February 04, 2008

2/4: The Day Before The Storm

Conservative bloggers, who are desperately rallying behind Mitt Romney, have been heartened by news that the gap between Romney and John McCain in CA is shrinking. While most righty bloggers believe that McCain will probably win the GOP nod, few are willing to concede victory to the Maverick just yet. Meanwhile, righty bloggers are pushing back against the media narrative that McCain's ascendancy reflects the waning popularity of conservatism. In their view, McCain owes his success to a rather unique set of circumstances (Mike Huckabee's surprising IA win; Rudy Giuliani's collapse; Romney's ongoing authenticity problem; etc.) rather than voter discontent with conservative ideals. Meanwhile, most liberal bloggers still expect Hillary Clinton to win more 2/5 delegates than Barack Obama, but Obama's late surge has certainly made things interesting.

DEM FIELD: Down To The Wire

Open Left's Chris Bowers thinks the pressure is on Obama: "The margin of error for Obama on Super Tuesday is surprisingly narrow. As most commenters have noted, Obama is aiming for a draw on Super Tuesday, which would be adequate given that Clinton is still viewed as the frontrunner (thus Obama would beat expectations), that the February schedule is very favorable to Obama (thus he could build momentum), and that his enormous small donor base would give him a large fundraising advantage in a drawn out campaign (thus he could build a resource advantage heading into March and beyond). However, while a 'draw' means about 9-12 states and 820-850 delegates, Clinton can actually deal what is more or less a knockout blow if she wins 950 delegates or more."

Several liberal bloggers are discussing the tightening race in CA:

Ezra Klein: "It's worth noting that tons of California voting is done by mail, and that was all conducted before the recent Obama surge. So HRC has a pretty serious advantage there."

Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas: "Remember, Californians vote heavily by mail, and absentees were mailed out to people two weeks ago or so. So there are a fair amount of [John] Edwards and [Dennis] Kucinich votes already in the can. Still, the number of undecided is large. If Obama can maintain his late surge, he may still squeeze out the narrow win."

OBAMA: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

We observed on 2/1 that liberal bloggers appear to be coalescing behind Obama, as evidenced by the latest Daily Kos straw poll, in which Obama leads HRC 76-11%. However, we would be remiss in not pointing out that Obama still has a number of fierce critics at websites such as The Left Coaster, TalkLeft, MyDD, and TaylorMarsh.com. Many of the front-page diarists at these websites disagree fundamentally with Obama's message, and they are unlikely to support him anytime soon. Obama remains a Rorschach test for progressive bloggers, who assign to him whatever beliefs (good or bad) they think he holds.

MyDD's Todd Beeton thinks the progressive blogosphere has been "taken in" by Obama: "It's hard not to conclude that so too has the progressive blogosphere been taken in, as they have to a large degree annointed the less progressive and the less overtly partisan candidate as their own, thus giving up two fights that once were central to the movement's raison d'etre. What's been quite amusing in the wake of the embrace of Obama by the wine-track progressives is to watch them bend over backwards to justify things Obama says or does, from his was-it-or-wasn't-it praise of Ronald Reagan to his less than progressive policy positions on several issues."

TalkLeft's Big Tent Democrat also has major problems with Obama, but he has a slightly different take than Beeton: "I do not question that Obama is a progressive and will WANT progressive policies. My leap of faith is based on believing Obama will adjust his political style and tactics and become much more of a contrast candidate and a Fighting Dem. I think his last debate performance was evidence of that change in style. Unfortunately, too many of his supporters, like Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano right now on CNN, still play the kumbaya game in stumping for him. They need to stop."

