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June 06, 2007

Post-Debate Thoughts

Frank Luntz had one of his focus groups on Fox this morning. As Luntz leans Republican, he doesn't stack his focus groups with the sorts of Republicans that, say, Chris Matthews would, i.e., liberal Democrats.

The take-away: Giuliani did well. Romney did very well. Apparently they found him to be the most straight-talkin'est candidate of the bunch, the most in command of the issues. And they especially liked his answer to the yet-again-asked question about his Mormonism -- partly, I think, they liked his refusal to distance himself from the Church of Mormon, but I have a sneaking suspicion some were reassured to learn that Mormons do in fact believe in Chirst.

I mean that as less of a knock than it seems. I imagine that many know little at all about Mormonism, except that it's a weird desert cult of some type, and are happy to find out it's just a sort of cocked-hat version of Christianity.

They thought that flip-floppin' Romney was the most upfront and honest of the candidates. Which means I was almost certainly right when I suggested that a hypothetical Giuliani flip-flop on abortion and gay rights would cost him much less than he would gain. Ultimately, party regulars want to hear you endorsing party-consensus positions. They'd rather that a candidate would have always held such views out of unshakable conviction, but if a fudger who supports them now is a satisfactory choice.

Giuliani calculated, bizarrely to my mind, that what primary voters craved was "authenticity," even if that authenticity dictated taking positions 180 degrees away from primary voters' preferences. No. They want authenticity. They need a candidate with veiws congruous to theirs.

Which brings us to Mr. Straight Talk Express -- I'm sorry, the former Mr. Straight Talk Express. Not only did Republicans hate his answers on immigration, they were disgusted (registering their disapproval on approv-o-meters) by his admission he'd never actually read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before casting his vote. Though he did make a credible case that he had all the information he needed from other sources -- when you're going to war, Read the Fucking Manual, is what the voters seemed to think.

McCain seemed downright testy in his charm offensive with New Hampshire voters (this from CNN footage). When voter after voter told him they didn't like the immigration bill, he shot back -- I'm not kidding -- that they were welcome to propose their own legislation on the matter, but until then, they had no standing to question his plan. Surely this was a glitch in his intended statement -- challenging other candidates to come up with a plan (though, you know-- opponents do have a plan: let this monstrosity die and go back to negotiation when we're in a stronger bargaining position), but from what I saw, a Senator paid over $160,000 per year to legislate was arguing with would-be supporters by demanding that they, with their free time, come up with their own 1,000 page immigration bill.

Luntz' two word executive summary: "McCain lost." Howie Carr says stick a fork in him, he's done; the winner of Dean Barnett's McCain Campain Dead Pool may be someone with an early date in July.

Huckabee, of course, is getting some good buzz about his dignified and intelligent answer to a question designed to embarrass him. I also liked the way he challenged the question as "unfair." Technically, it's not quite unfair to ask him about a strange belief that much of the country thinks is nutters. That could just be called hard-edged questioning... assuming that other candidates with even weirder beliefs had their doctrines rigourously questioned as well. And yet, no close questioning about Edwards' remarkable assertion that the War on Terror is just a bumper sticker, nor about his vile pandering to anti-American psychotic "Truthers."

Nope. The only "weird beliefs" the media is interested in is Huckabee's fundamentalist Christianity and Romney's Mormonism.

Something odd: Huckabee and Brownback sounded similar notes on the question of Creationism, but I found (as Allah did) Huckabee to be dignified, intelligent, and likable, whereas I wanted to slap Brownback in the face with a frozen haddock.

Fred surges to second place nationally, Rasmussen and his own internal polling show. Also at that link, an increasingly unhinged Ann Coulter excortiates him for merely voting to remove Clinton from office on one count, as opposed to two.

Hey, Ann? I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's fucking time to MoveOn.org.

(On the other hand, the Hannity interview revealed something I didn't know -- Thompson voted for McCain-Feingold. However, I give him some space on this, first because I liked his answer (he blamed Clinton for bringing in more corrupt money than anyone had ever imagined; clever to blame Clinton for a bad vote) and also because, let's face it, McCain created this tsuanami. I give Thompson a pass for the same reason I gave Bush a pass: Once McCain and his liberal goostesteppers had announced The Republic Would Wither And Die Without Campaign Finance Reform, it took a very brave politician, in a very safe seat, to defy their collective diktat.

I continue to really like Duncan Hunter, and he's still my favorite for Veep, whether or not Huckabee has got some sort of Jimmy Stewart thing going for him or not.

Bonus points to Giuliani for reading (he says) the whole amnesty bill, which I very much doubt McCain has, and for offering up specific criticisms, like the bill's lack of any effective way to determine when or if supposedly-temporary guest-workers actually leave the country. (They won't, of course.)

Then again, maybe he just copped Jeff Sessions' outstanding demolition of the bill, published by JackM., below.

I have to say I'm pretty comfortable with this field. Then again, I'm a blue state Republican, as you know. I think Giuliani would be a good President in most ways should he win the nomination by some miracle, Romney's showing unexpected strength and poise, and Fred! is, well, Frednomenal.

McCain seems pretty much out of the race so I don't have to worry about that. He's not projecting "authenticity" and "straight talk" at this point. What he's projecting is a sense of angry entitlement, near-anger at being questioned about his policies and his right to be President, and is coming off like off like a nasty old man.



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posted by Ace at 12:20 PM

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