Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Primary Thoughts

Eh, night turned out to be less exciting than I thought. But, still, as I watch the Democratic debate - it's actually pretty interesting now that it's just the big three candidates sitting down and having a conversation, I could do, however, without potato head Russert and his abysmal questioning - here are some of the thoughts I jotted down over the course of my intent watching.

  • Heading in, the latest polls showed McCain and Romney neck and neck with around a quarter of the electorate leaning towards each. Huckabee wasn't far behind with support in the high teens. It looks like, at the end of the day, Romney's going to walk away with 38~40% of the vote, McCain with 30%, and Huckabee around 18%. Huckabee hit his ceiling, I think, in this non-evangelical state, but the question is how did Romney pick up so much support?
  • Romney won. But he won mostly by winning the hardcore Republican vote. There was no massive spoiler effect from hordes of "independent" voters sent by the Great Orange Satan to storm the gates of their arch-rivals. He won the Metro area and the Grand Rapids region by appealing overwhelmingly to the self-identified Republican demographic. Those are the most densely populated, most urban areas in the state.
  • McCain lost. His biggest support came, again, amongst the independents who turned out in big numbers in 2000 to carry him to victory. There just weren't enough of them this time around. That he couldn't draw more support from the self-avowed Republicans is a bad sign for his campaign. He needs to get the faithful to vote for him if he wants to continue to do well. And all the stumping by his BFF Lieberman and his natural constituency, the press, in the world isn't going to change that.
  • Huckabee actually had pretty decent support out in the sticks. He won all the rural, traditionally pretty conservative counties handily. But, again, there just weren't enough of them and, in terms of overall votes, they got steamrolled by the urban zones. Same old, same old for Michigan politics, really, it just doesn't matter here since it's a winner take all primary, not one apportioned by state congressional districts or anything.
  • This is why Huckabee has to be stopped, by the way.
  • It was a pretty snowy last night. The area woke up to a few inches clogging their drives and streets. And, yeah, it was cold. Especially compared to the warm snap of last week. But this is Michigan, this is mild weather for January. I don't think it had much of an effect on turnout. At least, not as much as the Democratic race being inconsequential did. I'm going to be interested to see the final numbers tomorrow but, I think, in stark comparison to New Hampshire and Iowa, voter turnout's going to be pretty depressed overall. Again, there was no big constituency of independents and Dems who crossed over to the Republican primary and I imagine the turnout for the Democratic one is going to be even worse, so it's likely the state did poorly overall. That's a bit disappointing since a big turnout would have helped proved that, dammit, my home state matters, and it's a good idea to give it an early primary. But, then, it was disenfranchised so what do you expect?
  • Lou Dobbs was really hammering away at the ridiculousness of the way this primary went down. How the delegates were taken away and all. Good for him. When you get down to it, Michigan is a high population state that's really suffering from a lot of the issues that are goign to define this campaign - chiefly economic but there's also a lot of environmental issues at play thanks to the auto industry - along with being a swing state for the past few decades, so it should be a good proving ground for the progressive message, at the very least. That the national parties have turned their back on it, that their local leaders have put themselves in a position where their clout is squandered, is a disgrace and the residents of Michigan should be outraged. He's still a douchebag for intolerance, though.
  • And let's not forget that moving up this primary was a huge mess even outside of the delegates issue. There was the whole flap about absentee ballots which almost didn't go out with enough time to return. And, then, there was the whole problem with write-ins on the ballots they did get back in the mail. The ACLU sued over the voter rolls that the political party's were determined to keep secret - they keep track of who shows up to vote in their elections so they can send you no end of mailings, no doubt, and the problem there is that they don't make them a matter of public record. Since the law was written that if one part of the primary was struck down, the whole election was struck down, that nearly sunk the whole thing. There's also the issue of voter IDs, which new laws required for the first time. On the one hand, I agree that we need to safeguard our voting practice and it's a sensible requirement. But, then, I like to see who's advocating for something and play the game of hidden motives. It's mostly the conservatives who wanted the picture IDs and that's because they disproportionately burden the poor who make up the Democrats core constituency. It's part of the voter suppression tactics that the Republicans like to employ.
  • Romney spent big to win the state. He spent something like six times his closest rival on television advertising. It's been buffeting the state, from what I hear, for the past several months. In the last few days Huckabee and McCain have been airing their own ads but Romney's been ramming his message down the collective throats of the Great Lake State for a while now. And, I think, his message that Michigan is in a "one state recession" struck a cord. It really is hard to convey just how dire it is in my homestate and how miserable it's been for years. So, when it comes to Michigan politics it is the economy, stupid.
  • Speaking of the media blitz my mother actually got one of those robocalls where Romney addressed her by name. Freaked her the fuck out. Not the technology - which is, admittedly, really really creepy - but that she'd somehow landed on the leaning or trending Republican rolls.
  • From listening to his victory speech, Romney's new theme is that he's a political outsider, an agent for change. I don't get how someone who's the son of a governor and a former governor in his own right is outside the great political machine but, hey, I don't write the man's speeches. I can't shake the feeling that he's an empty suit, though.
  • Romney's an empty suit like the Witch King was an empty suit of armor. Full of inky, seeping nastiness animated by dark forces and not to be underestimated.
  • Clinton won, as expected. A lot of people still voted Undecided, though. As I mentioned before, if you didn't want to vote for her, it was pretty much your only options since write-ins weren't allowed. And unlike Clinton the other frontrunners had withdrawn their names from the ballot already. But all the racial stuff she kicked up in the past few days is exactly the kind of shit that makes me hate Clinton. There's no proving it but there's also no doubting that it was an organized, co-ordinated effort to drag Obama kicking and screaming down into the muck with here. She'll use the same dirty tricks in the general election and, for some, that's a plus but for me it's a big, big negative. She fights the Republicans on their own ground, on their own terms. And I don't want a candidate who can replicate their strategies, who can build a mudslinging Maginot Line, I want one who can get that one step past them, and beat them on his (Or hers, just not the case here) own terms. In other word, I don't want the Democrats and Republicans to mirror each other, with the only difference being the label. I don't want a politician who's going to use every dirty trick in the book except it's okay because they're doing it in service of the causes that I, by and large, support. I want one who's going to carve out the principled differences between the two parties so they provide real alternatives to one another.
  • Where do we go from here?
  • For the Republicans, it's chaos. That's three big primaries (Wyoming, as the pundits will no doubt remind you, doesn't really count. It held caucuses which went for Romney, by the way.) and three winners. Romney's now got a reason to stay in the race, a solid claim to be the real frontrunning candidate - having placed second at least in the other and now holding the most delegates. McCain's just taken a huge hit to his credibility, it's going to be hard to make him the choice of mainstream Republicans who seemed to flock, overwhelmingly, towards Michigan Mitt. Huckabee's laying in the weeds but he's going to have strong support in the south. Like, say, South Carolina which is coming up. It looks like February 5th, Super Tuesday, is going to be the pivotal moment now. And it might not even be decisive. Especially if Giuliani's late primary strategy pays off and he can pick up steam in Florida and elsewhere.
  • The mess on the Republican side should make liberals happy. I know it does me.
  • For the Democrats, nothing much has changed. The big showdown is where tonight's debate is being held: Nevada. Obama looks likely to win over the black vote in South Carolina so Nevada is what he and Clinton are contesting. It's a southern state, a union state, and one with a heavy hispanic population, it's going to be interesting. I don't think that ends the race, it's likely going to go down to the wire on Super Tuesday but Nevada's going to set the stage for the few weeks of campaigning before all those races get run.

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