of this is extrapolated, because the news clip they showed didn't really "blast" anything. But Cameron made it sound like McCain went on a 5-minute gloves-off tirade at the expense of Romney, the end of which was when McCain claimed that he alone among the candidates has shown leadership.

If I'm Romney, I'm loving this. You can attack a lot of things about his record, but Mitt could very easily tout his EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE in one of the most populated states in the union in very modern history; McCain has led how many people in the last 20 years? Or even better, how many people of different backgrounds? How many budgets has McCain balanced? How many cuts has McCain had to wrestle with? Heck, how many foreign leaders has McCain had to find common ground with--something we can assume Romney had to do as the savior of the Utah Olympics.

In fact, I think this whole thing smacks of desperation from McCain. Of all the remaining major candidates, he's the ONLY ONE who hasn't actually been the executive officer of a million-person "organization". Why would he choose "leadership" as his line of attack here? I think psychologists among us would call this "transference", but I'm not so edumacated in such things.

Now to be sure, McCain has demonstrated leadership in his past, and under conditions that I wouldn't wish upon my biggest nemeses. However, I'm here to tell you that military leadership--at the level McCain demonstrated--and legislative leadership--the kinds of things required of Governors, Mayors, and yes, the President--are wholly dissimilar.

And the funny thing is that McCain was trying to show a difference between good "managerial" skills--which he fully recognizes Romney to possess--and good "leadership" skills. As if the two things are mutually exclusive. Which, to be sure, in some people is entirely true.

But it isn't true of everyone. Romney strikes me as the kind of guy who isn't limited to only doing one thing or the other well.

I guess that's the difference between leadership circa 1970 and leadership circa 1990.

And thank you, Senator McCain, for pointing out the one true glaring omission from your resume: lack of legislative executive experience. I imagine at least one of the candidates is going to have a little fun with this.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

quick thoughts on tonight's debate

Okay, we'll call the easy one first: the loser tonight was Tim Russert. Could he have taken any more cues from the left's talking points?

I enjoyed listening to Huckabee and Romney; Giuliani slightly less so; McCain wasn't horrible, but showed his lack of graciousness on more than one occasion; Paul was simply intolerable.

MORE DEPTH: Romney is very good in these debates because he is bright. I think he doesn't have a great sense of humor, as his struggles to parlay a question about Billary into a tidy soundbite showed, but he speaks well and he has something behind his words worth talking about.

Giuliani is a bright man also, but I don't think he's quite the communicator I'd like him to be. His relation of the story of Bill Smith being skewered in the New York Times was. . .uh. . .well, let's just say if you weren't there you didn't miss much.

In fact, all these guys could learn the value of a simple answer. Rudy, when asked about the meanness of the Times' endorsement statement, could've created something quick and light. McCain never met a word he didn't like, either.

Huckabee was a pleasant surprise for me, although I don't know why. I don't think there's much there beneath a rather polished exterior, but he is a compelling speaker. I watched a local newscast immediately after the debate, and the resident poli-sci professor called Huckabee the winner. It's hard for me to argue with him.

McCain. . .well, I don't know. He did seem defensive. I coulda swore he said he supported both Bush tax cuts, and then talked about how he didn't vote for the cuts because of other reasons. Maybe I heard wrong. His reliance on endorsements--he must have rattled off his list of endorsers 3 times--means he thinks those people's judgement should mean more to me than my judgement of him. I'd prefer to actually hear him talk about his policies rather than talk about other people who think he's great. It's shallow, to me--and I didn't hear a single other person tout their endorsements, and they all have something to talk about in that regard. Again, I could be wrong, and maybe some other candidate also mindlessly rattled off their endorsements--but I don't think so.

One part of the debate that I actually liked that I didn't think I would was the "candidate on candidate" portion. Romney asked a good (though long-winded) question to Giuliani that showed they both had good command of the international economy. Giuliani returned the favor with a question about the national disaster fund, which Romney answered well. McCain lobbed a question about the fair tax to Huckabee--please! I can't remember what Huck asked and of whom, and every time Ron Paul was talking I tuned out so I can't provide info there, but all in all I thought it was an interesting portion of the night.

