Nobody Knows Anything....but, as it happens, no one more so than I.

My predictions tens day out:

The Party of Lincoln:

Romney pulls it out. Huck hangs on for a respectable second place. Fred surprises with a third-place finish and emerges, finally, as a serious candidate.

Wrong. Wrong. Right--kind of, maybe, but--perhaps--not exactly.

Huckabee is much more formidable than I gave him credit for. Note to self: do not underestimate Mike Huckabee again. He has a lot of talent, and he has come to play and not just for the ride. In truth, I don't dislike Huckabee. He is affable and engaging--and those are good qualities. Certainly, he would do no worse as president than Obama or Hillary.

How did he do what he did last night? Christian conservatives helped him greatly in Iowa, where he harnessed a perfect storm of social conservative enthusiasm, personal appeal, and neglect on the part of a field bent on conceding the state to Romney. New Hampshire is not likely to provide the same fertile ground for Huck--but he will undoubtedly receive a bounce there. After New Hampshire, all eyes will turn South, where, like Iowa, he speaks a language God-fearing, America-loving, social conservatives understand. He is likely in this race for the duration.

Having said that, I remain skeptical that he goes all the way. The forces of conservatism are arrayed against him (my previous thoughts on that). This is a tough hill to climb. But no one expected Jimmy Carter to win in 1976 when he faced a similar battle with party regulars and the traditional sources of Democratic orthodoxy. Funny things happen in American politics.

Mitt Romney. He had a lot of money, a great organization, and a great plan--but he had to win Iowa and New Hampshire to generate a groundswell. He did not reach first base. This is extremely problematic for Mitt. He remains viable for a while because of his money and organization, but it is hard to imagine Romney catching fire at this point. Obviously, New Hampshire is do or die for him—but, even if he wins the Granite State, he faces a hard road from there.

Fred Thompson. He pulled off a surprisingly lackluster and curiously uninspiring third place. He may have, once again, done the minimum to keep himself above water in this race.

One interesting note: if you take Thompson's 13 percent and McCain's 13 percent (as they are, after all, basically the same guy), you get 26 percent—not enough to beat Pastor Mike in "Evangelical-land," but a significant number nevertheless.

What happens to Fred? Beats me. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Amid the rumors circulating that he was planning on withdrawing and joining the "national security senators for McCain" tour, he surged just a bit in Iowa. It is worth noting that his lurch forward occurred while his "ace in the hole," Rush Limbaugh, was on vacation. Rush is on record as extolling Thompson as the only true conservative in the race. This kind of support is not insignificant in the upcoming primaries wherein candidates must court the Republican base, many of whom listen to Rush regularly and admire him greatly. Fred is not dead—but he continues to need to make his move and show us something. On the other hand, a Thompson-McCain alliance sometime soon certainly would not shock me either.

John McCain’s rise from the dead is so remarkable that he deserves his own post--which will be forthcoming. Preview: of the five improbable things that had to happen for McCain to return to viability, two have transpired and, incredibly, the ice seems to be breaking on the other three.

And Rudy illustrates the perils of skipping Iowa. His big-state strategy is not completely dead--but he will be engaged fulltime for the next few weeks making the case that he is still relevant. This is a tough assignment for the former US attorney. As I have written many times in the past, I am a big Rudy fan--but I remain convinced that he is not GOP nominee material. Rudy for AG or DHS.

Bottom Line: The Republican canvass remains a mess. Anything is possible at this point, including a brokered convention and a nominee outside the current contest. We'll see.

But, then again, why would anybody listen to me?
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Nobody Knows Anything....but, as it happens, no one more so than I.

My predictions tens day out:

The Party of Jackson:

Hillary wins a squeaker. Obama second. Edwards a close but, nevertheless, terminal third.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong--but possibly right in spirit.

