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The Rick Moran Show will go live tonight at the special time of 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM Central Time.

Tonight, I’ll have my trusty sidekick and co-host Rich Baehr, Political Correspondent of The American Thinker with me for the entire hour as we examine the results from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Joining us in the first half hour will be Ed Morrissey of Captainsquartersblog.Com.

By: Rick Moran at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

CATEGORY: Decision '08

For those of us inclined to grit our teeth, hold our nose, and grab our balls when going into the voting booth and pulling the lever for John McCain on election day next November, all I can say is after reading this interview of him in Der Spiegel, there is a very good chance our teeth will be worn down to nothing, our noses will have permanent pinch marks on them, and our balls will feel like lead weights between our legs by the time we vote:

SPIEGEL: America has lost a lot of friends because President George W. Bush angered, indeed outraged, them. He allowed human rights to be violated at Guantanamo Bay, and he dismissed the joint effort to combat global warming. Under a President McCain, could we expect a change of course?

McCain: Yes. I would announce that we are not ever going to torture anyone held in American custody. I would announce that we were closing Guantanamo Bay and moving those prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and I would announce a commitment to addressing climate change and my dedication to a global agreement—but it has to include India and China.

I’ll bet anyone within 50 miles of Leavenworth is jumping for joy at that news.

Bryan at Hot Air made a game out of this interview, asking readers to identify the speaker and giving Democratic candidates as choices.

I would have picked Obama saying the exact same thing. And it gets worse:

SPIEGEL: Will America attempt to go it alone less frequently in the future?

McCAIN: Well, we all hope that America will be multilateral again in the future. There were times when the United States acted unilaterally, but I think we would all prefer to work in concert with our friends and allies.

SPIEGEL: What role will the United Nations play? Bush always ignored the UN.

McCain: The United Nations always plays an important role. But right now we are having to deal with a Russia that is clearly intent on blocking action. That’s why the UN must act in a league of democracies that share our values and our common principles.

Okay, so…we hold 6 party talks to get North Korea to disarm but we’re going it alone?

We are allowing the Big Three of France, Germany, and Great Britain to negotiate with the Iranians and we’re going it alone?

We get NATO to take over the Afghan mission. They agree. And we’re going it alone?

Prior to the Iraq invasion, we begged and pleaded with many nations to join us. Thirty one nations did. And we’re going it alone?

The leftist narrative brooks no countervailing argument or evidence. There were many other examples of the US not going it alone in international affairs but it doesn’t matter. To Spiegel and the domestic left, facts don’t mean squat. The narrative is the thing.

The same holds true for Spiegel’s question about America “always” ignoring the UN? When? About what?

McCain should have jumped down that interviewer’s throat for making those two ridiculously false statements. Instead, he answered them like any good liberal would.

What a pandering, sycophantic, arrogant popinjay he is.

Then there was this eye opener:

SPIEGEL: So is America coming back to renegotiate the Kyoto Protocol?

McCain: I believe America is going to enter into negotiations to try to reach a global agreement. But, as I said, that agreement must include India and China, two of the emerging economies of the world. We would be foolish not to do so.

If McCain doesn’t realize by now that any “global agreement” on reducing emissions will ask more of the US than any other nation – so much so that only a Democrat like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama would agree to such a disadvantageous treaty – then it really is time to batten down the hatches and zip up your wallet. Any agreement with China and India will necessarily be token and superficial. Both of those countries don’t want to ruin their economies on the altar of global warming any more than we do.

But I don’t trust McCain on this any more than I trust him on judges or taxes. He could easily sell this country out in a climate agreement that placed the burden of reducing emissions on the US while virtually ignoring China and India thus giving those competitors a huge advantage. But as long as it kept him in good standing with the media, I think he’d do it.

Reading that entire interview, there were places that you really weren’t sure if you were listening to a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative. This is McCain’s identity and I guess we better get used to it. It is maddening, worrisome, even frightening at times. But that’s being a “maverick” I suppose.

One thing for certain; we’re going to need the patience of Job to endure an entire campaign season with this guy. Otherwise, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown by the summer.

By: Rick Moran at 4:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)


This article originally appears in The American Thinker

I am not much of a policy wonk. Rarely do I don my pointy hat and delve into the mysteries of exactly how government tries to run our lives. Usually it is enough for me to spout generalities while railing against bureaucrats, liberals, and eager beaver do gooders who often act as surrogates for government policy in lieu of direct intervention by agencies.

No, I have eschewed covering policy for the most part. I am not smart enough and fear if I cram my head with too much of that stuff, other more important things will dribble out of my ears. Why take a chance on losing vital information like what Eva Longoria likes to do in bed or the name of Britney Spears’ favorite psychiatrist?

But I’ll take that chance by delving into what promises to be the number one controversy that will hit the blogosphere if a Democrat is elected president next November; mandates and the drive to coerce the American people into buying health insurance.

What is a health insurance mandate? Basically, it is government forcing you to purchase insurance even if you don’t want it or feel you have no need for it. The principle is based on the idea that those who do not have health insurance are getting a “free ride” from the rest of us when they get sick or injured. Since hospitals are forced to treat you even if you have no money, the cost of treating your sorry butt if you are uninsured is born by the rest of us who carry insurnace or, in 85% of cases, by local, state, and federal government. As a result, health care costs skyrocket and premiums become more expensive.

Apparently around 21% of people who don’t purchase health insurance are young, single, healthy workers who can afford individual premiums but refuse to cover themselves. This drives the price of health insurance up even more because it leaves older, less healthy people in the insurance pool who are more likely to need health care.

So the thinking is if we get everyone covered under an insurance program, premiums will come down and we will be able to get health care costs under control.

And we all live happily ever after…

Not exactly. For instance, what do you do with people who despite the gentle entreaties of government, refuse to buy insurance? No Democrat will give a straight answer to this question and for good reason; the only cost effective, efficient way to round up the health insurance deadbeats is to garnish their wages or assess a penalty by using the IRS to enforce the law. The idea is that taxpayers would provide proof of insurance when they file their tax return. Scofflaws would have the premium come out of their refund or the IRS could simply bill them for the amount owed. Failing to get the money that way, wage garnishment would be in the offing.