SO: If Giuliani HAD to win the debate tonight--as has been written in some circles--I don't think he did. I don't think McCain helped himself at all; I'm not sure Romney did either--not through any fault of his own, mind you, but he was given some crap questions (read: Tim Russert) that his entirely legitimate answers to might seem "slick" to a casual observer. Huckabee may have calmed some fears of the electorate, but I don't think he'll win many converts--although he might be wishing he hadn't pulled back his effort in Florida.

That's one man's opinion.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I really almost don't know what to say about this--UPDATED

Hmmm, I think somebody knows he's being watched extra-closely in a pivotal state.

At a campaign appearance in Florida today, Sen. John McCain said something to the effect that he knows how to get Osama bin Laden, and he will do it if he's elected President. If I can find the video (it just appeared on the WTLV-Jacksonville newscast, about 10 minutes into the 11PM program), I'll link to it here. (UPDATE: no link necessary. Just google "McCain will get bin Laden", and you'll be able to find at least the audio of the appearance that I saw on the news.)

SOOOOOO many things to say here.

Like: so if you're NOT elected, Senator, I guess you won't help us bring bin Laden to justice?

Like: so why haven't you used your estimable position--and ride the tide of success you're feeling from the surge--to help us to have ALREADY BROUGHT bin Laden to justice?

Like: is there really no cost that you're unwilling to pay in order to make your "vision" come true? Is capturing him more of a "tactical" necessity or is it a "strategic" necessity. Heck, is it either?

And many many others.

This is SOOOO not part of the "straight-talk express". This is pandering, plain and simple.

OR maybe it's true, and maybe he really does know how to get bin Laden.

In which case, the fact that he hasn't done something about it already is pretty inexcusable. And the fact that he's essentially extorting us, the electorate, in order to get his hands on the White House is. . .well. . .well, it's a lot of things, but none of them are very honorable. In fact, they're disgusting.

So what is it, Senator? Empty promises from another Washington-based blowhard? Or is it that you haven't YET felt it necessary to exert every personal effort to help bring an extra degree of healing to this country?

Which is it?

And why, praytell, should I vote for someone who would play that way?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday thoughts

You know, because there's always such clear thinking on a Monday, right?

Starting off: Do I understand that the Pats are listed as an almost two touchdown favorite for the Super Bowl??? If I were a betting man, I'd be all over this one: Giants, plus the points. While I do believe that the Pats will win (I'm not happy about it, but there it is), I don't think it's going to be a two-touchdown blowout. Lest we forget, it was just a couple weeks ago when the Giants gave the Pats a heckuva run for the record in a game where the Giants didn't really have a lot at stake. I'm looking forward to a good game in two weeks, and that's all that I can ask for from a Super Bowl that is, sadly, Orange-and-Blue free.

Next up: more thoughts on Florida. Gotta love more thoughts on Florida, right? Anyhow, here goes: Rudy cannot lose Florida to McCain and have any hopes of getting the nomination, and I think that is the driving force behind Giuliani's message that I'll be seeing here for the rest of the week (did I tell you I'm on-scene in the Sunshine State for the week?) With both Giuliani and Romney giving him the business for the next week, if McCain can pull off a win here he is clearly in the driver's seat, to say the least. A Romney victory here, in and of itself, doesn't spell the end for either McCain or Giuliani--especially if Giuliani still outpolls McCain for second--but it does provide Romney a little breathing room. A Giuliani win . . .well, it depends on how well that translates downstream to some of the biggies on SuperTuesday. Intuitively, you would think it would re-establish him as the favorite in New York, California and New Jersey--but there's nothing intuitive about the race so far.

EARLY WEEK PREDICTION: In the end, I think talking about a Giuliani victory here and "what it means" is probably valuable as a mental exercise only. I think Romney wins here, and it may well be by close to double-digits. The race for second, which will have an impact on how those big states fall on SuperTuesday, I'm not willing to call just yet. But with the victory in Florida, Mitt goes a great distance to erasing the "nightmares" in Iowa and New Hampshire. How success here will translate to SuperTuesday for Romney is anybody's guess, but I know that he will be the unquestioned front-runner then.

That is all for now. Standby for the "dancing" I'll undoubtedly do later this week as I see more local coverage at play.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Have fun with this

All right, NOW it's time for a little predicting.

I know, you've all been waiting eagerly for it. Thank you for your patience. But I think after last night, there are some things that are gaining more clarity, and I'm gonna run with it. So here goes:

Pats and Packers in the Super Bowl.