This was a huge win for Obama. If there were any doubters left before last night (not me), they are running for the hills today. Barack Obama is big time for real. Most importantly, unlike many past insurgents (Gary Hart, Pat Buchanan, Paul Tsongas to name a few), Obama is in great shape money wise and organizationally to move to the next battle with strength and style. He has plenty of money in the coffers and is likely to out-raise Hillary 3-to-1 during the next few days.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is still Hillary Clinton. As I have written previously, she is unlikely to collapse in the face of disappointment. She is an amazing candidate in her own right, with the best national organization in the first-ever "national primary." She has a whole slew of political assets and big guns in her arsenal. Now that the battle is irrevocably and indisputably joined, I expect to see a primary fight over the next five weeks unlike anything we have ever seen in American politics. Fasten your seatbelts, boys; we're in for a bumpy ride.

As for Edwards, his tie for a distant-second seems terminally impotent. For the man who staked his whole campaign on Iowa and started there with a lot of advantages, a seven-point loss in the Hawkeye State to another insurgent is devastating. He was vying to be the alternative to Clinton--but Obama clearly won that distinction. This remains a two-person race. The recently adopted Huey Long populism appears to be a gimmick that failed.

One quick note before the mythology takes root: many will wonder if Hillary erred in coming to Iowa. My opinion is that she really had no choice. Certainly, she understood that Iowa was not a good fit for her and a tough place in which she did NOT play particularly well. Having said that, she would have looked silly and cowardly, if she had sidestepped the caucus. She came, she ran hard, and she lost; It is a tough blow--but watching from the sidelines likely would have proved even more devastating.

One other Clinton note: Bill must take a back seat. After the loss in New Hampshire for George W. Bush in 2000, the elder Bushes (as popular as they were) went underground. A presidential candidate must be the top dog. Bill talks too much, he exudes self-absorption and self importance. Sit down, Bill, and shut up. Quite frankly, the three generations of Rodham-Clinton women are much more compelling at this stage of the contest than the old silver-tongued he-devil.

One last Clinton note: New Hampshire may or may not be do or die for Hill--but she must play it as if it is. New Hampshire saved the Clintons in 1992. She finds herself with her back against the wall there in 2008. NH is crucial. And while Obama will get a big bounce from his win in Iowa, Hillary still holds some high cards in the Granite State. We'll see.

Two random notes:

1. Zogby International was right on. He captured the steep Clinton drop-off in the waning moments of Iowa (he was also close enough on Huckabee, and he had his pulse on the Thompson surge and slight fade--see next post).

2. Hats-off to the Democrats, who boasted a roster of impressive candidates this time around. With the exception of John Edwards, all of the major Democrats struck me as good Americans who approached this contest with sincerity and noble motives (which is not to say, of course, that I agree with their policy proposals). But it is not surprising to me that Democrats in Iowa caucused in record numbers. Some of that was good weather (it only got down to 24 degrees last night in many parts of Iowa), but serious candidates and enthusiastic campaigning are also a large part of the explanation. Impressive.
I intended to write a post accusing Mike Huckabee of dishonesty and grandstanding when he called a press conference on New Year's Eve to announce that he was not going to go negative on Mitt Romney. Candidate Huckabee went on to explain that Romney deserved to be lambasted by a negative ad and everything he had planned to say in his thirty-second negative spot about Romney was absolutely true. Furthermore, just to prove that this was no publicity stunt, Huckabee went so far as to show the negative ad that he had decided not to show, just to prove that, indeed, he had a negative ad that he had generously chosen to suppress.

I intended to say that this might have been the most ridiculous political moment in my memory, and that Huckabee is either an incompetent flim-flam artist or a sincere bumpkin unfit for the presidency, but I think I am going to hold off of any assertions of that kind for a while.

The ad Huckabee doesn't want you to see via YouTube here.

The press conference (via YouTube here) in which Huckabee explains why he won't go negative and, while plagued with technical difficulties, repeatedly attempts to show the ad he is so adamant about not wanting you to see.

"Jive Talking" via YouTube here.
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few kind words for a man I admire before he departs from the arena.

Rudy Giuliani is in trouble. Even as friendly doctors came forward this week to assure us that the indefatigable candidate for the Republican nomination is in good health, we are increasingly aware that his political pulse is failing.

As the curtain falls on this particular act in his intriguing life story, let me say a few parting words in praise of this fine American:

The Rudy detractors would have us believe his political life began on 9-11. This is patently false.