But there is a huge problem with using the IRS to ensure we’re insured; nearly 18 million low income tax payers aren’t required to file a tax return while another 9 million Americans refuse to do so. That’s 27 million Americans who could potentially fall through the cracks of any enforcement regime. One plan advanced by The New America Foundation would mandate that all Americans file a proof of insurance with the IRS whether they pay taxes or not. But that plan doesn’t allow for people who simply refuse to file. And, after all, some of the uninsured are elderly, homeless, or mentally ill. Others may have changed their address multiple times.

Perhaps looking at compliance rates for other mandates might give us an idea of what we might expect with health insurance strictures. Most of us are mandated to pay for auto liability insurance. Compliance varies but ranges from between 66% – 96% depending on the state. Also, in states where there is a childhood immunization requirement, compliance reaches an average of 77%.

Authors of this paper published in Health Affairs journal found several factors affecting the rate of compliance with mandates:

“Compliance is easy and relatively inexpensive; penalties for non-compliance are stiff but not excessive; and enforcement is routine, appropriately timed, and frequent.”

Using the above criteria, one can see problems immediately. For instance, has government ever made anything “easy and relatively inexpensive?” Even if mandates started out that way, there is every reason to believe that the cost would rise swiftly with more and more rules promulgated and exceptions made.

And those who have dealt with the IRS can attest better than I whether any enforcement done by the agency is “routine” or “appropriately timed.” Congress and others have been trying to change the corporate culture at the IRS for years and have failed utterly. It seems far fetched to expect the agency to change in the matter of collecting for health insurance.

Both Democratic candidates would probably use the IRS to enforce their idea of universal coverage. The difference is that Hillary Clinton’s plan specifically calls for mandates to coerce people and businesses to purchase insurance while Obama’s plan relies on a somewhat more voluntary (and probably less successful) belief that making insurance affordable will automatically cause the vast majority of those who don’t have insurance presently to buy some.

Both plans would call on healthy insureds to subsidize unhealthy insureds by ignoring such supposed trivialities as pre-existing conditions or other actuarial criteria. Instead of those who are more likely to use the health care system paying more in premiums, those less likely to be sick are asked to pay the same amount as those actually using the system. It’s like telling someone with three drunk driving convictions and a history of accidents that he doesn’t have to pay any more in insurance than someone who has never had so much as a speeding ticket.

Both plans would subsidize those who can’t afford health insurance through tax credits or direct federal subsidies. As mentioned previously, most poor people do not pay any taxes at all which would make a tax credit an interesting exercise in government coercion. Those who currently don’t need to file a tax return would be forced to do so in order to claim the tax credit.

Even a direct subsidy as proposed by Obama has problems. One must assume a mechanism to insure that the subsidy is spent on health insurance and not some other less vital household expense like food or cable TV.

Both candidates offer plans that would coerce businesses to give health care benefits to their employees. Which is more draconian? Both would penalize businesses through increased taxes if they failed to cover their employees. Obama would give a break to the very small business by making them exempt. Clinton would offer a tax break to smaller businesses to encourage them to offer insurance. If they don’t, they pay a penalty.

Obama’s plan differs from Clinton’s not only on mandates but also by his proposing a “National Health Insurance Exchange” – nanny statism run wild:

The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.

Why doesn’t the government just take over the health insurance industry? Under this “Exchange,” all market forces would be corrupted because of interference by this quaisi-government board of inquisitors.

Both plans make grandiose claims about bringing down the cost of health care through “preventive” measures. Unfortunately, that idea has limited use both for improving health and bringing down the cost of health care.

Ezra Klein, who has written extensively on the health care issue from a liberal perspective, outlines the problems with preventive care:

First, the impacts of preventive medicine are often overstated. It’s not that cleaning up the air or putting everyone on a gym regimen would greatly improve health—but people don’t follow gym regimens, and business doesn’t let you clean air. Furthermore, not all interventions are created equal. Better parenting might be beneficial, but it’s unlikely to be more effective—either on economic or biological grounds—than the use of statins, or hypertensive drugs, or daily tablets of aspirin. There are a lot of highly effective medical interventions which are very, very cheap. But our system is very poor at incentivizing their use.

Meanwhile, the reason doctors are constantly prescribing statins along with admonitions to exercise and eat better is because using public policy to change diet and exercise habits is really, really, hard, unless you’re prepared to be very heavy-handed (i.e, outlawing trans fats in restaurants, setting portion limits, etc). Indeed, part of the problem with preventive health measures is that, rather often, they don’t work very well. Like with traditional health care, some things really succeed (stripping lead out of gasoline, giving people antibiotics), and lots of things…don’t. And that’s to sidestep the weird reality that what drives health care politics is concern over money which, in fact, is quite rational: Folks don’t want to go bankrupt, and smart politicians don’t want the government to lose all space for spending on other priorities.

All of these measures to bring down the cost of health care and insure more Americans basically come down to this; government coercion on a level rarely seen in America. And it only promises to get worse. Neither the Clinton or Obama plan will cover everyone simply because people – millions of people – will refuse to take part. The Massachusetts plan which mandates people buy insurance is failing to cover those who don’t have insurance simply because half of them refuse to sign up – despite the penalties:

A group of doctors and health policy analysts, including a number of Obama advisers, pointed out in a letter released Thursday that Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, has thus far failed to enroll nearly half of its uninsured despite imposing a modest first-year tax penalty of $219 (the fine increases significantly this year). Because the Massachusetts program is less than a year old, it is not yet possible to fully judge the effectiveness of its mandate.

Mr. Obama raised the Clinton campaign’s ire late last week by charging in a voter mailing that “Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it… and you pay a penalty if you don’t.”

And that brings us back to questioning the efficacy of health insurance mandates – not as a vehicle to solve the problem of “free riders” or those who can’t afford the cost of health insurance. The rock bottom, basic reality is that in a free society, when government forces people to do something they do not wish to do, liberty is lost and individual rights are trampled upon.

The arguement that “We already have mandates for auto insurance among other things so what’s the big deal?” doesn’t hold water either. Every additional mandate initiated by government cuts into the notion of individual responsibility and substitutes collective will. The Congressional Budget Office put it thusly:

An individual mandate has two features that, in combination, make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would have to be heavily regulated by the federal government.