Thank you, and have a nice day.

What, did you think I was going to blog about the election stuff?

Well, as I said, after last night, there are some things that are gaining more clarity. One of those "things", however, is not the GOP race for the nomination.

McCain clearly isn't going to go away. Neither is Huckabee, which (as has been pointed out in a lot of places) is probably helpful to McCain since Huck will siphon off social conservative votes from other candidates.

I wrote not long ago that it's hard to make head's or tail's of this election until we figure out what kind of a campaigner Giuliani ends up being when the lights are finally focused on him. Well, now we get to find it out. His strategy has been vindicated to some degree (he was probably hoping for a Huck victory in SC last night, but it's hard to know for sure)--now we get to see if he can still be persuasive when the fight is afoot.

HERE'S what I think happens in the next 9 days: McCain's record gets pummeled in Florida. Not just by Romney, who has shown some willingness to point out the Senator's record in the past, but also by Ru-dee, who sees McCain as the chief threat to his long-scripted plan. Looks bad for McCain, right?

Wrong. He will get some help, too, in the form of Fred Thompson's departure from the race--but not before he says some very kind things about McCain. I wouldn't think an all-out endorsement is in the offing, but rather a calming soliloquy about how John McCain does possess the kind of traits that Thompson finds appealing in a Commander in Chief, that kind of thing.

With Fred's approximately 10% of support back "in play", an already tight race becomes very very interesting.

One thing that the last week has shown is that Romney, on a playing field that doesn't already favor another candidate (like the populist bent in Iowa and the fierce independence of New Hampshire), can really multiply his support. He's going to be "in" Florida (maybe not "all in", but definitely at the table), and he won't be the only one taking shots at McCain--who is probably HIS biggest competition, too. Romney's RCP trends are in the right direction, and I think that his actual campaigning in the state will produce some results for him.

Huck will finish a not-distant 4th in Florida, but his presence in the race is critical to how the whole thing plays out. He is to the GOP nomination what H. Ross Perot was to the Presidency back in 1992--not really viable, but definitely a factor.

So it all comes down to this: will Rudy deliver under the gun? It is no small stretch to say that Florida is his make or break moment, and he should campaign as such for the next 9 days.

Romney needs Florida less than Rudy, but he's in a good position to provide his campaign a HUGE boost--so he won't back down.

So THAT'S the next 9 days; what happens on the 10th day (the day of the actual primary) I'm not willing to say. . .yet.

3 candidates working hard for about 75% of the race (I figure Ron Paul and Huckabee will draw a combined 22-25% of the votes), with the whole enchilada on the line. THIS is where we're going to see just what kind of candidate these guys are.

Fun fun fun.

And, about the Super Bowl thing: I really don't want the Pats to win the whole thing--I don't want Randy Moss to be part of a team that goes 19-0--but I don't want the Chargers to be the ones who knock them off. On the NFC side, I wouldn't mind at all to see my prediction wrong--I love the Pack, but I pull for both Eli and Tom Coughlin. I do think the Pack will win, though, setting up what promises to be a pretty darn interesting football game in two weeks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

what it all means, v3.0

What a night in Michigan, eh?

Here's what I have to say: THANK YOU! Romney's unexpected win--not so much the win itself, but the margin--sends the two least-supportable (in my world) GOP candidates down the ladder a rung, and will hopefully provide a little more long-lasting bounce to a campaign that is truly worth watching.

Big winners: Romney (duh) and Giuliani, who is "this" close to having had the dream scenario turn into reality for him in these pre-Super Tuesday states. Ru-dee still needs to get in gear and start turning some FL polls in his favor (and I'm telling you, a stop to NV wouldn't hurt!), but at least there's still a table for him to get a place at, if you know what I'm saying.

More about Romney: there was such strategic brilliance in what he did in Michigan. I wrote last week that Romney didn't HAVE to win MI--and then the candidate pulled advertising in SC in favor of the Wolverine state. When he did that, MI became vital to his campaign going forward, and he took control of the state. Seriously, who thought after New Hampshire that Romney would take Michigan by 9? That move--but more especially the result--shows Romney's strength as a candidate: big thinking, and the willingness to do something outsiders consider brash. There may never be a bigger display of Romney's non-Washingtonness than what he did in Michigan.