As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani transformed crime fighting as a federal prosecutor, boldly confronting and defeating the mafia and white-collar criminals with thoroughly innovative tactics and strategy.

Rudy's success as a law man set the stage for his incredibly successful tenure as mayor of America's most important and difficult city, an office he held for eight years prior to the events of September 11, 2001.

In a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Ridley Scott, director of the 1982 science fiction classic, Blade Runner, talked about the film, which prophesied a dark, dangerous, and filthy Los Angeles in the year 2019. Scott revealed that the New York City trajectory of the late-1970s and 1980s provided the inspiration for his squalidly oppressive cinematic vision of the metropolitan future; he also good-naturedly admitted that his nightmare had not proved at all prescient (not yet, anyway).

Neither the interviewer nor the guest initially offered any praise to the former mayor, but, in actual fact, Rudy deserves significant commendation for revitalizing and securing the future of Gotham. Looking back, his eight-year stewardship stands out as truly remarkable. His tenure as mayor also represented a high point in the conservative resurgence of the 1990s, as he brought order to the ultimate untamable town relying on common sense and traditional values.

Was Rudy Rudy before 9/11?

Although detractors are quick to portray Mayor Giuliani as an unpopular figure while in office, this distorted memory willfully disregards Rudy's overwhelming re-election by the citizens of New York in 1997. More importantly, the convenient recollection necessarily ignores the reality of 2000, which offered a triumphant mayor as the only viable candidate to challenge then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's bold bid to win election to the United States Senate. All observers understood early that the New York Senate contest was a high stakes race that would automatically mark the winner as a potential candidate for president. Giuliani was the only New Yorker of sufficient standing to compete with Mrs. Clinton, and, when Rudy stepped aside for a multitude of complicated reasons both personal and political, a potentially historic contest between two titans died in the cradle. Rudy's departure then cleared the path for Hillary’s ascension, and the rest we know well.

An aside: a battle finally fought between Rudy and Hillary in November 2008 would have proved especially satisfying, sweetened with eight years of anticipation. But, once again, this looks wholly unlikely.

2008 and beyond

As I have averred numerous times previously, Rudy is not a good fit for the Republican nomination. Having said that, he is a good man who possesses a thoroughly American story. He is worthy of our gratitude and our imitation. More importantly, the upcoming conclusion to his drive to be president of the United States should not end his career as an important and ultra competent public servant.

Well done, Rudy.
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

Do you believe in miracles?

Stories depicting John McCain as the ultimate "Comeback Kid" are everywhere.

Even stolid conservative columnist, Robert Novak, supremely connected and not given to flights of fancy, waxed sanguine yesterday, as he pronounced McCain the "GOP's Last Man Standing."

Novak writes: "canny Republican professionals [view McCain] as the best bet to win the party's presidential nomination. What's more, they consider him their most realistic prospect to buck the overall Democratic tide and win the general election."

Novak praises the candidate for his sublimely rugged constitution, which McCain demonstrated in spades "during his six years of torture in a communist prison camp," but also more recently in his "personal determination" to carry on his presidential campaign long after all rational observers (read "canny professionals") had given him up for dead.

You don't have to convince me of McCain's character or his November viability. Way back in March of 2006 (only my sixth post on this blog), I sang his praises and endorsed his candidacy. Based on the specific challenges we currently face, I remain convinced that McCain was the absolute right choice for this cycle.

But (dramatic pause) it is not going to happen.

Conservative opposition to McCain remains deeply entrenched, bitter, and potent. Twenty-one months ago I underestimated the resistance to McCain. Fool me once...and...I won't get fooled again. McCain remains deader than a doornail.

The McCain comeback scenario hangs on a number of contingencies
(which are improbable when taken together):

1. Huckabee holds on to Iowa. Not impossible--but not likely in my view.

2. McCain "finishes strong" (third place) in Iowa. Not likely--McCain has never run strong in Iowa. Among other problems, his "straight talk express" is not ethanol-compatible.

3. Independents in NH abandon Obama and other attractive fruitcakes and come out for McCain. Again, not likely. Why would they?

