Saturday, January 26, 2008
Unintended Consequences Of A Vote For Huckabee
I like Mike Huckabee. He is the candidate whose values are most like mine. His communication skills and ability to think on his feet are remarkable. His ascendance from truly humble beginnings is compelling and inspiring. And, unlike most conservatives, I even agree with Huckabee’s charge that Republicans in recent years have been overly kind to Wall Street while turning a tin ear to Main Street.
But I won’t be voting for Huckabee and I hope that most evangelical voters in Florida and beyond reach the same politically pragmatic decision.
First, even the most ardent supporter has to face the reality that Huckabee will not win the Republican nomination. His marginal victory in Iowa and close second in South Carolina were only possible because 60% of the voters in those two states were evangelicals who voted heavily in his favor. Nationwide, only around one third of all Republicans are evangelicals. The proportion of evangelicals participating in upcoming primaries will average about half of the Iowa and South Carolina levels. More tellingly, Huckabee’s level of support from non-evangelical Republicans has been almost miniscule, averaging less than 9% in all primaries to date. Huckabee may score well in the few remaining states where evangelicals exist in large numbers, but in most states it’s not mathematically likely that Huckabee will finish any better than third or fourth.
And if you think Huckabee can significantly increase his proportion of non-evangelical support, think again. Primary results to date prove that he can’t seriously compete with McCain or Giuliani for voters most concerned with national security, and because of his somewhat populist economic views, cannot compete with Romney, McCain or Giuliani for voters most concerned with economic issues.
Secondly, one has to recognize that a vote for Huckabee is likely a vote that would otherwise have gone to Romney. It’s true that many evangelicals have significant heartburn over Romney’s religion and his recent pro-life conversion, but any concerns evangelicals have with Romney pale in comparison with the heartburn caused by Giuliani and McCain. Giuliani openly supports abortion and gay marriage. McCain has refused to support constitutional amendments to ban abortion and gay marriage, is the author of the infamous McCain-Feingold Act that stifles evangelical political advocacy and not so long ago repeatedly expressed his extreme displeasure with the influence certain evangelical leaders have in the Republican party.
Conversely, though many evangelicals reject Mormon theology, they recognize the Christian values Romney tries to live by are the same Christian values they try to live by. And though many in the pro-life movement—including this writer—have taken Romney to task for not being pro-life from the start, they recognize it’s better to work with a convert than someone who ignores or even works against the cause. Romney’s 100% pro-life record as governor of Massachusetts is a good indication that it’s highly unlikely he would revert to his former position. It’s probably more likely that Romney will be like many converts to new causes who are anxious to prove their fidelity and make amends for past mistakes.
And finally—and most importantly—if Romney can’t significantly increase his share of the evangelical vote, the survivor between McCain and Giuliani will consolidate the national security vote and pick up enough support from the fiscal conservative faction to win the Republican nomination.
Many Huckabee supporters will conversely argue that Republicans should coalesce around Huckabee and not Romney. But that idealistic argument doesn’t align with reality. Huckabee has been and will continue to be soundly rejected by fiscal conservatives. If Romney recedes, those votes go to McCain or Giuliani, not Huckabee.
That’s why evangelicals who vote for Huckabee are almost certainly aiding the nomination of either McCain or Giuliani. Hopefully, evangelicals will pragmatically recognize the very real danger of such an unintended and undesirable outcome and coalesce around Romney before it’s too late.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
McCain's "Straight Talk" Is Media Fiction
Here we go again.
John McCain’s “straight talk express” is miraculously out of the ditch and back on the road to the White House, thanks primarily to liberal and moderate non-Republican voters in New Hampshire, who apparently can’t resist the “straight talk” Kool-Aid dispensed by McCain and served by sympathetic members of mainstream media.
Mainstream media’s unwillingness to challenge McCain’s veracity was on full display in New Hampshire. Consider for example just a few of the many questionable but unchallenged statements made by McCain in debates and campaign appearances in recent weeks.
When asked why he was one of only two Republican senators who voted against the Bush tax cuts, McCain said he voted “no” because the tax cuts were not accompanied by corresponding spending reductions . He went on to say he was proud of his record as a tax-cutting foot-soldier in the “Reagan Revolution,” voting “yes” on Reagan’s tax cuts in the 1980s because they were balanced with spending cuts.
For McCain to say that Reagan’s tax cuts were offset by spending cuts is a whopper of considerable proportions. Any honest assessment of Reagan’s management of taxes and spending would conclude that both spending and deficits increased dramatically throughout Reagan’s two terms. And it was clear to everyone from the start that Reagan believed tax cuts would eventually increase revenues enough to offset government growth. In fact, Reagan was the first president to adopt supply-side economics and Bush’s tax cuts were a mirror image of Reagan’s approach. McCain’s position on the Bush tax cuts is clearly a flip-flop from his previous position and more in line with the “pay-go” philosophy of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid than it is with Reagan and Bush.
On the foreign policy front, McCain deserves credit for being right on the surge in Iraq but he shouldn’t be allowed to take sole credit for what is ultimately a George Bush policy promoted and supported by nearly every other Republican in Congress and every one of McCain’s primary competitors for the Republican nomination. And he certainly should be held accountable for channeling John Kerry when he makes the oft-repeated claim that “I know how to get Osama Bin Laden and I will get him,” implying that the only reason the best military and intelligence assets in the history of the world haven’t found Bin Laden is that John McCain doesn’t occupy the White House. It’s an example of McCain’s unbridled ego and an implicit defamation of President Bush and the military. It should be challenged every time it passes McCain’s lips.
To prove his bona fides as a change agent, McCain often states that he led the charge to pass the line item veto, assuring voters that he would use it to veto every pork barrel bill that comes across his desk as president. That’s quite an interesting fantasy given the fact that the president has no authority to exercise a line item veto and likely never will.
And of course, with McCain there’s always the need to pretend that he is on the right side of the illegal immigration debate, despite the fact that he and Ted Kennedy were the co-sponsors and primary advocates for last year’s failed legislation that would have granted amnesty to more than ten million illegal immigrants. McCain tries to deflect the issue by saying he heard the resounding public rejection of his legislation and now understands the need to secure the borders first before dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants already here.
That change in priorities would be a concession in the right direction, but how can anyone believe McCain is truly converted when he continues to claim “I have never ever supported amnesty and never will?” McCain justifies this supposed “straight talk” by claiming his recent proposal was not technically amnesty because it required that illegal immigrants purchase American citizenship for the relatively modest sum of five thousand dollars—an amount that would likely be paid by illegal employers who would find it a good investment to retain cheap labor.
His “truth by technicality” argument brings to mind Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” claim. If what the McCain-Kennedy bill would have provided isn’t amnesty, Webster should change the definition.
And once the border is secure what would McCain do with the millions of illegal immigrants already here? Good luck trying to find that out from mainstream media. They know better than to aggressively pursue that question because they know the answer—amnesty—would be very unpopular.
That’s why mainstream media will do everything it can to preserve the fiction that McCain is the “straight talk” candidate. A little honesty might put their favorite Republican candidate’s “straight talk express” back in the ditch and off the road to the White House.