As this Cato Institute policy analysis points out, mandates are a “slippery slope” to national health care insurance. And the plans offered by both Democratic candidates promise little in the way of relief while virtually guaranteeing that the quality of health care for the average American will go down.

In future years – as with all government run health care plans in the industrialized world – costs will rise, benefits will go down, and some form of rationing health care services will be inevitable.

There are free market solutions to many of our problems with affordable health insurance and rising health care costs. But in the rush to pile the responsibility on the back of government, no one seems willing to even try them. The Democrats have successfully spun the narrative that only government can solve these problems, that the market doesn’t work and that therefore, only mandates and “Exchanges” can save the American family from the health care monster.

If one of them is elected next November, we will probably see the biggest change in the American citizen’s relationship to government since the income tax amendment was ratified. Intrusive, coercive government polcies will become the law of the land. And we will be poorer in liberty and individual freedom because of it.

By: Rick Moran at 8:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

CATEGORY: Decision '08

There are two possible explanations for what happened at the Washington State Caucuses on Saturday night.

1. GOP Washington state officials are a bunch of idiotic boobs who didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

2. A conspiracy was afoot to give the Caucuses to John McCain no matter what the final tally said.

I tend to discount #2 for the simple reason that anyone who reads the explanation of why the party stopped counting with 13% of the vote left and John McCain up by only 200 votes would realize instantly that these guys have the brains of a marmoset and therefore incapable of carrying out any plot more sophisticated than that which could be planned by an 8 year old:

Now, when we were watching this last night and I was trying to examine the tea leaves this morning, I was assuming they’d come forward with some story that there was some hang up with the votes or some mechanical issue. Whether it would be true is another matter. But you’d think they’d at least come up with a good story.

But state party chair Luke Esser said that he just thought it was the right thing to do. According to Esser, sometime overnight Esser did some sort of back of the envelope statistical analysis of the the margin of McCain’s lead (1.8%) and the number votes left uncounted (13%) and decided that Huckabee didn’t have a chance and he’d shut the thing down and declare McCain the winner.

So was that a good idea? Here’s Esser’s rationale …

“Maybe it would have been safer if I hadn’t said anything. But it was an exciting and historic day for the state and I thought if I was confident about what the outcome would be I should share that with the people who had gone out to their caucuses.”

So it was just such a rollicking good time Esser figured he owed the participants a decision as long as he was confident what the outcome would be.

I’m really not sure I’ve ever heard anything that ridiculous.

Neither have I. Until I read how Esser calculated his “back of the envelope statistical analysis” of why Huckabee couldn’t catch up despite being so close and with so many caucus sites uncounted:

Esser said their last county report on Saturday came shortly before 10:15 p.m., at which point they had 87.2 percent of precincts reporting. That’s when they did an analysis, saying: “Let’s take every county where Huckabee is beating McCain, and double the margin of victory,” Esser said. “And then take every county where McCain is winning and cut in half that margin of victory. Even if you assume that, Sen. McCain still holds on.

“That’s when we said we’re confident that Sen. McCain’s lead was going to hold up,” Esser said. “I would have done the same for Gov. Huckabee if he had the same margin and the same underlying dynamics as Sen. McCain.”

Remarkable stupidity. Only someone with no clue about statistics could have come up with such an unscientific “formula” and determine the outcome of such a close race. And only someone oblivious to their own ignorance would have the sheer audacity to announce the “results” and try to pass them off as official.

To make matters even worse, Esser decided to hunker down and try and weather the storm by crawling under the bedcovers and pretending to be asleep – just like any 8 year old caught doing something dumb:

Late Update: It seems that Washington State GOP chair Luke Esser spent most of the day avoiding calls from the Huckabee campaign. And when he finally got back to them he told a lawyer for Huckabee’s campaign that they’d probably count the rest of the votes some time next week. When the lawyer, Lauren Huckabee, the candidate’s daughter-in-law, requested that a Huckabee lawyer be present when the remaining votes were counted, Esser hung up on her. Before the hang up, Huckabee also asked Esser about the DIY statistical analysis he did to conclude that he should call the race (Esser’s expertise in statistics apparently stems from previous work as a state prosecutor and a sports writer). Was there an analysis of what precincts the remaining votes came from? According to Huck campaign manager Ed Rollins, Esser admitted that he didn’t know which precincts the remaining votes came from.

See what I mean about him being too stupid to concoct a conspiracy favoring McCain or anyone else?

Now, what might be plausible is that some McCain operative whispered in his ear on Saturday night and made his case using the faulty analysis Esser relied on to call the race. And now that the crap has hit the fan, he is unwilling to finger the McCain campaign – for obvious reasons. First, it would make him look like a dupe. Second, it could very well severely damage McCain’s candidacy to have it revealed his campaign was trying to monkey with the vote count.

But I think that a long shot at best. Esser probably really thought he was doing us all a favor by announcing the results before everything was tabulated. And it’s that kind of breathtaking stupidity that makes me believe that Esser would probably not have conspired with the McCain camp but simply made his doltish decisions alone.

By: Rick Moran at 10:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)


Say all the bad things you want about the two Democratic candidates for president as far as what they believe and what they espouse. It is immaterial to the raw excitement generated by their hotly contested race for the nomination. Both candidates are scrambling for every available delegate. Each individual contest becomes hugely important, generating the kind of excitement in a political party not seen for a generation.

Here’s a report from a Washington state caucus goer on Saturday to illustrate the point:

After convening my precinct’s caucus nearly an hour ago, and screaming myself hoarse to the HUGE crowd of people gathered in my precinct, I think the appropriate word to describe turnout today is megagigantic-massive.

I was not prepared for this. None of the organizers at our area were.

We ran out of chairs.

We ran out of sign in sheets (had to send someone to the copier for more).

We ran out of pens.

We ran out of tables.

Press reports had thousands of people attending a caucus where they expected only hundreds. Overflow caucuses were reduced to straw poll sites as people unable to get in to caucus were given paper ballots to mark their preference.

In the past, Washington state always held its caucuses too late to make an impact on the nomination. Not this year. With 78 precious delegates at stake, both sides poured resources into the state. Both candidates paid several visits to Washington in the last hectic days before the caucuses.

