Watching the election results from New Hampshire tonight now makes it clear that Senator John McCain, given up for dead politically in August-September of 2007, is alive and well. Ph2007012001102jpg_best_mccain
Senator McCain has created quite a stir over the course of his public career in the U. S. Senate. He is a self-described "maverick" and never seems to fit into the comfortable categories of any single interest group. He is clearly a social conservative, if you check his record, and at the same time he can appeal to both Republicans and Independents. He even appeals to some Democrats, like Joe Lieberman sorts, who believe the president needs to be a strong commander-in-chief.

McCain won tonight among those who were looking for a person who was most qualified to be commander-in-chief. Personal qualities were more important than leadership qualities, at least to voters for John McCain. His fiesty and no-nonsense style is popular once again. And 74% of NH voters today said John McCain is the most likable. (By the way, in the last two general elections George W. Bush was the "most likable" in 2000 and 2004.) Further, McCain won among those who feel that he can actually win in November. The oldest candidate of all in this race, now 71 years of age, John McCain won among every age group tonight except for one, senior citizens. Ph2007032301377jpg_mccain
It seems McCain can still appeal to younger voters, which will be needed if a Republican has to face Barack Obama. So tonight looks like John McCain’s night. But it is only one day in a cycle. Next week, in Michigan, things could shift again. That is the nature of this system and how people think and then vote.

What about Hillary Clinton? She leads early in the evening but exist polls are unclear right now. If she wins it will be quite a comeback for sure. If she loses then it will be interesting to see how she does in South Carolina and other competitive states. It also appears that she will change her team tomorrow to try a new approach. As her strategy fails, or seems to fail, I expect former-president Clinton will take a more hands-on approach than ever. Does the nation have Clinton fatigue? We shall soon see.

In South Carolina evangelicals will help Huckabee in large numbers. I even saw a poll today that said West Michigan, with its heavily evangelical and home-school population, will back Huckabee. Make no mistake about this, Mike Huckabee is seeking to build a coalition of very conservative evangelicals into a distinct political base. So now evangelicals have become a definable "special interest" group to be sought for by a Baptist minister running for president. I confess that I still have significant questions about this strategy and about this man, who I do not think is a consistent conservative in a number of ways. I respect my friends who like Huckabee but I fear he has none of the experience needed in a person who is up to the task of leading this nation.

The simple reality is that in one more month most of this will be sorted out. By Super Tuesday it is likely that the race will be over and then a way-too-long general campaign begins in earnest. Then third part candidates will consider what they might do. Will Michael Bloomberg run? I think he might.

Make no mistake about it. The nature of our system is that we will continue to discuss these issues until November. Before you criticize the system, and fuss about our polarization, realize that these kinds of debates and elections have gone on for well over a hundred and fifty years. The nature of our system invites this and I am glad we can still carry on such a process, even though at times it is too costly and too long.

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  1. Josh R January 8, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Seems to me that we will very likely have a McCain-Huckabee or Huckabee-McCain ticket. If Huck takes the Bible Belt, and McCain takes the Secular states the seem to be a pretty good team.
    Also seems to me that Huckabee and Obama help each other quite a bit with their Unity/Vertical politics message. As America buys into either of their messages, it boosts both of them.

  2. John H. Armstrong January 8, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    You could be right. The contest may well come down to McCain and Huckabee. Giuliani may have missed his chance by waiting on the states to come. I still wonder if Huckabee can win outside very evangelical voter regions. It appears many insider Republicans do not want Huckabee as their standard bearer in November and thus this makes it likely they will rally to McCain if he holds momentum. Rudy has to win Florida I think or he is done. That is amazing since he had a commanding lead during all of 2007. If he doesn’t he will become the first modern Republican to lead in the national polls at Labor Day, in the year before the election, and then not get the nomination. This will prove again that this year is not a normal year politically.

  3. ColtsFan January 8, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    More bad news for Rudy Giuliani:…
    “A new Datamar poll in Florida finds Mike Huckabee leading the Republican presidential primary race with 24% support, followed by Mitt Romney at 20%, Sen. John McCain at 18% and Rudy Giuliani now back in fourth place at 16%.
    Two months ago, Giuliani led the GOP race. With little chance of winning the other early states, he has been campaigning nearly non-stop in Florida for several weeks.”

