Last night was the big Super Duper Tuesday primaries here in the U.S.A. While Maryland does not vote until next Tuesday, for twenty-one states, last night was their chance to make their voices heard.
For the last couple of weeks, the Romney campaign seems to be implying that Mike Huckabee needs to get out of the race. They complain that Huckabee is splitting the conservative vote and giving the nomination to John McCain.
The fact is, however, that this assessment is double-talk and inaccurate.
1. It is double-talk because Romney and his friends in the establishment of talk radio (Rush, Sean, Laura, etc.) have been stating for weeks that Huckabee is not a true conservative. Thompson complained that Huckabee is a "pro-life Liberal" rather than a true conservative. I find it incredulous that you can repeatedly rip the man as not conservative and then complain that he is splitting the conservatives - this seems to be double-talk. If anything, by the logic that they have employed, Hucakee should be viewed as taking votes from McCain since they claim that both Huckabee and McCain are liberals.
The reality, however, seems to be a lot of conservatives trust Huckabee's conservativism as much or not more than they trust Romney's conservativism. As I stated in this post, back in October - "I doubt the ability of Romney to excite the conservative base." I believe that this statement still holds true - and I don't think it is irrational that it holds true.
In another October post on this question (entitled, Thinking about Elections), I made the following comments which I still think are true regarding Romney.
Here are some reasons why I question the ability of Mitt Romney to excite the socially conservative rank and file are as follows.
1. His record and rhetoric as a social conservative is wishy-washy at best. If you take the time to watch the videos at YouTube of Romney's debates in Massachusetts, you will find that repeatedly he trumpets his views as pro-choice. "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." (Here is one of many videos that the left will use against him on this - and that causes the little guys like me to wonder where the guy really stands on this issue). I recognize that he is claiming to be pro-life now, but this debate was in 2002 - we are not talking that long ago and the switch in positions at this venture (especially when he talks in other debates about how long his family has stood on this issue - since his mother ran for Senate) will seem too convenient and politically motivated for the average Joe.
2. He has not galvinized the base already with all the money he has on his side. Romney has spent a whole lot more money than Brownback, Huckabee, etc., but he still has not managed to stir up the excitement. The pundits out there keep talking about how great it is that he has raised a lot of money (although a lot of it seems to be money he has loaned to himself). That is true, but what kind of return is he getting for that money? In the August Iowa straw poll, Huckabee came in second with 18.1% and Brownback came in third with 15.3%.
3. Like it or not, the reality is that the Mormonism of Romney will cause many to be cautious about voting for him. Not just among conservative evangelical voters, but in the general election as well. I understand that "we are voting for a President, not a Pastor" has a nice ring to it, but that line did not work when people wanted to dismiss the character issue in regards to Clinton. The reality is that many Americans vote on how they percieve a guy as much as they do on the person's policies. This is especially true of the folks in the "undecided land" who wait until the last month to make their decisions. For many of these people, the election all comes down to their impression of a person - and for many, that impression of Romney as the great Mormon leader will be the one that holds them back.
In that same article, I wrote:
Imagine if the guys who seem to be trying to get the bandwagon going for Romney would put their efforts behind someone who evangelical Christians could support, rather than a man whose pro-life creditials are shaky at best?
2. Not only is the claim that Huckabee should drop out because he is stealing conservative votes from Romney double-talk since the people making the statements claim Huckabee is not a conservative in the first place, it is also inaccurate because it fails to match up the realities of the records.
* The logic that says that a Huckabee pull out would swing the primaries to Romney are based on a false assumption - namely, that Huckabee supporters would back Romney over McCain. As Michael Medved recently pointed out, a large chunk of Huckabee supporters actually have McCain as their next choice rather than Romney. Why? In part, because they trust McCain on abortion and judges more than they trust Romney on those issues. While McCain is not as strongly pro-life as I would like, he has at least a fairly consistent record of being against abortion for about twenty years in office. Romney, on the other hand, was not only pro-abortion, but bragging about how deeply he was for "choice" just a few years ago while running for governor of Massachusetts.
* The numbers from last night show that, if anything, Romney is hurting Hucakebee more than Huckabee is huring Romney. In the states where Romney got second, the elimination of Huckabee as a choice would not have made much of a difference - even if you gave Romney the vast majority of Huckabee's voters (which, as I said above, would likely not happen).
--- New York McCain - 51, Romney - 28, Huckabee - 11
--- Illinois McCain - 47, Romney - 29, Huckabee - 16
--- New Jersey McCain - 55, Romney - 28, Huckabee - 8
--- Arizona McCain - 48, Romney - 34, Huckabee - 9
--- Connecticut McCain - 52, Romney - 32, Huckabee - 7
--- Delaware McCain - 45, Romney - 33, Huckabee - 15
(The other state in this category is California, which, because of the congressional district apportionment of delegates would take more time than I wish to spend on this to figure out the delegate effect, but the Huckabee factor did not probably hurt Romney any more significantly there than anywhere else - esp. since Huckabee did not really play in California very much.)
If you will notice, even if you gave every single Huckabee vote to Romeny (which seem preposterous to me), the only pick up Romney could have made here would have been the small state of Delaware - and that would require us to suspend disbelief and give Romney 90% of Huckabee's voters.
On the other hand, in a couple of states where Huckabee pulled in second, the absence of Romney could have made a big difference.
--- Missouri McCain - 33, Romney - 29, Huckabee - 32
--- Oklahoma McCain - 37, Romney - 25, Huckabee - 33
Assuming only a 60/40 split of Romney's votes to Huckabee and both of those states swing into the Huckabee column (and Missouri was VERY close and a winner-take-all state of 58 delegates).
(The stats from these races are from Real Clear Politics accessed this morning with over 90% of precints reporting in each state.)
So, what am I saying?
1. Romney and the talking heads should wake up and face the music. Huckabee is not Romeny's problem - Romney is. You can't live your whole life as a "moderate" Republican and then change your mind when it is time to run for President and all the sudden claim to be THE conservative.
2. If the talking heads (and Romney) really want to stop McCain, their best bet is to drop Romney and enthusiastically support Huckabee. (I don't see this happening.)
3. The effect of the repeated hits on McCain from the right may have enough of an effect to hand the Dems the victory in this next election, since some of these idiots have been making comments to the effect that "there is no difference between McCain and Clinton". Get real. McCain has a lifetime conservative voting record of over 80% whereas Clinton and Obama have only a 6% conservative record. Do I agree with McCain on everything - NO WAY!!! But only an idiot would claim that there is no difference between McCain and Clinton.
Anyway, I guess I should stop now.
Just my thoughts,