4. At the crucial moment, the GOP establishment (conservative talk radio, blogs, non profits, etc.) experiences an epiphany, suddenly embracing "Maverick McCain" and admitting grievous error. Not in this lifetime.

5. Fred Thompson proves as lifeless as advertised. I am not so sure.

What actually could happen:

Dean of Iowa political pundits, David Yepsen, averred this week that third place in the Hawkeye State equals death for either Obama, Clinton, or Edwards in the greater Democratic contest; however, the three-spot in the GOP caucus offers new life for the lucky Republican also-ran (I agree).

I continue to believe that Romney will buy first place in Iowa, Huckabee will finish a respectable second, and Fred Thompson may well take third--showing himself the surprise of the night. Romney would emerge from Iowa battle-tested and victorious--but not invincible. Assuming McCain's surge in New Hampshire is not completely manufactured by the media, Romney, Rudy, and McCain should fight it out in the Granite State—with Romney again emerging victorious but not dominant.

During all this, Fred continues to enjoy an opportunity to emerge—and make his stand in South Carolina and on Super Duper Tuesday.

My contention for months has been that Fred Thompson is a taller and statelier version of McCain without the "independent" baggage (tax cuts, Kyoto, and immigration reform). It is not surprising that many conservatives are re-evaluating McCain during this desperate moment—but, once that reconsideration proves unacceptable, Fred likely emerges the most suitable (perhaps the only viable) alternative.

I continue to believe that it is not too late for Fred. We'll see.

Disclaimer: This message paid for by “Fred Thompson for President” (just kidding).
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Not much left to say about Iowa. For the record, here are my predictions:

The Party of Jackson:

Hillary wins a squeaker. Obama second. Edwards a close but, nevertheless, terminal third.

The Party of Lincoln:

Romney pulls it out. Huck hangs on for a respectable second place. Fred surprises with a third-place finish and emerges, finally, as a serious candidate.
Although I reserve the right to come back later and revisit these issues after some reflection, here are a few more thoughts/shots from the hip:

1. I tend to root for Obama with my heart and pull for Hillary with my head. Why? Hillary is a certain continuation of the past with all its woes. Obama equals an optimistic hope for a future full of change. The Gardener asked me to flesh out Obama's positions based on his light voting record. I am convinced, as David Brooks said today in his column, that what you see is what you get. I am convinced that there is almost no guile to the man. He actually believes what he says (sort of like George Bush in 2000). This is scary, as he is a liberal idealist who believes with the help of God he can make the world a much better place. The downside: these folks seem to do more damage than good more often than not.

2. For all those who think (and have asserted for years) that the mainstream media works for the Clintons, we finally have proof: you are wrong. The mainstream media is killing Hillary right now. The feeding frenzy and increasing momentum is proof that the MSM thinks she is toast--but that doesn't mean a whole lot because they are wrong as a group more than they are right. She is not over. She is in a tight spot--but the Clintons and their armies are not defeated. What we too often forget is that Clinton (like Reagan) had to beat the MSM to gain power. Of course, the comparison ends there--but the Clintons are experienced at by-passing the media when necessary.

3. I am enjoying the trials and tribulations of Team Clinton as much as you are; they deserve this much and more--but my schadenfreude is tempered by my belief that her departure opens the way for something that may prove much worse (or much better). Rolling the dice...
I have been on the road for the last five days and fairly oblivious to politics. But I have two quick reactions to Bill Clinton's comments in re Barack Obama and his inexperience, which I heard about only last night (Monday).

1. "Hello kettle; this is pot."
Ron Fournier beats me to the punch on this obvious analysis (read his excellent piece here); he once again has it absolutely right in re the Clintons. Of course, Clinton was an incredibly inexperienced 46-year-old governor from a minor state when he miraculously won the Democratic nomination in 1992 and inexplicably bested the most experienced president of the twentieth century, who was actually doing a fairly bang-up job of things.

2. Clinton is absolutely right.
Of course, electing Obama is "rolling the dice." We know almost nothing about him other than we like him. This phenomena is not completely unprecedented in American politics--but I cannot think of an instance in which we (the people) have elected a lesser-known, less-experienced president than Obama--but the nation is still young (some earlier thoughts on this subject here).