  4. John H. Armstrong January 8, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    The more Giuliani falls behind the more likely McCain picks up his votes, not Huckabee. I really do think it will come down to these two in the end. You have to give Huckabee some credit since he was nowhere a few months ago. I still do not think he can win the nomination but we shall see. Romney has to win Michigan or I think he is gone too.

  5. ColtsFan January 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    John A. writes:
    “You have to give Huckabee some credit since he was nowhere a few months ago.”
    But I think the following provides some helpful explanation.
    “Here’s what I suspect. I can’t prove this, but I think Huckabee is getting enormous lift from one near-endorsement he earned that hardly anyone is talking about. It’s from Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and it appeared on Huckabee’s official website in November.
    Huckabee was still a second-tier candidate at the time and thus few noticed that statement’s appearance. The earliest major blog mention of it that I found was on Campaign Spot on November 28.
    People who don’t spend much time in church or who don’t pay much attention to trends in church settings probably aren’t familiar with too many pastors, or at least aren’t familiar with many pastors who haven’t been caught bilking their followers out of millions of dollars or been caught in some other corruption, but chances are most of you have heard of Rick Warren. He’s the author of the mega best seller The Purpose-Driven Life. He’s also clean as a whistle on the corruption front. And he’s in my opinion the single most influential Protestant pastor in America, by far, and may be the most influential pastor in the world. Pat Robertson and others get much more media attention, but Warren either controls or strongly influences tens of thousands of churches around the country through the aforementioned book and through his many church educational programs. It’s difficult to overstate Warren’s influence on some churches, especially the ones led by pastors who literally buy Warren’s sermons (complete with Power Point slide shows) from his web site and deliver them from their local pulpits. Other pastors don’t do this, but Warren remains a towering influence in their churches in one way or another. Warren is staggeringly influential, and I’m not commenting on what I think about that influence in this post, just noting how influential he is. And to the extent that he has endorsed anyone in the 2008 race, he has endorsed Mike Huckabee, as seen in that statement above. Google “mike huckabee rick warren” and you’ll see thousands of references on small blogs and chat boards to that statement that appeared on the Huckabee website back in November.
    I’m not saying that that Warren statement is responsible for Huckabee’s rise. I am saying that the perception that Warren endorsed Huckabee has probably flown through many of the churches, most of which are Southern Baptist, that follow Warren’s lead most closely. That’s bound to benefit Huckabee. If I’m right about that, then Mike Huckabee is positioning himself to be the first Purpose-Drive president, and because of that he’s going to be very tough to stop in the GOP primary.”

  6. Gene Redlin January 9, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Plausible Scenario
    One week from now, Huck wins Michigan. Romney badly wounded. McCain comes in second by 5 points.
    Huck wins big in SC. Romney and McCain blips on the radar.
    Huck wins big in Fl. Gulliani shows poor second.
    McCain and Romney are drifting but stay in.
    Super Tuesday. Huck breaks even and the vote is split all over the place. As Huck is today number one in national polls as likely nominee, his position will be strengthened.
    Romney and McCain last two standing other than HucK. (Gullinai Suspends his campaign for lack of Money hoping for a brokered convention)
    The next round of primaries are held and Huck starts to emerge but doesn’t have enough to lock it up. Romney loses punch. McCain pull a Faux Pas beyond belief, something he is very capable of. Romney, recognizing he is not going to make it backs Huck. The convention comes and after some arm waving and posturing the smoke filled rooms produce the candidate we all hoped would emerge.
    Now, who is that? Huck, Mccain, Romney, Gullinai? Give up?
    I think to discount Huck for McCain or Romney is thin Ice. 6 months ago almost no one gave him a shot. I didn’t. He can beat Hillary or Obama. All others are Business as usual candidates. He has the Edwards Little Guy Appeal. He can reach the Reagan Democrats when no one else will.
    But that is JUST MY OPINION. I am not predicting anything.
    Simply developing a Plausible Scenario.

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