For Obama, the effort paid off with a big victory, 68-31. So far, Obama has been awarded 45 of those 78 delegates with Hillary Clinton getting 15. Obama is likely to pick up a few more after a very complicated district, county, and state convention process ends in May.

Obama ended up winning the rest of the contests this past weekend as well. Nebraska caucus (67-32), Louisiana primary (57-36), and the Maine caucuses yesterday (59-41). But despite these big wins, the Democratic nominating rules requiring proportional awarding of delegates is keeping Hillary in the race. The latest RCP delegate count has Obama ahead by 4 measly delegates, 1139-1135.

Other tabulations, according to Salon’s Walter Shapiro:

But this mini-surge has not brought clarity to the overall delegate counts by major media organizations, nor is it likely to. When it comes to landslide leads in the quest to win the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination, there is the CBS News tabulation, which currently has Obama besting Clinton by exactly three delegates, 1,134-to-1,131. The Associated Press has them flipped with Clinton leading 1,135 to 1,106, while the New York Times, using a very conservative methodology and not counting some caucus results, has Hillary ahead of Barack 912 to 745.

The New York Times is not awarding caucus delegates who must be chosen at district and state conventions, although the caucus results will be used to seat convention attendees who support the candidate who won at their caucus site thus assuring a very close tally of national convention delegates compared with the winner of each individual caucus.

Obama will be able to give himself a little breathing room on Tuesday where he is expected to sweep the so-called Potomac Primaries of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. And if he does it by similar margins he won by this weekend, some people are going to start asking if Hillary Clinton should still be in the race.

This is nonsense. Unless the Superdelegates start coming out in droves for Obama this week, Hillary will stick it out for a while longer. Why should she quit when even if Obama blows her out on Tuesday he only gets at most a couple of dozen more delegates than she does? Clinton will stay in until at least the March 4 primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. An Obama sweep there will probably be the ballgame not because she’ll be so far behind in delegates but because the Superdelegates will almost certainly start to weigh in heavily for Obama. At that point, the writing will be on the wall for Clinton and for the sake of unity, she will make her exit.

Hillary will be limited only by the amount of money she can raise to compete with Obama’s mega-treasury. The fact that she’s raised more than $10 million in less than a week would seem to indicate that there is a vast wellspring of support for her still out there. Her problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a real “firewall” state where she could make a stand and stop Obama’s momentum. She still has a chance in Wisconsin with the latest ARG Poll (2/6-7) giving her a 50-41 lead. But a week is a lifetime in this race and Obama’s momentum may have made that poll moot already.

However, a victory in Wisconsin for Hillary would definitely stop the Obama juggernaut and give her some momentum going into the March 4 races. At the very least it will hold off the Superdelegates from beginning a parade for Obama. There are two weeks between the Wisconsin primary on February 19th and the mini-Super Tuesday of March 4 and one can imagine party pros lining up behind Obama in the interregnum if Hillary hasn’t won a state or caucus since Super Tuesday.

If it sounds like Clinton’s options are closing down you would be correct. Shapiro highlights some of the endgames for the candidates:

THE OBAMA AVALANCHE: Even though 2008 so far has been a momentum killer (think of Clinton’s comeback in the New Hampshire primary), it is arguable that Obama’s string of February victories is a predictor of shifting Democratic sentiment. (He is likely to add two more trophies to his collection on Feb. 19 in liberal Wisconsin and his birth state of Hawaii.) If Obama somehow triumphs in Ohio and Texas on March 4, he will have filled in the one blank on his political résumé—his ability to win primaries in major states outside his own Illinois. At that point, Clinton may sound desperate to restless superdelegates as she pleads with them (probably in vain) to wait until the next major contest, the April 23 Pennsylvania primary.

THE OBAMA BANANA PEEL: Clinton has been pushing (unsuccessfully so far) for weekly debates for a simple reason—she excels in the format and she keeps hoping that Obama will make a fatal miscue. What might peril Obama would not be just a tart remark (such as his suggesting that Clinton was “likable enough”), but an error that dramatically highlights his inexperience. The question that Clinton wants Democrats (super and ordinary) to be asking themselves is, “Do we want to go up against John McCain with a candidate who was in the Illinois state Senate just four years ago?”

THE CLINTON COMEBACK (MARCH 2008 EDITION): While statewide primary victories do not radically alter the delegate calculus (Clinton, for instance, only won 44 more delegates in California than Obama, despite carrying the state by a 10-percentage-point margin), they do create a compelling political narrative. If Clinton wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, she will end April having won virtually all the big primary prizes. It will be hard—but not impossible—for Team Obama to argue that caucus landslides in smaller states (Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Washington) should count more than the traditional building blocks (California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) of a Democratic Electoral College majority.

To me, the first scenario seems the most likely at this point. However, Hillary will be able to point to the delegate total after March 4 in this scenario and ask a good question; why should I get out when I’m only a hundred or so delegates behind? This is where the Superdelegates will make the difference by moving to Obama and proving to Clinton that she has no chance to win it on the convention floor.

As for the “Banana Peel” scenario this is always a possibility with Obama. Some of the truly dumb things he has said in debates were ignored by the press earlier. Now that he is the front runner, that would change and the media would jump on a statement like his suggestion we bomb the Taliban in Pakistan without the permission of Musharraf or that he would meet with Ahmadinejad, no preconditions. And he could still be tripped up by Hillary on health care, especially since Obama’s plan doesn’t include mandates for people to buy insurance and yet claims it covers virtually everyone. Every time Obama tries to explain how his plan would still cover everyone, he steps in it a little deeper.

But Hillary can’t count on Obama at this late stage to screw up in the one debate they have left in Ohio.

The final scenario is probably her best bet. It’s the argument Republicans are using against McCain – that the candidate can’t win where he’s supposed to. If Hillary were to win Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, not only would she make the case that Obama can’t win in Democratic bastions, she will also be very close to Obama in the delegate count – probably less than 100. At that point, Obama’s “inevitability” argument falls a little flat and the heat would really be on the Superdelegates.