In contrast, Daily Kos' DHinMI thinks Obama is "a solid liberal" who deliberately avoids sounding partisan in order to appeal to voters: "I realize Obama appeals to independents as a 'post-partisan.' I'm a partisan, and as I've argued before, because the Republican party has become so radical, we can't wait for bipartisan solutions. But I've seen little in Obama's record or his rhetoric to suggest that in substance he's not a solid liberal. I find it hard to believe that he spent all those years representing an overwhelmingly Democratic legislative district, made up of African-Americans and highly educated and engaged liberal intellectuals, as some kind of moderate Manchurian Candidate, just waiting to become president so his Broderesque centrism could fully bloom. Furthermore, I think it's a virtue that he's become a bit of a Rorschach candidate, with people imbuing him with whatever of their beliefs they think he holds. If people thinking he's 'post-partisan' (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) helps him be a progressive president, get us out of Iraq and pass a good national health care plan and fix our economy, that's fine with me."

Chris Bowers, who has harshly criticized Obama in the past, considers Obama a "people-powered" candidate in spite of the fact that his rhetoric differs from that of the netroots: "Let's see here: a campaign that uses extensive internet organizing, huge campaign rallies, heavy youth and creative class support, a record breaking number of small donors, a fulfilled promise of record turnout, and combination of [Howard] Dean and [Wesley] Clark voters to force the best possible candidate the Democratic establishment could offer down to the wire? Correct me if I am wrong, but in terms of structure, that seems to be exactly what the emergence of the progressive blogosphere suggested could happen in a Democratic Presidential primary in 2004. Just because the campaign in question was not, seemingly, single-handedly plucked from relative obscurity by a few prominent bloggers does not mean the Obama campaign is not using the exact same energy and exact same new, political trajectory that the blogosphere was riding back in 2003-2004."

Bowers concludes: "The political zeitgeist that the progressive blogosphere first seized upon five or six years ago was released into the population at large and came back, unexpectedly, as the Barack Obama campaign. That energy certainly didn't turn out with the same rhetorical approach it started with, but otherwise it is nearly structurally identical. In other words, the whole people-powered thing turned out exactly the way we planned it would, only that it sounds a little different."

Open Left's Matt Stoller thinks Bowers' description of Obama's progressive coalition "is true, but insufficient": "Obama's coalition [also] includes DC journalists and the Clinton-hating establishment. When Dan Gerstein, Chris Matthews, Bill Bennett, and Joe Scarborough -- to pick four at random -- are incessantly praising Obama and bashing Clinton, it's worth noting because it's quite possible, even probable, that Obama will be just as polarizing as Clinton very soon after winning the nomination."

GOP FIELD: The Showdown On The Right

Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey: "...In the end, most of the voters will make their decision based on their own logic, as they usually do. However, there will be one part of the showdown that may not survive, and that is the affinity of the conservative [talk radio] hosts for the Republican Party as an entity for conservative values. For that, High Noon has been a long time coming, and a McCain win may have some activists feeling very forsaken."

Campaign Standard's Richelieu: "Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio. Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush."

Meanwhile, Townhall's Patrick Ruffini is already looking beyond 2/5: "Should the Republican race go on, I'd expect McCain to have an advantage in the next wave of 2/12 primaries because of his moderate/Washington credentials. The next big stops would be delegate-rich Texas and Ohio on March 4th. By this point, Huckabee will probably have thrown in with McCain, testing what a one-on-one conservative vs. moderate race looks like in the most Republican large state of all, Texas. Here, Romney is not hobbled as he is in other Southern states, because his base, metro conservatives, is huge in Texas. Suburban Houston and Dallas is probably relatively hospitable territory for him. In Ohio, Romney would have a chance to reprise his economic success from Michigan."

ROMNEY: Conservatives Rally To The Cause

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff explains why he will vote for Romney: "On some of the most important issues of our time -- political speech, immigration, judicial nominations, taxation, and now climate change -- McCain has been more comfortable with liberal or centrist positions than with conservative Republican ones. Let's not deceive ourselves into believing that this will change if McCain gains the highest office in the land...So I end up favoring Romney. I suspect that many more Republicans favor McCain and, having taken this long to make up my mind, I certainly respect that point of view. And, while I'm fairly concerned about what a McCain presidency would look like, I intend to vote for McCain if he's the Republican nominee."

