Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy Iowa Caucus Day!!! (The Political Musings of Mr. Miller)

Today marks the kickoff of the most unsettled Presidential year of our lifetimes. As a political junkie, I've been following all of the twists and turns of the campaign with obsessive detail. In this post, I offer a summarization of a year's worth of my political observations and a couple of prognostications for the race.

Let us start with a quick look at the Democrats:

Edwards has lived in Iowa since the end of the 2004 campaign and has based his whole campaign on the premise that a win there can springboard him to national success. He's in striking distance in the Hawkeye State, but I don't think he'll pull off the upset. And even if he wins in Iowa, I don't think the rest of the country's Democrats really want to nominate a White Male when they have, as Mark Steyn pointed out, "a woman, a black, an Hispanic . . . and they all think exactly the same. They remind me of The Johnny Mathis Christmas Album, which Columbia used to re-release every year in a different sleeve: same old songs, new cover. When your ideas are identical, there's not a lot to argue about except biography."

Hillary is running as a quasi-incumbent. Her name identification and her perceived campaign machine have kept her at the top of the national polls all year long. But her support is somewhat soft. If she loses Iowa or New Hampshire, her national lead will probable evaporate and the Democratic race will be tight. She also struggles among liberals who don't think they are Democrats, e.g., if you watch The Daily Show for your news and think you are "balanced," you don't like Clinton.

Instead, all of those Jon-Stewart-heads will vote for Obama. He is nothing but a traditional liberal, but my friends who love him think that he "transcends the partisan divide." Whatever. In any event, he will likely gain the lion's share of the anti-Hillary vote. If he wins Iowa and/or New Hampshire, he'll be a real force.

MY PREDICTION: I predict that Hillary and Obama will engage in a bloody fight for the next two months. And even then it might not be settled. The Democratic delegate selection process provides for proportional delegate selection. Meaning, if Obama wins 40% of the vote in a state, he gets about 40% of the delegates. I think this will mean that neither of them can clinch the nomination early. And, with both of them boasting huge war chests, this thing will be a knock-down, drag-out fight!

In the general election, Obama would be a little tougher to beat than Hillary. Her negatives are stratospheric while Obama coos tenderly about "uniting the country." But Obama's inexperience and youth would be a liability as well. None of the major Republicans should despair at their general election chances.

Now, onto those Republicans:

No presidential primary in either party has looked remotely like the 2008 GOP race. There is no frontrunner. Rudy, the guy who is still the odds-on favorite according to betting websites, is polling below Ron Paul in Iowa and has basically conceded he will not win a single primary before Florida on January 29th. And Fred Thompson, while sitting in fifth place nationally, is just five or six points out from first place. Crazy!

My first principle in this race is Anybody But Giuliani (ABG). Rudy's unabashed pro-choice and pro-gay stances are indistinguishable from those of the Democratic candidates. He'd be a fine nominee for that party, just not mine. Despite his promises to nominate "strict constructionist" judges, Rudy winning the White House would end the period of the GOP as the pro-life party. In all future elections, Big Business Republicans would point to Rudy and say we need to nominate a social "moderate" in order to win. The pro-life cause would be set back for decades.

Because of the imperative of ABG, I've been casting about for a candidate strong enough to prevent his nomination. But thankfully for the good guys, Rudy has shown clear signs of slipping over the last six weeks. His path to the nomination is premised on winning big-state primaries like Florida, New York, New Jersey, and California. The first of those states to vote is Florida on January 29. South Florida has a huge number of former New Yorkers who harbor affection for their former mayor, but the northern part of the state is conservative like the rest of the South. Rudy will get about 30% of the vote there, but I think that one of the other candidates will be able to unite the conservative majority in the party to Stop Rudy in FL. If that happens, his victories on February 5th in Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York will be hollow. While he will likely hold the most delegates of any candidate on the morning of February 6th, if he lost in Florida, he probably won't win the nomination.

But which of the other four major candidates should we support? That is a really good question. Let's consider each in turn.

1) First, there is John McCain. He plans on winning New Hampshire a week from today and having that rocket him to the head of the GOP field. McCain was the frontrunner a year ago, but is now the plucky underdog. The mainstream media has basically willed into being his rally in New Hampshire, reporting it two weeks before it materialized in the polling. They have not forgotten how they almost handed him the 2000 GOP nomination and are giving it another try this year. McCain is a very viable general election candidate because a lot of independents think he "transcends the partisan divide." He's done this by thumbing his nose at the conservative movement's standard bearers. This five-year-old article in the liberal New Republic thought McCain would make a fine nominee for the Democrats in 2004. John Kerry asked him to be his running mate! But for all of those heresies, I'd take him over Rudy in a heartbeat.

2) Then we have Fred Thompson. He's a bit of an enigma. While in the Senate, Thompson worked closely with McCain on Campaign Finance "Reform," but other than that built a solid conservative record. He's played YouTube clips of Romney's former pro-choice positions, yet his claims of historical pro-life purity fall flat. His campaign has been hardest hit by the rise of another Southerner, Huckabee. Unless Huck crashes and burns, Fred's campaign is Dead on Arrival. Indeed, a story released today says that Fred will drop out unless he surprises (finishes ahead of Huck) in Iowa.

3) As some of you may know, I've been a supporter of Mitt Romney for some time. Mitt clearly has campaigned on bad social positions in the past, but I think his conversion to conservative views, while "convenient" is real. He's not going to take office and suddenly revert to pro-choice or pro-gay-agenda positions. That's why both the Republican Majority for Choice and the Log Cabin Republicans have run ads intended to undercut his candidacy. They know that he's no friend of theirs anymore.