One final thought on those Superdelegates. Since they are made up of politicians, I think it is possible that a large group of them – perhaps a couple of hundred – will form an “uncommitted” bloc and take a wait and see attitude between the last primary in early June and the last week in August when the convention convenes. They would agree to throw their support en masse to one candidate or the other thus putting them over the top.

That’s if the #3 scenario is in play. I really do think Obama running the table on March 4 will mean it would be all over for Clinton. It is hard to see the Superdelegates giving Hillary enough support to overcome Obama being the obvious preference for a majority of the party – especially since he is currently polling better against McCain than she is.

A somewhat clarifying weekend for the Democrats to be sure. But it’s still far from over. And anyone who underestimates Hillary Clinton would be foolish. She proved it in New Hampshire. She can prove it again.

By: Rick Moran at 7:47 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

CATEGORY: Decision '08

Mike Huckabee continues to win southern primaries, taking the Louisiana contest yesterday while also demonstrating strength in the bible belt by taking the Kansas caucuses. Not only does the Huckster reveal his strength by winning these races, at the same time he shows the entire world McCain’s crippling weakness.

The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president cannot win the base of his own party.

Losing the south in November would be tantamount to a realignment. Regardless of which candidate wins the nomination on the other side, a northern Democrat will have defeated a Republican in the south for the first time since 1960 when John Kennedy won 7 southern states, including all states in the deep south except Florida (Alabama ended up splitting its vote in the electoral college). To say that would represent a sea change in electoral politics would be a huge understatement. Without the south, Republicans may as well get used to the idea that they will be a minority party for a very long time.

McCain’s problems have gone far beyond the tactical necessity of winning over conservatives. He faces a strategic dilemma of the first magnitude. And Mike Huckabee isn’t making things any easier for him.

Huckabee is making the case loud and clear that he deserves the second spot on the ticket. By embarrassing McCain in the south, Huckabee reveals McCain’s electoral dysfunction – and his desperation. His well-known appeal to independents is based on the fact that he is not a doctrinaire, hard core conservative. What would happen to his independent/moderate base if he were to choose a rabid social conservative like Huckabee whose past statements on everything from gays to women’s rights leave the ticket wide open to devastating attacks by the Democrats?

Such a ticket might help in the south. But everywhere else, it would damage McCain’s own base of support among the indies thus causing him to lose states that he will absolutely need in order to defeat the Democratic nominee.

If one were to overlay a map from the 2000 election on top of a map from the 2004 election, you would see that it is almost identical. Only one state switched from red to blue and 2 states from blue to red.

But McCain’s problems come into stark relief if you were to overlay a map of Democratic gains in the 2006 mid terms. The mountain west states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada are looking bluer all the time. Iowa seems lost as does Ohio. The GOP has virtually disappeared in the northeast. Meanwhile, those blue states got a lot bluer.

In practical terms, McCain has a whole lot more territory to defend than his opponents. This frees the Democrats to target those states mentioned above and perhaps some others in the upper south like Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Only McCain’s appeal to independents might yet save the day because Republicans, with McCain running, will have some rich targets of their own to go after. Suddenly, the upper midwest – where Bush lost some very close races – looks to be in play. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and perhaps even Michigan might be had for the taking. Pennsylvania also becomes a possible GOP target. And with McCain’s popularity in New Hampshire, New England comes back into play for the GOP.

All of that might be moot if McCain is forced to choose Huckabee as his running mate. This is not to say that the Arizona senator shouldn’t choose a good conservative – I think that’s a foregone conclusion. But a conservative with a lot less baggage would be better than a Huckabee whose shameless pandering to the religious right would not sit well in states where McCain has a chance for a breakthrough.

So McCain’s dilemma is simple; does he choose a running mate who can help him in the south but hurts him elsewhere? Or does he choose a candidate whose impact on the south is unknown but will almost certainly aid him in blue states?

No doubt they will ponder those questions in the McCain camp long and hard before reaching a decision.

By: Rick Moran at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

Oblogatory Anecdotes - McCain Still Not Clicking linked with McCain Still Not Clicking With Conservatives... Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Huckabee takes Kansas, CNN projects...

A while back, I got fed up with the stupidity of the Republican party and disassociated myself from its intolerance, corruption, and milquetoast adherence to conservative principles.

That didn’t mean I would not support or vote for Republicans. Only that I was no longer a “party man.” No longer would I stretch my conscience and principles to defend those who failed so miserably in acting on their supposed beliefs while stinking up the Capitol with their pork happy spending, their deviant personal peccadilloes, and hypocritical actions on a wide range of issues from immigration to earmarks . I was comfortable with that decision then as I am now.

In fact, the recent tantrums thrown by many over John McCain’s candidacy and inevitable nomination has reinforced my decision ten fold. Party activists have proven themselves just as blind, just as arrogant, just as stupid as GOP politicians – perhaps more so. Taking action by sitting home on election day that will insure the election of a Democratic president and Democratic lawmakers who will seek nothing less than a political realignment of the country is beyond madness, beyond suicide.

I refuse to follow those of you who insist that it is a viable option to deliberately allow the election of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, thinking that they will make the American electorate so angry that a victory by “true” conservatives in 2012 will be a cakewalk. This is not an option. It is delusional. It is equally ridiculous to suppose that conservative sabotage of a McCain candidacy will somehow strengthen our position within the party. Like the old joke about the pope giving advice on a couple’s sexual problems – “You no playa the game; you no maka the rules.” How much influence did sitting out the 2006 election get those of you who chose not to vote? You sure showed ‘em, didn’t you?

I regret to inform my friends who are taking this tack, but my self destructive behavior only extends to eating too much red meat and smoking.

I know exactly where these people are coming from. It’s not that I am insensate to their abhorrence of Mr. McCain. The Arizona senator will see to it that conservatives are largely frozen out of policy and personnel decisions. If he doesn’t do that, the media will be all over him for not living up to his label as a “maverick.” Judging by many of his campaign aides, I fully understand the anger directed at him.

But it cannot be said enough that elections are about choices. And politics is a business that is bound to break your heart if you live it long enough. This is why cynicism is so dominant among the pros and political press. Unless you drop your silly illusions about ideological or personal purity of one candidate or another, you will end up like those who are stomping their feet like three year olds and refusing to come when mommy calls.