Not happy: McCain. While this is definitely not a death knell, this does hurt. He apparently is polling better with conservatives this year than he had in 2000--I don't know how, but there are some numbers out there to back this up--so he isn't dead-in-the-water after last night. But I think that Michigan exposed McCain's weakness on the economy, and that's not something that will play well in South Carolina. Does anything become "must win" for him now? Not in the immediate horizon. Ultimately, last night represents a failure to push farther ahead, but he is still in the race.

hurting: Huckabee. After last night, he must be smarting. He cannot finish behind Fred in South Carolina--period.

loser: strangely enough, this title goes to someone who wasn't even on the ballot. What were Obama's people were thinking about when they decided to skip out on this contest? What a stupid blunder. Take this message home, young people and others who form the "core" of Obama's support: he is more beholden to party machinations than he is driven to actually fight for you. His "message" (as much as it is a message) of hope ABSOLUTELY should have been played in front of the recession-suffering people of Michigan, but the "savior" was nowhere to be found. Why? Hey, I know all the "reasons"--but they're crap. Bottom line: a man who is supposed to signify a "different" kind of politics should be taking that message to every corner, nook and cranny that can be found. FINALLY we see substance from the Obama campaign; unfortunately, it shows the candidate to lack any type of strategic thinking ability. Instead of potentially celebrating a victory today (let's face it, Clinton didn't wow the electorate there), I think Obama may have just unwittingly delivered a death blow to his campaign.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There are those who have made a big deal about John Kerry's endorsement of Barack Obama in the race for the Democrat's Presidential nomination. Heck, it was a feature article in Shep Smith's news show this afternoon on FoxNews.

I don't know why.

Kerry's endorsement will not hurt Obama's message of "change".

Nor will Kerry's endorsement make charges of Obama's inexperience disappear.

In fact, Kerry's endorsement will not have a single iota of impact on this race.

You see, Kerry is irrelevant. He fell into irrelevance long about November 15th, 2004. It's taken some people longer than others to realize this--none longer than Kerry himself--but by now I think everybody realizes it.

Now, if --in the very very near future while the outcome is still in doubt--Kerry were to join a gathering of the 48 other non-candidate Democratic Senators in saying that they endorse one of their colleagues over the other, that would be newsworthy.

And likely a death blow to the candidate who got the endorsement. But that's another story.

But Kerry alone? Yawn.

Why did he do this?

The list of possibilities are too many to list--but they all have one thing in common: he did this for John Kerry, not for Barack Obama.

Revenge against the Clintons? Serves Kerry. Attaching himself to the rising star of the party? Serves Kerry. Giving himself even one more headline in a cycle that has--fortunately--not contained anything about Kerry? Serves Kerry.

This isn't "elder statesmen of the party" stuff. This is "aged high school athlete refusing to realize the world doesn't revolve around 1977 prep gridiron exploits" stuff.

In other words: there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wither the GOP race today?

First of all, a clarification: I'm not handing over the Democratic nomination to Clinton just yet. While I think she has the best chance of being the winner, I think this game will be afoot through SuperTuesday on the liberal side of the aisle. I'm just glad that the "phenom" hasn't been coronated already--he may eventually win, mind you, but he still has to navigate the Hope, AR roadblock. Hopefully he takes on some tarnish--at least.

Now to the GOP side: again, it's anybody's guess right now.

Some people are saying that Romney "must" win in Michigan. I do not echo this sentiment. While he must eventually win somewhere "bigger" than Wyoming, his line in the sand is not Michigan. I think a showing there that keeps him at or near the top of the delegate tally is enough.

In fact, I would put only three "musts" in the GOP race right now. First of all, Giuliani MUST perform well in FL. If he splits the vote there with 2 other candidates, he is going to be in trouble. Which isn't to say he must win, mind you--he could come in a close 2nd to somebody provided they separated themselves from the rest of the field (I don't think that's gonna happen, but who knows?). But if Ru-dee's foray into the arena ends up creating more murkiness than definition, he will be in trouble on Super Tuesday.

Secondly, Fred MUST start picking up some good performances and soon. He needs no worse than a strong second in South Carolina, and then he needs a good showing in Florida or else he will be done. I'm not holding my breath, though--I think he may have seen his high-water mark a couple months ago. Unfortunate.

