Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Friends...

I argued in November of last year that the Republican candidate who would pull away from the pack would be the one to make some sort of stand publicly against Dubya. The first candidate to do so was Mike Huckabee, who wrote that the Bush foreign policy advocated a "bunker mentality." He was attacked by his opponents (namely Mitt Romney) but this distinction did give him some traction and he ended up winning Iowa.

But, of course, Huckabee fizzled. John McCain, however, soon adopted a very similar tactic around the new year. He harped on the point that he opposed the "Rumsfeld strategy" from the beginning and that since Bush adopted the "Petraeus strategy," which McCain advocated, Iraq has become a safer and more manageable place.

Now let's start with some straight talk: McCain is no progressive or moderate. Of the core ideals that make up the conservative base, I can only find two discrepancies: his support of embryonic stem cell research and his opposition to the Bush tax cuts of 2001.

Now for his conservative credentials:
  • He supported the Reagan tax cuts of 1982 and 1986
  • He has voted to curtail abortion rights (he voted for the Partial Born Abortion Act of 1995, 1997 and 2003, he has voted each year since he has been in Congress to ban abortion at federal health facilities and has supported the Mexico City Policy)
  • He is a deficit hawk and voted for the Gramm-Rudman Act of 1985 (which mandated cuts in non-Defense spending)
  • He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and the Welfare Reform Act of 1995
  • He voted to confirm Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court
  • He supported the dramatic increase in Defense spending in the 1980s and supported the first neo-con war, the Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991
That is a sound conservative record that can be stacked up against any other conservative Senator. But, presto! John McCain has become some sort of progressive! The most curious factor in this equation is that he is not trying to discourage it.

If we take a look at the Florida exit polls for the GOP, McCain has banked on an oddly successful strategy. He won the Florida primary among men and those over 60 (both traditionally conservative groups), but he also won among 18-29 year olds, Hispanics, pro-abortion Republicans and Catholics (groups that are more evenly divided between conservatives and moderates)

This seems just crazy enough to work. No candidate can really challenge McCain on his conservative credentials, since he can prove them with votes. So he is winning at least half of that conservative vote. But he is also winning the moderate groups in the GOP and winning them big with 60-70%.

I predicted Romney as the nominee, but this year has been unpredictable in many ways. McCain has tapped into a really strange demographic on the Republican side, but somehow its working.

As Pat Buchanan said on MSNBC last night: "I don't get how McCain is winning. His entire platform consists of three unappealing things: 1) industrial and manufacturing jobs are done for good, 2) illegal immigrants are here to stay and 3) we will have seven more wars!"

True it is.

Mason Slidell

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