Here’s a toddler who has the routine down pat:

I’m deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.

“I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.

How will your conscience feel, Mr. Dobson, when gay marriage is the law of the land? Or embryonic cell research is federally funded and widespread. Try putting this on your conscience; it will be your fault.

Better yet, how will it feel to watch our boys coming home from Iraq while al-Qaeda dances in the streets with glee before moving back into places that many of our soldiers paid the ultimate price to clean them out in the first place? How does re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine grab ya, Doc? You’d be off TV quicker than you could say “equal time.”

And how long would it take for your head to explode before a Hillbama administration named a couple of Supreme Court Justices who would laugh in your face if you suggested overturning Roe v Wade?

Your choice was to allow this to happen. My choice is to prevent it at all costs. Who holds the moral upper hand here, Doc? Whose position would end up being best for America?

But its not about America. It’s about selfishness. It’s about the arrogant belief that your conscience is more important than the future of the country. That’s one helluva conscience you’ve got there, Doc. Why not feed it a little more self-inflated ego and top it off with a little moral blindness while you’re at it.

And lest you think Republicans are the only ones with arrogant sophists, how about this bit of idiocy from Chris Bowers of Open Left:

If the institution that exists to resolve disputes within the American center-left does not operate according to democratic principles, then I see no reason to continue participating within that institution. If that institution fails to respect democratic principles in its most important internal contest of all—nominating an individual for President of the United States—then I will quit the Democratic Party. And yes, I am perfectly serious about this. If someone is nominated for POTUS from the Democratic Party despite another candidate receiving more poplar support from Democratic primary voters and caucus goers, I will resign as local precinct captain, resign my seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, immediately cease all fundraising for all Democrats, refuse to endorse the Democratic “nominee” for any office, and otherwise disengage from the Democratic Party through all available means of doing so.

Holy Jesus could this guy act any more like a 13 year old drama queen? Forget about the personal preference of a superdelegate – who after all was given the power by the party to act in just such a situation that exists with Hillary and Obama. What matters is that he follow “intra-party democracy.”

Bowers wants elected Democrats who make up the large majority of Superdelegates to forswear their own judgment of who the best nominee for the party might be in favor of voting for whoever has the most delegates or votes come convention time. One might note that it would be entirely possible for one candidate to have a majority of primary votes while the other had a majority of delegates – a dilemma Bowers can’t comprehend in his tiny, narrow version of “democracy.”

So much for “intra-party” democracy – especially since, most undemocratically, Bowers wants to force people to vote for a candidate based on entirely arbitrary and capricious criteria. What about electability? What about personal preference and judgment? These things don’t exist in Bower’s democracy because they would likely lead to a result he opposes.

One party’s base will refuse to vote for a candidate because it troubles their conscience. The other because the process might favor one candidate over another. Two parties. Two ideologies. Two polar opposite reasons to stay home on election day.

But one bunch of spoiled brats.

Michelle Malkin has the only principled option for those who believe they cannot support McCain but refuse to allow a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office; stay calm, stay rational, keep your powder dry, and use your support as leverage to try and alter the direction of the McCain campaign. She approvingly quotes See-Dubya:

Conservatives’ one card left to play is whether we endorse McCain or not. Why should we show it now? If all conservatives declare unanimously against him, pledging undying hostility and staking our reputations on opposing the guy, well, he may decide (as we did with him when he and his partisans like Lindsey Graham and Juan Hernandez fumed about us) that we mean what we say.

Likewise, if we all fall into line, even grudgingly, well, we’re taken for granted…But if we keep our cards close to our chest, McCain still has to work for our vote. He can’t take us for granted and he dare not alienate us any more…

…Just to clarify, I’m not telling you whether to vote for him or not. I see the arguments on both sides. My point is that whether you wouldn’t vote for McCain if he was the last Republican on earth, or if you’ll probably just pinch your nose and pull the handle anyway, or whether you’re genuinely undecided, it’s in the interest of conservatives everywhere to act as if you could possibly be won over by credible and verifiable movement to the right on McCain’s part…Oh, and when pollsters ask you who you’re voting for, tell them you’re undecided.

I don’t agree with the strategy but I think it a defensible position to take and at least has the advantage of being based on principle and not the personal pique of a selfish adolescent mind.

I care about the outcome in Iraq. I care about staying on the offense in the War on terror. I care about the danger of Iran. I care about getting conservative judges on the bench. I care about tax cuts, entitlement reform, drastically reducing earmarks, preventing mandated health insurance, and 100 other things that a Hillbama Administration would do or fail to do.

Those who intend to sit at home in order to assuage their “conscience” can go to the devil. With so much at stake, sticking your head in the sand, hoping that this will win conservatives power and influence in the Republican party is a ludicrous strategy and will only end up setting the conservative cause back years if not decades.

The choice in November will be between a wildly imperfect John McCain and a Democrat. Not much of a choice to be sure but a clear one nonetheless. And if you’re an adult, an easy one.


Regular readers of this site may recall that about the time Fred Thompson dropped out of the race, I said that if Fred weren’t nominated, I might not vote in November.

It’s true that I wrote it. But further reflection (and getting farther away emotionally from my investment in Thompson) showed me the error of my ways and I have since adopted my current position of purchasing one of these gadgets to assist me in the most unpleasant task of punching the hole next to McCain’s name on election day.

Many of you are probably a little upset at my language, thinking that a more moderate tone would be more conducive to changing people’s minds.

That’s a laugh. My language is not meant to persuade but to chastise. To believe that any of you close minded, stubborn as a mule conservatives would change their minds and vote for McCain is laughable. Might as well try to lever the earth as alter the universal constant of the extremist’s position once his mind is made up.

By: Rick Moran at 5:32 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (30)


When I was about 14 years old, I picked up a paperback box set of The Iliad and the Odyssey that one of my siblings had already abandoned. It was the Penguin Classics edition (Fagles translation) that so many of us would come to know in high school or college in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The Iliad mostly bored me, although I loved the character of Patroclus because he reminded me of myself at the time.

