Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday Roundup

Ok, and now a few thoughts, somewhat more detailed than last night:

Regarding my intellectual-if-not-truly-actual support for Mike Huckabee: Like Rod Dreher, I'm very pleased and surprised. I really didn’t expect much from him last night, assuming that the power of dominant media narratives (“Looks like McCain’s the front-runner…yep, he’s the front-runner…you want to support the front-runner, don’t you?”), to say nothing of the siren-call of “electability,” made it an almost foregone conclusion that McCain would sweep the delegate count. So I’m marvelously impressed that Huckabee did as well as he did; also like Rod, I think this bodes well for my hope of keeping an at least pseudo-populist voice present in the midst of the I-still-think-unavoidable impending wreckage of the Republican party. I actually find myself rather upset about his very close loss in Oklahoma and especially Missouri; he really should have, and very nearly did, take both those states. It wouldn’t have changed the dominant media spin if he had, but it would have made Huckabee and his views appear that much more legitimate in the eyes of skeptics. Next up is Kansas (again, he ought to win here, but may not; that damn electability thing again), Louisiana (and chance there, perhaps? Has Jindal endorsed anyone?), Washington (probably no hope there) and Virginia (again, in such a strong defense industry state, little to no chance, I would guess). So not very many prospects looking him in the face at present. But I at least hope he has the gumption and the money to keep banging on his pots throughout the month of February.

Regarding Romney: I’m genuinely impressed that he took Minnesota, and by such a wide margin too; I never would have expected that. The rest of the states he won were either those where his control of state Republican voters was a forgone conclusion (Massachusetts and Utah), those with a very low population (North Dakota and Alaska), and those with a significant number of Mormons or business-sympathetic evangelical voters to put him over the top (Montana and Colorado). Listening to his speech late Tuesday night, though, I have to admit that he’s becoming a leaner, better campaigner. I knew he would be better once he got away from retail, handshaking politics (which he’s truly stiff and miserable at), but nonetheless, he’s really made a step up. There is some talk, particularly among Mormon Republicans, that he would have been able to more comfortably, more persuasively, mold himself into the sort of idea-driven, not-hung-up-on-religion-and-culture, Reagan-style western conservative that he's clearly best at being if he hadn't stuck with Massachusetts as his base (in that the culture war tension there supposedly forced him into Baptist-style speaking far more than was necessary), but I don't know what he options were. Utah? Michigan? I'm dubious either of them would have worked in the long haul. Still, he's out there campaigning, not giving up yet. I have no idea how long his family and bank account will allow him to try to spend his campaign into oblivion, but I suppose as long as Rush Limbaugh and the National Review gang love him, he’ll be able to talk himself into going on.

Regarding Clinton and Obama: All Melissa could say this morning was “What is it with Americans? Do so many of us actually WANT an aristocracy? Do so many of us actually LIKE the idea of royal families running the show?” I was afraid to answer her, because I fear that she’s not far off from the truth. Alexander Hamilton would be happy; Thomas Jefferson would be appalled.

All that being said, I can’t make any overall sense out of the particular tea leaves of their map of winnings. I’m quite surprised at Clinton taking Oklahoma and Tennessee, and both states so decisively; I figured they would at least be within reach for Obama. It’s not surprising that she took the big eastern and western state Democratic delegate prizes, as those votes come overwhelmingly come from metropolitan areas (or areas wherein recent ex-urbanites predominate), whereas Obama, though no slouch when it comes to cosmopolitan voters (Connecticut proves that), mostly won on the backs of African-American, rural, and independent western Democrats, taking states across the south, west and the Great Plains. (My bet is that he takes Nebraska and Louisiana this Saturday, with the former contest being easier than the latter; no bets on Washington, though he and his people have been campaigning heavily there.) As for Clinton....well, look, I’m not Hillary-hater; I actually like It Takes a Village, flaws and all. But her communitarian politics, substantive though they may be, can be seen as having been cut almost purely from a straight-out-of-the-early 20th-century big-city Progressive mold, whereas Obama can genuinely speak with at least a dash of genuine, get-out-the-vote, people-matter-to-the-common-good populism, which still resonates somewhat in some of less crowded parts of our country. I hope he hangs on for a while longer….though I fear that, in the end, Clintonian hardball, as Ross recently observed, is going to crush him when the superdelegates get counted. Ultimately, Obama is trying to win everywhere he can; his goal is the "momentum primary," the media-spin, the prize of convincing enough people that some sort of real "general will" thing is happening around him. Whereas Clinton can't be bothered with any of that Rousseau stuff; she's mostly allowed the small-to-medium-size-state caucus votes to go to Obama (check it out: he consistently wins big majorities in caucus states, while his primary wins have been very narrow), and aimed hard at the big prizes: California and the like. Close to half the American voting electorate hates her, and she knows it; but all she needs, both now and in November, is 50% plus one. It's really not my fight, ideologically or otherwise, but still, here's to hoping she doesn't get it.


Anonymous said...

California is winner take all for the Democrats? Where are you getting this stuff from? Nothing is winner take all for the Dems, which is why Obama is leading in the delegate count - his huge wins in Illinois and the caucus states cancel out Clinton's narrower ones in the east and west.

Russell Arben Fox said...

You're right, it's not; that was a mistake that I left over from a e-mail early this morning. Thanks for the correction, John; I've made a change in the post.

scritic said...

As someone who came to the US to study in 2002, I've never figured out this dislike for Hillary.

While, clearly, the brand of communitarian politics that you espouse, makes you closer to Obama (at least if his rhetoric is something to go by), I'm very curious about what makes you (and other people) dislike her. I don't mean an active dislike but an almost instinctive aversion that I see she inspires among so many people.

Now I've never experienced the Clinton Presidency, so I may not have one crucial piece of the context but it seems to me that she inspired this kind of aversion long before she became first lady.