January 29, 2008

Thus Spake Florida
"The party's over, turn off the lights." - Don Meredith
"It isn't pretty [for Romney], but it is far, far from over. And if the Huckabee voters look at the reality and see they are voting for McCain when they vote for Huck, anything can happen."
- Romney supporter Hugh Hewitt, who is likely in denial

Wow. The presidential candidate field has narrowed remarkably even if some of the walking dead don't quite realize they're dead yet.

We'll start with the least dead: Obama. Even though none of the Dems campaigned there and Hillary received no delegates it was a very dominating show of strength. It's still her nomination to lose. Look at the wind she has at her back! Inertia heavily favors Hillary; it's only with great effort that Obama draws even and he doesn't have much time to exert great effort. I certainly don't think Teddy Kennedy's endorsement is going to swing many Hispanic votes, which is her edge.

Then we come to the dead, and so let's say a kind word for him. It's sad to see Mitt Romney go. I'm appreciating him a lot more now that he's gone. Even should Romney rise from the dead, it's hard to get too excited about a pyrrhic victory. But he has many admirable qualities and fought a helluva campaign; he's tenacious as a bulldog and can take a punch. But if Giuliani is leaving the race before Super Tuesday as everyone is saying (in order not to get embarrassed in his home state), then where are Rudy's votes going to go? Directly to McCain, do not pass go, do not collect $200!

Meanwhile Huckabee is addicted to presidential politics and has not the least thought of leaving the race, so he'll take votes from Romney, splitting the social conservative vote. Am I missing something? Because everyone else seems to think Romney still has a chance. I just don't see it. I hope I'm wrong, because I'd like to see him matched up against Hillary. (If Obama wins the Dem nomination I'd probably rather see McCain because I think Obama could do some real damage. I think McCain is far more electable than Romney (hell, Romney can't even win the REPUBLICAN primaries cleanly, how will he ever win in the general?) but I think - though I'm not sure about this - I may rather lose with Romney to Hillary than win with McCain since Romney is more conservative. At least then the fiscal and social conservatives in the Republican party still have to be respected, if Romney is nominated. Otherwise we'll be treated like blacks are in the Dem party. How much damage can Hillary do given that she's so polarizing and no Republican congressman or Senator will fear her popularity? With Obama we probably have to put our most electable candidate forward.)

I'm no fan of Obama's hard-left politics nor his cold-bloodedness concerning abortion; he doesn't even pay the lip service that vice pays to virtue (unlike Hillary in this case, who has at least said that abortion bothers her), but his disciplined, non-racially based and fair campaign is inspiring. The difference between the Clinton and Obama campaigns has been stark, and it's always hard to see those cheating, or infinitely close to it without quite reaching it, win. The Clintons are amazing about being able to walk up to the very edge of playing too unfairly to get elected (or re-elected) and yet not go over it. Bill, especially, has a sixth sense about how far he can go.

Peggy Noonan recently said that George Bush destroyed the Republican party but the party was running on fumes due to demographics anyway. I told Ham o' Bone that the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were "pure gift", the largesse of terrible Democratic candidates, even though as it turned out the "gift" left a lot to be desired. (And 'gift' is almost the right word given how close that '00 election was.) There is simply no way you can give away black and Hispanic votes and expect to do anything. GWB was proud of getting like, what, 40% of the Hispanic vote? I mean that and a buck-fifty will get you a Starbuck's coffee given the size of that voting bloc. GWB's policies were ultimately a real politik nod in that direction - he knew he had to govern as a "compassionate conservative" (re: liberal) and open border guy since he knew he'd be the Last Republican President (LRP) for a long spell if not. (Of course, Iraq sealed the deal.)

Ultimately demographics is destiny - and, from a Catholic perspective rightfully so to the extent it's driven by legal immigration and babies - and so it's the Hispanic vote that has really, really comes into its own with this election. In a democracy he who has the most babies win, which is better than he who has the most money wins. Sounds fair.

And so Hispanics went for McCain over Romney in Florida by a 50% to 15%! Wowsa. (Giuliani got 25%.) Is it merely that the newer immigrant groups, like the Irish of the last century, tend to vote less conservatively because they are interested, naturally, in government handouts and patronage? Certainly the differences between McCain and Romney on illegal immigration are reasonably stark and, if you, as a party, want to commit suicide then you sound draconian on border issues. Isn't that what happened in California when Pete Wilson over night made the Republicans a minority party? Like it or not, the reality is that even Mexicans who came here honestly and waited in line seem to be okay with those who favor cutting in line. Perhaps it's ethnic loyalty. Call it what you will, but I don't see how anyone can honestly say - looking at voting patterns - that those who immigrated here legally want to close the borders. Perhaps it's a matter of Hispanics thinking that those who want to close the borders are prejudiced against them, which is unfair and untrue, but it is what it is. When it comes to voting - perceptions are reality, which is why innocent babies in the womb have to rely on things like ultrasound technology in order to get seen in order to sway perceptions. Arguments about life being sacred and slippery slopes and the inherent dignity of the human tend to fall on deaf ears.

I've never thought illegal immigration was an issue worth committing political hari-kari over. The pro-life issue, absolutely. When border control became a national security issue after 9/11 it certainly gave me pause, but the time to stop illegal immigration was before it would require the death of the Republican party, and that's long past and I think the Republican party has a lot to offer. Or will in the future when we get into big trouble again and there's a call to the bullpen, as Britain did with Churchill and as America did with Reagan.

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