But the Odyssey enthralled me. The adventures of Odysseus were exciting, made for a teenager’s imagination. He was a flawed hero, of course. He played around on his wife. He thumbed his nose at the gods. And his hubris got him into trouble more than once – most dramatically when he challenged the might of Poseidon himself by killing his son Polyphemus, the cyclops. This so angered Poseidon that he caused Odysseus to wander many years before he could return to his home in Ithaca.

But of all the adventures and misfortunes to befall Odysseus, the most compelling has to be his journey past the islands where the Sirens sang their songs to bewitch unwary sailors. It was said that mariners went mad upon hearing the achingly beautiful music so of course, Odysseus being Odysseus, he had to tempt fate by finding a way to hear the songs but not come under the Siren’s spell. Circe informed him that if he ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax while Odysseus tied himself to the mast, giving his men orders not to release him no matter how insistent he became, he might safely traverse the waters near the Siren’s island.

So they sang, in sweet utterance, and the heart within me
desired to listen, and I signaled to my companions to set me
free, nodding with my brows, but they leaned on and rowed hard,
and Perimedes and Eurylochus, rising up, straightway
fastened me with even more lashings and squeezed me tighter.

Odysseus was able to resist the Siren’s call only be being physically restrained by his men. But it appears to some observers that when it comes to Barack Obama’s feel good, cotton candy campaign and its vapid call for “change,” the great mass of his supporters may be better off if the plug their ears with beeswax or lash themselves to a sturdy timber somewhere.

Jack Tapper:

Obama supporter Kathleen Geier writes that she’s “getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters. On listservs I’m on, some people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack…

Describing various encounters with Obama supporters, she writes, “Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of ‘coming to Obama’ in the same way born-again Christians talk about ‘coming to Jesus.’...So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.”

Joe Klein, writing at Time, notes “something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism” he sees in Obama’s Super Tuesday speech.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Obama said. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.”

Says Klein: “That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is. “

I too feel the magnetic pull of the man. I have expressed my admiration for Obama on many occasions, complimenting him on his political gifts and that rare ability to inspire hope in people.

But c’mon people. Get a grip. Better yet, take another look at Obama not as a “charismatic” politician but as a potential president of the United States. Charisma don’t cut it when sitting in the Big Chair. All one need do is look at the presidency of that other “change” artist and charisma freak John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy is much more consequential of an historical figure when looking at him retrospectively than he was while in office. His apologists in the academy (and the relentless Kennedy PR machine’s 40 year effort to canonize him) have turned a mediocre presidency into some kind of Golden Age of American politics. This is nuts. Kennedy was not much of a reformer nor was he much of a chief executive. His introduction of the Civil Rights Act came only after the standoff between Wallace at the University of Alabama forced his hand. He opposed the Freedom Riders (even though he assigned Federal Marshalls to protect them) and he had no qualms about J. Edgar Hoover bugging Martin Luther King’s sordid private life.

Kennedy’s “charisma” couldn’t move the Civil Rights Act in Congress one inch. Nor could his “charisma” give him the foreknowledge not to increase our commitment of “advisors” in Viet Nam from Eisenhower’s 800 to an eventual 16,000 with “free fire zones,” napalm, and defoliants. Charisma is a fine attribute for a politician to have in running a campaign. But it doesn’t make a dime’s bit of difference when confronting Congress or the truly evil people in this world that Obama has promised to sit down with. I daresay that President Ahmadinejad would probably be immune to Mr. Obama’s charisma as would Baby Assad in Syria and perhaps even Hugo Chavez although the Venezuelan dictator might be eager to share his insights into how to build a cult of personality here in America.

This hasn’t stopped people – young and old – from comparing Obama to JFK and reveling in their ignorance. Here’s Ian Rock trying to break through the hysteria and ask some pertinent questions of the Obamamaniacs:

I have been listening to many of your reasons for supporting Obama. I have watched a good number of interviews on CNN, MSNBC and YouTube to better understand why you think Obama will be great president in 2008, and I keep hearing things like:

“It’s just the way he lights up a room”

“We haven’t seen a candidate this charismatic since JFK.”

“It’s just hard to be objective with this guy”

Obama fans seem to give you the same general answer. Mostly, it has something to do with this charisma. If you want a good example check out a recent interview George Clooney gave explaining his reason; you get the same JFK personality “thing.”

To me, it’s like you are all voting for Obama because of some unexplainable aura he exudes. Everyone is swooning over this almost mysterious attraction he exudes. “Electric” is another word I have been hearing.

Mr. Rock calls these Obama supporters “groupies” which may be a little unfair. “Disciples” may be more to the point. Make no mistake. There is a religious overlay to the Obama campaign. Not necessarily in direct appeals to God but rather in its portrayal of the candidate as savior of America. And Obama himself uses the cadence and imagrey when speaking that calls to mind the Sunday sermon.

I can see where some liberals might find this “creepy” although I think it more pitiful than dangerous. Eventually, Obama is going to have to start filling out that empty suit he’s been walking around in these past months. Or Hillary (or McCain) will do it for him. Either way, his doe-eyed supporters who look at him as the answer to our civic prayers will no doubt become a little less enamored of their hero once his Dorian Gray facade starts to crumble as a result of media scrutiny and opposition attacks.

Vanity Fair writer and left wing hate monger James Wolcott also raises an eyebrow at the Obama supplicants:

“(p)erhaps it’s my atheism at work but I found myself increasingly wary of and resistant to the salvational fervor of the Obama campaign, the idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria. I can picture President Hillary in the White House dealing with a recalcitrant Republican faction; I can’t picture President Obama in the same role because his summons to history and call to hope seems to transcend legislative maneuvers and horse-trading; his charisma is on a more ethereal plane, and I don’t look to politics for transcendence and self-certification.”

There is no way that Obama can transfer this “idealistic zeal” to any policy prescription or grand idea because once he fills in the blanks of specificity on any issue, he is bound to lose support. The press is just now catching up to the fact that even for a politician, Obama is incredibly vague. This, he must be since getting specific will necessarily destroy Obama’s strength as a candidate; the fact that he can currently be all things to all people -an empty vessel filled with the hopes and dreams of millions.

It will be interesting to watch over the next several months whether Hillary Clinton can fill in some of the blanks deliberately created by Obama and thus peel away some of his less enamored followers. It’s one thing to be an agent of change. It’s quite another thing to get specific about exactly what kind of change you are proposing.

