Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain wins Florida -- and the Montana caucus landscape changes

McCain has set himself up for a very, very good Super Tuesday -- there are all of those large, more moderate states that were supposed to be so great for Rudy, and after McCain garners Rudy's endorsement today, those states will break even more heavily for McCain. And those states, furthermore, tend to be winner-take-all.

Huckabee is going to press on in southern states where he has quite a bit of home-field advantage, and even if he doesn't win those states that he is hoping to carry, he will deny victories to Romney and win delegates for himself in the process.

The other interesting thing about Huckabee is that we are already starting to see some of the conservative pundits who decried Huckabee as being "liberal" starting to worry out loud about the fact that Huckabee will siphon off conservative votes from Mitt Romney on Super Tuesday. Sean Hannity last night was actually wishfully wondering aloud about whether Huckabee would drop out and endorse Romney -- the other conservative! Huckabee took 13% of the vote in Florida, but 20% of those describing themselves as "very conservative."

It would seem that if Huckabee were the fire-breathing liberal that he has been made out to be by certain conservative pundits, Romney's fans would be hoping for him to stay in the campaign to take votes away from McCain, whose record is at least as conservative as Romney's, but whose rhetoric isn't. Instead, Romney's people are talking up a head-to-head two-man race, hoping that Huckabee just goes away. Which he may, if he doesn't garner many delegates on Super Tuesday.

Look for all of the campaigns to put on final pushes in Montana, as well. It doesn't take that long to call 1700 people or cost much to send mail to them. One sign that Montana will be getting attention is that Huckabee mentioned Montana as a state they were hoping to do well in on February 5th. Another was the announcement that Mrs. Romney would be visiting Montana. Yet another was the McCain campaign deciding to get a real chairman, hire staff, and put on a real effort in Montana.

When was the last time we heard a candidate coming out of Florida talking on national television about Montana? Based on the number of Huckabee lapel buttons at last weekend's kickoff, Huckabee's hope to do well in Montana may not be as unrealistic as we had earlier thought.

McCain's resurgence nationally may very well have an impact in Montana, since at least a part of Romney's support in Montana is predicated on him being the "establishment" candidate -- a mantle that is increasingly going to be falling on McCain as he accrues more endorsements from prominent Republicans.

McCain is a Senator from the mountain west, has garnered the endorsement of former Sen. Conrad Burns (who proved himself this last weekend still to be the object of a lot of fond regard with party regulars,) and now has some organization in Montana.

More importantly, if McCain pulls votes from anyone in the Montana caucus, it will be from "soft" Romney supporters. Montana Headlines has, in the past, confidently predicted a big Romney win in Montana -- we would still predict a win, but with the shifts in landscape, we are feeling less confident about the "big" part.

A final note -- Mitt Romney will probably regret not having answered Tim Russert's question about how much of his own money he spent in the 4th quarter. With him releasing that information on January 31st "and not a minute before," the revelation of the sheer enormity of wealth that Romney has been dropping on this campaign -- only to lose Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida -- won't make him look good. The fact that he outspent McCain 10 to 1 in Florida indicates that in January, he is dipping even deeper into his own pocket in the first quarter, since there is no way that he is raising that kind of money in today's dessicated Republican fundraising environment.

If he had released that financial information earlier, it might have stung for a bit, and then been lost in the buzz about Florida (a state with a closed primary and a lot of wealthy Republicans, and thus one where the news might not have hurt him as much as it would in states like Oklahoma and Georgia and Montana.)

Now it will be fresh news just in time for Super Tuesday and a topic on the Sunday television news talk-shows. Sometimes it just helps to answer the question.


Michael L said...

McCain's as conservative as Romney?

It depends on how you define "conservative." Part of my definition is "supports the Constitution and is able to read and understand it."

By that standard, McCain isn't conservative.

If he wins the nomination, by November he will be widely seen as a small-brained, stubborn, and mean-spirited old man.

Montana Headlines said...

Who said Romney is conservative?

The case to be made for Romney over McCain is to assert that Romney was lying when he ran in Mass. and is telling the truth now.

At least we know what we're getting with McCain.