Why is it that the even the most obvious statement about Obama can stir up such a firestorm of controversy? This imbroglio is reminiscent of the Biden controversy nearly a year ago (my thoughts back then here).
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The worst ever? Charles Krauthammer thought so. Maybe.

"Thank you, thank you," the monotone moderator repeated time and time again, lamely signaling that the allotted thirty-second period for candidate responses had concluded.

Two asides:

Nothing irritates me more than a disingenuous "thank you."

Nine people on a stage, only three of whom have a serious chance at being president of the United States, all of them confined to thirty-second sound bites, strikes me as a recipe for a worthless eighty two minutes.

Having said that, the debate offered two big revelations:

1. Alan Keys is running for president again? Seriously?

2. Fred may have finally found his stride. Was this a breakthrough for him? I hope so. While Romney delivered another sharp and optimistic performance, Fred was the story. Like an all-star athlete who skipped spring training, Thompson has looked sluggish and out of sorts for the first few debates. But last night he finally showed up with his game face on.

Too little too late? Maybe. Maybe not. This race still seems very fluid to me. Because the field is so weak, it may not be too late for Fred.

What did Fred do that was so great?

1. He had a mini Ronald ("I paid for this microphone") Reagan moment, when he refused to comply with the "show of hands" on global warming.

--He was right to point out that this issue is more complicated than a "yes or no" answer to a politically driven "trap" question.

--As a Republican, skepticism about global warming hyperbole and hysteria plays well with a whole slew of target voters. McCain and Rudy clamoring to agree with Al Gore did not do them any good with the GOP base.

--And taking on a not very attractive and incredibly annoying media stiff is always a popular thing to do for a Republican candidate.

2. Fred also scored with two humorous retorts: still ostensibly on global warming, Alan Keyes delivered an impassioned speech about everything and about nothing all at the same time, all the while neglecting to address the actual issue explicitly. At which point, Fred interjected: I agree with Alan's position on global warming," which elicited a big laugh from the audience. The other case, which has made all the highlights, Thompson made light of Romney's wealth and his "acting ability." More good laughs.

3. Fred looked presidential and tough. "We can't stand for that," he said once in relation to our friends taking advantage of free trade agreements. I believed him. He clearly wanted to set himself apart from (above) the mad scramble for votes, and he did that (at least for a moment).
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Huckabee: still dead man walking; review here--but, in a nutshell, the diverse forces of conservatism have united to destroy him: NRO, Drudge, Rush, Hugh Hewitt, et al. I restate my previous prediction: Huck comes in second in Iowa and goes down from there.

Rudy: still dead man walking; he is a good guy--but not GOP nominee material. His pro-choice stand--believe it or not--is forgivable; his anti-gun stand is less so--but, even worse, too many scandals and too many wives. He will never be the Republican standard bearer.

John McCain: still dead man walking. Too bad and unfair--but popular conservatism buried him long ago. He is absolutely right on many issues, and he is by far the best candidate to lead an embattled America. But he is not viable.

Romney: definitely on the upswing. His College Station speech was the most presidential moment of this year-long campaign. He is well-funded and better organized than his opposition. He has a plan. He has powerful friends. He is well positioned to take off coming out of Iowa. But I still have my doubts. The Republican Party has never nominated a presidential candidate from Massachusetts. I think the streak continues. Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire (and Michigan), but I think he finds big trouble down South and out West. This is mostly an inarticulate hunch--but I just don't think red-state America buys what Governor Romney is selling. I like him personally--but he does not energize me.

Fred: and Fred does? As crazy as it sounds, Fred Thompson gives me hope. He is obviously a slow starter, and his campaign, in addition to being horrendously inept, is completely lacking in imagination. As I have said before, he is running the worst campaign, but he is the best candidate. Fred is big and tough and ready to rumble. I have only seen the highlights of the Iowa debate today--but, evidently, he showed that side of himself in Iowa this afternoon. More hope.

Personality, viability, and affability aside, though, Fred is the kind of candidate, win or lose, who represents the ideas and principles of the Republican Party. We need a guy like Fred. He still strikes me as the most authentic choice of our realistic options.