I daresay that not all of today’s Obama supporters will be there at the end once that specificity is given life either by a desperate Clinton or a press grown tired of the platitudes and moralizing of the candidate himself.

By: Rick Moran at 8:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)


What with the primaries and politics in general taking up an enormous amount of my time, I have failed to post the winners for the last three Watchers Council votes.

As pennance for this oversight, I must now take a caning from the Chief Weasel himself – a rare event in Watcher’s history but a task I understand he takes great relish in.

Here then are the results for the last three weeks:

Results from 1/18/08


1. Ed. Schools: They’re Awful (for the most part) by The Colossus of Rhodey
2. The Race Card, Liberal Guilt and Our Next President by Wolf Howling
3. 500,000 Iraqis Did Not Die by Cheat Seeking Missiles
4. Paul of Mises; or How the New Republic Bewitches the Right by Big Lizards

Non Council

1. Kangaroo Court by Ezra Levant
2. Ashamed to be Canadian! by Covenant Zone
3. Barack Obama—I’m Sure We’ve Seen Him Somewhere Before by Guardian Unlimited
4. The Media Does It Again by Winds of Change

Results from 1/25/08


1. Liberal Fascism by Done With Mirrors

Tie for Second

2. Grim Choices Confront GOP by Right Wing Nut House
2. I Have A Dream’—The Democrat’s Version by Joshuapundit
2. Hillanomix 101 by Wolf Howling
2. The Radicalization of American Politics by The Glittering Eye
2. Di Caprio Lies and Hustles Bucks by Cheat Seeking Missiles
2, Our Out of Control Borders: Who’s Accountable? by The Education Wonks
2. What Is “Freedom”? by The Colossus of Rhodey

Non Council

1. Bylines of Brutality by Iowahawk
2. It’s All Israel’s Fault by Gates of Vienna
3. About the Anarcholibertarians by The QandO Blog
3. Doctors and Death and Doctors Death by The IgNoble Experiment
4.The Navy’s Failing China Policy by Pajamas Media

Results from 2/1/08


1. Energy Independence—What It Am And What It Ain’t by Joshuapundit
2. About Those “Lies” by The Colossus of Rhodey
2. The Media, Richard Scaife, and the Never Ending Soros Connection by Bookworm Room
2. How to Lie About Lying by Big Lizards
5. Complicit by Soccer Dad
6. Orwell’s Britain Is Halal Toast by Wolf Howling

Non Council

1. The Conclusion We Dare Not Face by Dr. Sanity
2. A Moral Core for U.S. Foreign Policy by Hoover Institution
2. Be a Victim! Or Else! by Classical Values
2. The Muslims of Europe Charter by Gates of Vienna
5. On Term Limits and Government Power by Somewhere On A1A
5. John McCain’s Open-Borders Outreach Director: The Next DHS Secretary?; Update: 5. A “Non-Paid Volunteer” by Michelle Malkin
5. Treaties and Executive Agreements by Outside the Beltway
5. The Audacity of Questioning Obama’s Commitment to Israel by American Thinker
5. Capitalism Doesn’t Work, Mr. Gates? by Rasmussen Reports

By: Rick Moran at 10:22 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Obama Campaign Is Finding That Camelot Still Has a Magical Touch...
CATEGORY: Decision '08

John McCain stood before a mixed crowd of rabid supporters and skeptical activists and promised to be a good boy. Whether his words were enough for the conservatives present to put away the strap and forgo punishing the senator for his past apostasies by staying home on election day is unknown at this point.

One first has to admire McCain’s courage in going to CPAC in the first place. His excuse for missing last year’s confab – that he was busy running for president – fell pretty flat and no one believed him anyway. Every other candidate found time to speak before conference goers last year and McCain’s absence was largely seen as a snub.

Not so this year. After an overly defensive introduction by Senator Tom Coburn (he almost seemed whiny at times) McCain strode to the podium to a thunderous ovation generated by his numerous supporters who were present and the polite if restrained applause of the rest. McCain seemed a little nervous at the beginning, trying to rush into his remarks – as if he could forestall any booing that might erupt when the applause died down. But attendees seemed on their best behavior, holding their fire for later.

McCain then launched into a spirited if somewhat disjointed defense of his conservative credentials. He didn’t say anything everyone hadn’t heard before. He repeated himself a couple of times, perhaps hammering home the point that he shared the basic values and principles that conference goers believed. He reminded listeners a couple of times of his pro-life beliefs. He hit his opposition to pork time and again, going so far as to say he would never sign a bill that had any earmarks in it. That very well may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater – some earmarks like Charlie Wilson’s add ons for Afghan rebels are useful – but perhaps when the baby is so infected with the earmark virus, it needs to be tossed just so the disease can be arrested.

Although his speech was interrupted several times by applause, there were an awful lot of CPAC’ers sitting on their hands. They were polite. They listened carefully to what McCain had to say. But they were in no mood for unity and good will. This became evident when McCain talked about his differences with the base over illegal immigration. The cascade of cat calls and boos that greeted his mention of that issue showed McCain that he has a long way to go until people believe his pledge to secure the borders first.

Raising the issue took some courage and McCain should be praised for taking his critics head on. But nothing he said would have changed anyone’s mind on the issue. And the senator said precious little about campaign finance reform which almost certainly would have produced an even sterner outcry by CPAC attendees.

There’s “courage” and then there’s political courage, I guess.

All in all, McCain did a fine job. He said what he had to without being overbearing or condescending. He was jovial. His eyes twinkled when he mentioned immigration, almost relishing the clash with his detractors. And he was suitably solemn about his commitment to “conservative principles.”

But besides the fact his appearance made good political theater, I doubt whether McCain made any progress in convincing conservatives that they should get behind his candidacy with enthusiasm. It was pretty much the same case we’ve heard made at the debates. And since those performances didn’t convince the base of his sincerity, this appearance at CPAC didn’t either.

Perhaps if he named a few high profile conservatives as his campaign advisors, that would help the base to rally to his cause. As it stands now, his stature may have been elevated just enough to encourage him to continue to reach out to conservatives and bring them into his campaign for what promises to be a bruising general election race.

By: Rick Moran at 4:29 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)