Lastly, McCain and Huckabee cannot allow the other person to "gain separation" from them in the next couple weeks. I wrote last night that McCain could be considered the frontrunner right now; well, the same could be said for Huckabee, who's victory over Romney in Iowa was both more convincing and more debilitating to Romney. And in the persons of McCain and Huckabee, you have the people fighting for all the non-conservative votes--you know, Rudy's territory--on the GOP side for the next three weeks. If one of them gains separation from the other, look for it to be a 3-person race in Florida and beyond (with Romney and Rudy, assuming Rudy does well in Florida); if, however, they stay tight. . .well, they'll actually probably increasing the chances that both of them will lose out.

HERE'S my newest prediction: there is very little separation between McCain and Huckabee before FL. McCain barely wins Michigan, but it's really a 3-way toss-up (Romney still leads in delegates after MI); Romney wins Nevada barely over Rudy (nothing that Romney will write about in his memoirs, to be sure); Huckabee wins by double-digits in South Carolina, and Thompson drops out while giving Romney his personal endorsement.

Enter Florida. And end my predictions. Like I said yesterday, there's too much about FL--or specifically about Giuliani--that we just don't know right now.

If I was giving any campaign some advice: Rudy needs to hit Nevada hard. Against all odds, this one is still his for the taking. If he can win there, he becomes the leader for the nomination. I think an honest effort by his campaign there will give us a good preview of what he has in store for FL and the SuperTuesday crowd.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

another weekly post: what it all means

All right, for starters I'll point you to my post following Iowa's caucus last week. I do that out of shame, because it took me exactly 3 days to reverse myself. I'm going to be doing more reversing here, too. Again, soothsaying isn't my game.

Last week, I wrote that if Romney didn't win New Hampshire--as I and so many others rightfully predicted that he wouldn't--I thought you could put a fork in him. I retract that statement completely now (my last post was the beginning of the back-pedaling; this is full retreat).

To me, the truth is this: the GOP ticket is a total guess right now.

There's an 800-pound gorilla in the field (Giuliani), but nobody knows if he's going to be dominating or easily neutralized. Until we get a better picture of that, this thing is a toss-up. And we won't have a good picture of that until Super Tuesday, although we'll start getting some indications as the date gets closer. He needs to run a flawless January, and it needs to start tomorrow morning.

Tonight's victory for McCain is great for him. I don't care if he did it on the backs of independents-- something that the eventual nominee will have to do is score well with that block of voters if we want the White House in the proper hands. I'd dare even call him a front-runner again, just because he has a better chance than Huckabee of winning Michigan.

Tonight's performance by Romney is satisfactory. Considering he closed some pretty good gaps in the last few days in country that was friendly to McCain. . .I think there are some positives here. And I don't think his chances in MI will suffer because of tonight. If he can just keep putting up some solid numbers, winning hither and thither, he will be a force that we're still talking about at this time next month.

Overall, I think tonight is a HUGE victory for the GOP. Not for Senator Clinton, who no doubt is feeling like a survivor right now after her campaign's win, but rather because of her. Let me 'splain:

You see, I greatly "feared" the phenomenon of Obama. My biggest concern was that if he coasted to a big victory tonight, the game would just about be over on the other side of the aisle. That didn't happen.

Why fear Obama? you ask. I'll tell you why: he's somehow got an entire party--and a good number of independents--thinking that the office of President is about nothing other than personality. He's got nothing concrete to offer: no policy, no experience, not even a record of the kind of non-partisanship that he is trying to champion into the White House. He has somehow taken the party of "feelings" and made it even more ethereal. That's no small accomplishment. He's really mobilized the young voters, probably because that block of voters--of unknown strength, I might add--are so impervious to charges about his "inexperience". And therein lies the rub.

IF he had coasted to the nomination--and a big victory tonight certainly would have helped that along--then he could continue to play the game "above the fray" until it was time for the general election, at which point the GOP candidate would have HAD to attack Obama's razor-thin record to stand any chance of derailing the phenom. Well, that tactic hasn't played out too well in the hands of some very skilled knife fighters in the Clinton campaign so far, and I really doubt that the GOP guys would have had much more success.

