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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


And then there were four (well, three)

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, January 30, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
Predicting the outcome of Florida was not really that difficult. Romney and McCain were battling for the prize, with Rudy a distant third and Huckabee off the radar. As it turned out, McCain pulled off the upset, partly because Huckabee bled Romney of the evangelical vote, and partly on the strength of military voters. In winning Florida, McCain literally flipped the coin; had he lost, he'd be bankrupt, whereas now he's the front runner (especially with Rudy's endorsement).

McCain's next move is to free himself from federal matching funds, which he must do lest he be utterly crippled against the Democratic nominee in the general election. He has already been forced to embrace lobbyists on K-street to get this far - as others put it, "embrace the same moneyed interests he's declared are among the biggest problems facing America."

And the silver lining for all of us is that the authoritarian, egomaniacal, and thoroughly corrupt Rudy 9iu1liani is never, ever going to be President of the United States, and the GOP is far better of for it in the long run. I remain a firm believer in avoiding one-party rule; a Giuliani era immediately after the Bush era might well have relegated the GOP to Whig status, and that is unequivocally bad. Like it or not (a debate for another day), we have a two-party system, and that bicycle works best with both wheels intact.

The dilemma for McCain is that he's running against his own base. On issues such as the judiciary, on immigration, campaign reform (somewhat ironic given his present money woes), and a host of lesser insults he has outraged the Republican faithful. Though his strength, at least as far as the base is concerned, is that he is the strongest advocate in the field of the present course in Iraq - often more so than the present Commander in Chief. Also, it seems that while the Club for Growth remains unimpressed with McCain's record, at least some fiscons are embracing him. It should also be noted that principled, moderate Republicans like Adam C and Charles Bird rallied to McCain quite early on, not least because of McCain's ability to work across the aisle and more liberal stance on some of the hot-button issues that the mainstream GOP factions use for red meat.

The bottom line is that those in the GOP fold hoping for an anyone-but-McCain outcome are going to be disappointed. Social conservatives simply don't have the clout that anyone thought they did (witness their inability to make Huckabee a stable firts-tier contender). My friend Josh Trevino tries to argue that Florida had a silver lining for Romney, but the argument is a stretch; Romney won the social conservatives for the most part, but even then he had to share them with Huckabee. And while winning the votes of immigration hard-liners, the upper middle class, white voters, and pro-GWB voters is probably a good segment of the base, they aren't enough to sustain a truly national party. They certainly aren't equivalent to the entirety of the conservative base, as Josh tries to imply. But the argument that the Republican Party is not necessarily the (True) Conservative party is one that you will see being made with increasing frequency on the right. The problem is that Conservatives are no longer a movement, they are just a faction, and (judging from Josh's laundry list of traits) a poorly-defined one at that.

Ultimately, the delegate math is inexorable: the nomination is McCain's to lose, though we can expect that Romney will soldier on to save face if nothing else, and that Huckabee will also hang in there. At this point I think Romney's only chance at beating McCain is if he convinces Huckabee to drop out and endorse his own run instead (probably with a VP enticement). But even then, watch for the party establishment to coalesce around McCain.

McCain-Thompson 2008. Better start getting used to it. The next President of the United States is going to be named Clinton, Obama, McCain, or Romney (in descending order of probability). (Edwards is dropping out today). Who knew that the real super Tuesday would occur a week early?

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.