But for many Evangelicals, whether they acknowledge it or not, the question of Mitt's Mormonism has been more poignant. I don't think believers should rule out supporting him over this issue. A Mormon President would not lead to mass conversions to the Mormon faith. Americans already are aware of Mormonism and have decided not to convert. But in the political arena, why shouldn't Evangelicals work with Mormons? The vast majority of Mormons hold political views largely indistinguishable from my own. This agreement on pro-family policies (including both social and fiscal conservatism) is natural because Mormons share a pro-family ethic in their personal lives. I've always taken it as a complement when someone thought my parents must be Mormons because they had five kids. (See the homeschooler-friendly station wagon pictured below!)

Ever since the founding of the pro-life movement, Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have worked hand-in-hand as cobelligerents. I disagree with Catholic theology on many, many points and actually believe that in the Roman Church are not regenerated. Yet our political cooperation is a good thing for society. Political cooperation with Mormons should be endorsed, even welcomed, on the same principle.

Once Mitt's past liberal views and Mormonism are set aside, a very attractive candidate emerges. He has been faithful to one wife and has raised five successful sons. He has executive experience in business, in the Olympics, and as governor. He holds conservative positions on all of the major issues. He is strong in all of the early voting states and has a vast personal fortune that he is willing to spend in this campaign. He has been endorsed by Wayne Grudem and National Review.

4) Yet, I don't list Mitt last, because he's the candidate I support with my head. Huckabee has won a lot of my heart. Huck does not hold all of the conservative views that Mitt does, but he is a candidate loved by Josh Harris, Josh Harris's little brothers ( who told Chuck Norris), Justin Taylor, Michael Farris, and my groomsman David Talcott. I love that list of people! Those are my people! How can I dislike the guy that they all find so inspiring?

In the last six weeks, Huckabee has surged to the top of the Republican field. This surge has dismayed the Conservative Establishment. As compiled in a long list here, a TON of good people (Rush, National Review, etc.) are anti-Huck. I think there are three main reasons for this animosity. First, Huckabee's come-from-nowhere surge has proved wrong pundits who long ago limited the top tier to Rudy, Mitt, Fred, and McCain. Nobody likes looking bad. Secondly, there are Huck's conservative heresies: complaining that some CEO's make too much, raising taxes while Governor of Arkansas, and calling Bush's foreign policy an "arrogant bunker mentality." Huck does seem too willing to use populist rhetoric on the economy. But the final and most distressing reason that the conservative intelligentsia has turned on Huck is that he is an Evangelical who doesn't believe in Evolution. Erick at Redstate captured this trend perfectly in this must read post. These non-believing Conservatives are freaked out that Nominee Huckabee would embarrass them at their cocktail parties.

So I love Huck for his friends and I dislike the motivations of some of his enemies. The conservative intelligentsia and the liberal press think that Huck would be destroyed as a Christian extremist in the general election, but I think he could engineer a repeat of the 2000 and 2004 Red/Blue 50/50 elections that gave us Republican White Houses. He's not a sure loser. He's a political genius, who while untested, would be a tremendous nominee.

So, if I were in Iowa, I don't know which way I'd go. But by February 5th, the race should have crystallized with either Mitt, Huck, or McCain being the obvious Stop Rudy choice.

MY PREDICTION : Mitt Romney wins the nomination by the skin of his teeth and nominates Huckabee as his Veep to strengthen his Southern and Evangelical support.

Thanks for reading. The Burrow wishes you a Happy Election Year!


Heather said...

Enjoyed reading your commentary and loved the pictures you chose...

Ornery's Wife said...

I have deliberated at length over this post and finally have a comment to leave. For what it's worth.

First, I hope you do not buy into the idea that because Fred Thompson is not promoted by the media that he is not interested in being the president. I have heard a couple of interviews recently that lead me to believe he is by far the most conservative, and the most qualified person for the job of president.

Next, I was dismayed to think that you don't consider Romney's mormon doctrine to be a negative point. A number of years ago I read about the mormon church and how they aspired to one day have a president in office. His religious persuasion WILL come to the fore in his decisions, and while they are based on a sound moral belief, electing him as president will be a strong signal to many that his religion, which many have been able to ignore through the years, is a "good way to live" and be sucked into a cult that is difficult to get away from. I do not have anything against mormons personally, and can co-exist peaceably with them. However, I would feel the same about electing a Muslim or some other religious person to office--when many of the doctrines they espouse are directly opposing a life in Christ.

And finally, I am concerned that Huckabee is not as conservative as the media portrays him to be. He has the support of the National Education Association, one of the most liberal lobbyist organizations of power in our age. That is a concern to me.

I am not as well read on any of this as you are, and as we are all products of the media and not privy to the private conversations with these nominees, it is hard to know really who the best choice is. But I just thought I'd point out a few "cracks" in your theories, as I see them.

I love you, anyway! :-)

Mr. Miller said...

Thanks for posting, Aunt Tracy ("TM"),

I didn't say Fred was lazy or didn't want to be President, I just think he kinda missed his chance. He finished third in Iowa and will probably come in sixth in NH tomorrow. He needed to win in the South in order to win the nomination, but it doesn't look like he'll be able to beat Huck down there.

I like Fred. I'm a dittohead and Rush has pseudo-endorsed Fred. But I don't think he is the most qualified person because he's never been an executive. America doesn't usually elect Senators. And especially against Obama, I want the Republican nominee to be able to play the experience card.

On Mitt and his Mormonism, of course I view his religion as a negative. I just don't think it will actually lead to mass conversions (see this post).

And finally, I don't disagree with you about Huck. He is clearly not very conservative on some of the issues. I just think he's good on the issues I find most important and he's a really good communicator who would have a great chance in the general election. Bill Kristol and Mark Steyn agree with me on Huck's electability.

But thanks again for engaging my piece so thoughtfully. It means a lot.

-Mr. Miller