But now, all of a sudden, tomorrow it won't seem so cliche to support the "upstart" Obama against the mercenary Clintons. And you know. . .you just know. . .that the Clinton machine right now is talking about how they will again attack Obama's thin record--in a couple weeks (probably right before Super Tuesday in some limited but highly-valuable states). And WHEN they do decide to do it again, they'll probably get a little more footing on it, just because they won't look "desperate".

And that's the point. The GOP needs to have Hillary make Obama come down from the ether because none of our candidates will be able to do it. Make him take actual positions so that even the young people realize that "the phenom" is just another politician. Make this a vote about issues rather than about . . .anything else.

Maybe the Clintons will succeed in this job, maybe they won't. But one thing is for sure: if Obama had won tonight, he wouldn't have felt "compelled" to do anything differently with his campaign. And I think his aura--and a compliant media--would've carried him into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So yes, Clinton should feel good about her campaign tonight.

But so should the GOP. Hers was the victory that we really needed.

On to Michigan.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

a little dose of reality

Okay, I don't want to downplay the events in Iowa earlier this week. But before I sour too much, I think it is instructive to take a look at the delegates at the Republican National convention as they stand right now:

Romney: 8
Thompson: 3
McCain, Giuliani, and yes, Mike Huckabee: 0.

Since the results of the Iowa Caucuses are non-binding--or, more correctly, the delegates themselves to the National Convention have not been appointed, much less told in what manner they are expected to vote--the "tally" from Thursday night is yet to be known.

And by the time the delegate total from Iowa is "known". . .well, we'll already have a pretty good idea of who the nominee will be.

Yes, Iowa is important--especially if you actively campaigned there.

But actually winning delegates is important, too. And especially for folks like Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, who need to prove the viability of their campaign, winning delegates before Super Tuesday is very important.

All eyes shift to Tuesday in NH and the following Tuesday in MI. If Romney wins one of 'em--especially MI--then he's still doing okay. Fred's big day is in South Carolina on the 19th.

There's still a long way to go.

Friday, January 04, 2008

what I think it all means

Quite a night in Iowa, eh?

First and foremost, we now know one thing: I have absolutely no future in soothsaying.

But, really, how does tonight effect the rest of the race--or at least my predictions for the rest of the race, as written about here in my last post.

Significantly, I tell you. Significantly.

Here's why: Unlike a few days ago, tonight I doubt Romney will win New Hampshire. I based my predictions in NH on two things: that Romney's numbers there had hit the skids because of the problems he was having in Iowa; and that he was going to actually win Iowa.

You see, back when he was the leader in Iowa, he was comfortably on top in NH. Call it momentum, call it electability, call it whatever you want, but the truth is that about two months ago he looked like a lock in both of these early contests.

Now I don't know which one turned south for him first, but in my little brain the two states are related for him and him alone--the one major candidate in the GOP that has tried to play in both states.

I felt that when Romney pulled off the comeback in Iowa, that whatever "feeling" it was that surrounded his candidacy in New Hampshire would return--and that said "feeling" would lead him back to victory over McCain. Just like it had in Iowa with a different main competitor.

Well, now we know how that comeback fared in Iowa. Almost a 10-point loss. Ouch.

So now I think McCain wins New Hampshire. I'll guess that it will be a little closer of a vote than Iowa turned out to be, but that matters little. A second place finish in NH pretty much means that Romney won't win the nomination.

What to make of Fred now? It looks like he'll get the third place finish in Iowa that most pundits said he needed to keep going.

So he'll be alive tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don't know what happens after that. I figured that in the wake of a loss in Iowa, Huck would be vulnerable in South Carolina, which Fred really needs to win. Now that Huckabee at least held serve in Iowa--maybe even did better than that--I don't know how vulnerable he is in South Carolina. Most importantly, I'm not sure Fred has the war chest to expose Huck as the non-conservative that he is--which IS his biggest vulnerability in the South. Romney has the war chest to do that. . .but may decide to pass up on playing such a game in South Carolina in favor of another place where he is more competitive. Now I don't rule out that Huckabee does something to hurt his own campaign in the next two weeks--but I think the lights will be a little less blaring between now and then, and that provides much-needed cover to this particular candidate. If Huck is able to keep his lead--or just remain viable enough to keep Fred from winning--in South Carolina, I fear Fred may be toast.

Here's to hoping that some conservative money works its way into South Carolina so that Huckabee's record of governorship is well-known by the time they have their vote in 16 days!