RedState's Brad Smith urges conservative bloggers to rally behind Romney: "I basically think John McCain will be at best a mediocre president, and be bad for conservatism and the Republican Party. I think he is a demogogue, I don't think he is too bright, and I don't think he has the temperment we want in a position of such power. I urge those who agree, or don't like McCain for other reasons, to make one more stab at preventing him from being our nominee -- give to Romney; urge friends to vote for Romney; go to www.mittromney.com and sign up to make calls for Romney this weekend."

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin thinks Romney can still win: "If Romney takes Utah (36) and Montana (25) and wins in California (largest Super Tuesday state), Georgia (third-largest Super Tuesday state), Missouri (fifth-largest), Massachusetts, and a smattering of small states (e.g., Tennessee, Montana, Alabama), he could still be in contention. It ain't over."

Hugh Hewitt still has hope for his candidate: "If the swing towards Romney in California continues, he will emerge from Tuesday's contest in a solid second place with a new narrative and a renewed debate about the race -- can Romney surpass McCain in Ohio and Texas in March? The rapidly fading Huck would simply disappear, as he is doing in many places where the obvious has already registered: A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain."

ROMNEY II: It's Not The Message; It's The Messenger

Several conservative bloggers are arguing that McCain's ascendancy is indicative of his rivals' flaws, not the waning popularity of conservative ideas.

NRO's Michael Graham: "John McCain didn't win this nomination. Everyone else lost it. Mitt Romney had every chance -- and then some -- to win this nomination. He campaigned hard, and with lots of money, in every key primary state. And in every key state where his father never served as governor, he lost. He came, he saw (and was seen), and he got 31% of the vote. He wasn't defeated by McCain. He's just a mediocre candidate."

Townhall's Matt Lewis agrees: "The idea that John McCain's recent success means the conservative movement is weakened is, I think, a wrong interpretation. I blame the candidates for failing to lock up our support -- not conservative voters for failing to rally around weak candidates."

NRO's Mark Steyn: "This problem is entirely of Romney's making. He needed a Mister-Moderator-I'm-paying-for-this-microphone moment, and every time McCain offered him one, with some contemptuous snarl in his direction, Mitt would put on his more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger expression and say prissily that he wasn't going to descend to personal attacks. It's never good to play to your caricature, and Mitt's caricature...is that he's an insipid technocrat Ken doll propped up by a lavishly funded campaign."

THOUGHT OF THE DAY: A Missed Opportunity?

Patrick Ruffini laments the fact that conservative bloggers took their eyes off the real target:

"For a long time, I was like most conservatives. I didn't think John McCain could win. As soon as that assessment changed mid- to late-December, my blogging honed in on McCain. At the time, most of the 'sphere remained obsessed with taking out the niche candidacy of Mike Huckabee. Of the big conservative pundits, I think only Hugh Hewitt and Mark Levin focused on McCain over Huckabee -- and even then, there was a fair amount of Huckabashing.

Six weeks later, here we are, with the hated Mike Huckabee with the same shot he had months ago (little to none), but fighting a desperate rearguard action against McCain with less than a week to execute. Sorry folks, but it's probably too little too late."

LEST WE FORGET: The Tracks Of Her Tears

Wonkette's Jim Newell comments on the news that HRC teared up this morning in CT:

"With Super Tuesday coming tomorrow, and polls showing Hillary Clinton in a dead heat with Barack Obama in states like, let's see...Connecticut...it seemed like a good opportunity to CRY again. Not that this has anything to do with anything, but Hillary Clinton did cry in New Haven today while discussing children's health care, one of the various things that she cares about. We're ashamed at Hillary for this: If she had planned it around mid-afternoon, it might be a fresher topic for the evening news cycle."

Posted by Ian Faerstein at February 4, 2008 12:58 PM

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