What does Super Tuesday mean for Republicans? NRO asked three experts.
Alvin S. Felzenberg
The first message for Republicans is that John McCain and the party’s conservative base need each other. McCain ran strong in the south, in spite of two conservative opponents, one to his right on fiscal issues; and the other, perceived to be on his right on social issues. (Actually he and Huckabee agree more than they disagree.) Clearly, conservative voters find the Arizona conservative enough to take on Hillary Clinton in the fall.
If this were not already clear enough, exit polls showing McCain to be the second choice of Huckabee voters should put to rest the notion that the former Arkansas governor drew votes exclusively away from Romney. Conservative spokesmen have made their point that McCain was not their first choice. He has heard them. Unless they really want to see American forces immediately withdrawn from Iraq and the Bush tax cuts fade into history without even a fight, they will begin to ask themselves, not whether they will support McCain, but how to get him elected. The senator should begin adding committed conservatives to his team and considering notable conservatives as potential running mates.
The second message is that this time, the GOP will be competitive in more states than the traditional “red” ones. Against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, John McCain stands an excellent chance not only of pulling “Reagan Democrats” back into the Republican corner, but winning over new McCain Democrats.
The third message is that Michael Huckabee is neither a flake, nor a fluke. He has proven that he has a constituency, which deserves a seat of honor at the Republican table. As African-Americans have been to Democrats, religious conservatives have been the most loyal among GOP constituencies. They deserve respect, especially from the other two pillars of party conservatives.
The fourth message is that John McCain, with his conservative base behind him, can also attract votes of non-Republican voters, including those of African-Americans. The manner in which the first African-American within striking distance of a major party nomination has been treated by biracial hacks and a former president has assured that.
Finally, one yet to be appreciated result of Super Tuesday was the final collapse of Camelot in the city of its birth. In spite of Ted Kennedy’s stomping the country on behalf of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton carried his state. She did it with the votes of working class (Reagan and McCain) Democrats. Hillary Clinton has indeed shown herself to the harbinger of change. Who’d have thunk it?
– Alvin S. Felzenberg, teaches at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication and the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He is author of the forthcoming The Leaders We Deserved and a Few We Didn’t: Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game (Basic Books).
First, despite all the talk of “change,” the two candidates who did (marginally) best on Tuesday night were the candidates of the status quo — Hillary and John McCain.
Second, over the last few days, all the respectable pundits were reproving conservatives for not lining up earlier behind Mitt Romney but instead wasting their substance on Fred, Rudy, and the Huck. Well, if no one else, the Huck tonight demolished that argument. He demonstrated that no one owns votes but the voters. They pushed him into second place — and as Mark Steyn points out, to the first place in the GOP’s southern heartland.
Third, Mark and I seem to agree that this represented a rejection of Mitt Romney as well as an embrace of — not John McCain as I wrote earlier in “The Corner,” but of Mike Huckabee who is suddenly back. I am afraid that Mitt is out of it for this election — but not, I hope, for good. If he leaves the race but continues to advance bold conservative policies, he will shame those conservatives who dissed him as a turncoat etc. If not, he will shame himself.
Fourth, John McCain may regret forging such a close alliance with Mike Huckabee that yesterday he threw his votes behind him in West Virginia to keep Romney from winning. Huckabee tonight was Son of Frankenstein. He suddenly re-discovered that he could act in his own interests and not only on the Baron’s instructions. For how long? Hard to know.No one has a majority in the GOP convention at present. Huckabee probably can’t construct one in the remaining months — he has the smarts and he will have the money but he still looks like a regional best son candidate. But he can prevent McCain establishing an early coronation — unless he is richly rewarded with power, perquisites, etc. And he may just decide that the race itself is more fun.
Fifth, John McCain is now the Republican front-runner but as Mark points out, an alarmingly weak one against two very strong Democrats. The most important story last night was the towering Democratic turnouts. Their primaries and caucuses are attracting turnouts that are two and three times the size of the GOP’s.
So cheer up, conservatives. It may not matter who the Republican nominee is! The question you have to answer is: which Democrat would you prefer to be your victorious opponent? For that see my article in the next NRODT.
– John O’Sullivan is an NR editor emeritus.
The Democrat nomination will be long, divisive, and expensive. Given Clinton’s negatives and Obama’s crowds, it’s absolutely clear who Republicans need to run against.
I’ve likened Sen. McCain, the Republican nominee, to President Bush 41, who conservatives supported in foreign affairs, but spent as much time opposing as supporting in domestic policy. That’s an especially apt comparison since 1992 marks the last conservative revolt against a Republican nominee.
The Republican party has a huge problem: Its base has shrunk and is very unmotivated. For the GOP and its candidates, it’s necessary, but not sufficient, that McCain and conservatives reconcile. If they don’t, I can’t see how they raise the money or volunteers to combat Clinton/Obama.
To bring in disaffected conservatives, unify, and, most importantly, motivate them under the Republican banner, Sen. McCain must begin courting them on big issues like tax reform and free market overhauls of health care and Social Security.
He should join conservative battles with the Democrat Congress, demonstrating that he will fight Democrats, not just Republicans.
For a great many conservatives, winning the war against Islamofascism is the top issue. This presents an opening for McCain if he’ll take it, allowing his war leadership and Hillary’s negatives to, in the end, trump past policy disagreements.
– Pat Shortridge is president of New Majority Project.