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2008 GOP Primary Contest -- A Retrospective

Now that McCain is guaranteed the nomination, I figured it was time to look back and to reflect on how and why we arrived at this juncture. There are a number of old political lessons that were re-affirmed.

1. Single-Issue Conservatives *Always* Will Defeat Their Own Causes

The Sun rises in the East. Death and taxes. Dick Clark on New Year's Eve.

Along similar lines, single-issue conservatives will defeat their own causes.

Self-defeatism on the part of the one-issue right has occurred every two years, in every general election cycle, state and federal, coast-to-coast -- for multiple decades. In years and decades past those truisms usually applied to single-issue abortion voters (and non-voters). This time around, however, the single-issue border blocs started a political chain of events that will result in John McCain(!) being nominated for the presidency.

Witness South Carolina.

If McCain had been defeated in South Carolina, then his entire campaign for all practical purposes would have been over and done. He needed the free advertising and momentum that went along with winning. 2nd place would not have cut it.

The single-issue border folks, however, loudly demanding "ideological purity," but ironically not in agreement even amongst themselves over whom to support, defeated their own causes by splitting up their votes. Some backed Romney (endorsed by Tom Tancredo). Others backed Thompson (the "next Reagan," which of course was ironic on various levels, given the 1986 amnesty law Reagan signed). Still others backed Huckabee (endorsed by "Minuteman" Founder Jim Gilchrist).

Each and every vote for Thompson in South Carolina completely was wasted. Thompson's campaign was over the very instant Iowa reported its results. So too the votes that particular day for Romney were wasted. For reasons that should have been obvious, Romney never had a realistic chance of winning *any* state in the deep South.

McCain was gift-wrapped a plurality victory over Huckabee -- in many respects by default, with a winning margin far less than the vote totals obtained, respectively, by Romney and Thompson. The win in South Carolina gave McCain just enough of a boost to prevail in Florida. After Florida the "inevitability factor" set in, some key endorsements were granted, Romney's campaign imploded, and McCain on Super Tuesday prevailed in all but one of the big-delegate states. The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Seniority is a Big Factor in GOP Primary Contests

Nixon in '68. Ford over Reagan in '76. Reagan over Dole in '80. Bush, Sr. over the field in '88. Dole in '96.

In each instance the Republican nomination went to the person with the most seniority. Whether or not a particular candidate was "more conservative" or "less conservative" was not a determining factor.

This year the GOP nomination will go to the candidate: (i) by far with the most seniority, and (ii) by far the most paid-in dues. That's not *entirely* coincidental.

3. Conservative Talk Radio is the Mirror Image of the Far Left

Not even a liberal Moonbat circa 1972 would have had the gall to have attacked Nixon for the man's personal WWII military service. Yet here we are in 2008, less than a decade removed from 9/11, in the midst of a shooting war, and so-called conservatives on talk radio have sunk as low to attack McCain not only for certain policy viewpoints (fair enough) but also for his military service bona fides. McCain was being tortured and beaten in Hanoi while the leading conservative talk radio hosts were picking zits off their faces or playing with Legos.

The anti-McCain radio blocs also have managed to accomplish the ultimate in the way of ironies. They've become the very same things of which they've incessantly accused the far left: Factually inaccurate, driven solely by agenda, uninformed, misinformed, petty, arrogant, incompetent.

4. Money Isn't Everything

There's that old saying in politics: The three most important factors in winning an election are money, money and money.

Well, obviously money does matter. When combined with incumbency, of course, money is and always will be a huge political force.

But money isn't everything.

McCain was the least-funded major candidate. Yet he easily will win the nomination.


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Comments (21)

Once the promise of Fred fa... (Below threshold)

Once the promise of Fred failed, there wasn't a candidate in the field that was worth a plugged nickel. That prevented the conservatives from coalescencing around a lead candidate. After that it didn't really matter and the single issue voting took over. Respectfully, I think you over analysed the situation, and under played all the free media the drive bys gave to McCain.

Proves that if the drive bys like you because you are one of them, they cover you, but if they hate you like with Fred, they dare not mention your name on the air.

Maverick, maverick is my name, maverick voter is my game. Who wants to start the bidding, $2300 minimum to open.

only in the gop does the ug... (Below threshold)

only in the gop does the ugly old guy beat the good looking young guy. Mccain makes dole look
young. He won't look good standing next to Hillary, and he'll look terrible next to Obama.
He won't carry a single state against either Dem.

How many of the upcoming pr... (Below threshold)
Alan Orfi:

How many of the upcoming primaries does Huckabee need to get some respect? If he wins Kansas, Virginia and Louisiana, will folks start considering the possibility that he will force a brokered convention? He has an unbelievably strong grassroots campaign that keeps overachieving. This group is projecting over 150,000 phone calls by Saturday... lots of passion remains.

Let me just add what an ins... (Below threshold)

Let me just add what an insult it is that these Talk Show "hosts" want to foist Hillary on us as Commander in Chief.

You know the same guys and gals who railed for years about how awful the Clintons were.

[well the Clintons did butter their bread...are they really that selfish?]

But if you think for a damn minute that the troops would be happy with that, and not utterly demoralized that somehow they DESERVE that then you are beyond getting your intelligience insulted by talk radio.

"Conservative" that believed them when they told you the Clintons were evil, and who now think it's a grrrreat idea to vote for Hillary as Commander in Chief.

Pure evil to the core-and you won't be able to undo what you do.

Judas is envious of you.

You forgot the two most imp... (Below threshold)

You forgot the two most important reasons:
1) McCain was always the front runner for the Republican nominee. He only fell last summer because of his support for the surge.

2) This is a campaign for change because Bush and conservative have so F-upped the nation. McCain was the only viable and acceptable candidate that consistently opposed Bush's disastrous policies. Romney flip/flopped to the Bush position (what a mistake that was) and Thompson always supported the bush doctrine.

The lesson is as follows: D... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

The lesson is as follows: Don't let democrats and independents vote in a REPUBLICAN primary.

We'd have a different story here if it were REPUBLICANS voting in the REPUBLICAN primary.

McCain was given free time on too many media outlets. Outlets that never would have given a single other GOP candidate that much time. McCain got elected by independents and democrat voters. Most of the republican votes went to other candidates. McCain is not the top choice of Republicans, but the influx of moderates, liberals and independents that are happy with either obama or clinton.

Don't think that Obama and Clinton being mirror images of each other policy-wise didn't have something to do with voters crossing party lines to vote McCain. Now that we have McCain as our nominee, the democrats have a slam-dunk in November. It's been easy to see this coming for quite some time now. The dems are monolithic and follow the same talking points no matter who it is on that side. The far-left and the lefty base will be happy no matter who they nominate. Hell, they were thrilled with John F'ing Kerry. Say the right things and you're in on the left.

It's not exactly a huge leap to say that since so many democrats are going to be happy either way with Clinton or Obama, that they might as well go vote for the most liberal republican that ever walked the face of the planet, John McCain.

I find it fairly disheartening that Republicans are now not even allowed to select their own candidate. We now get what the left hands us. Which is usually a piece of excrement. If we're lucky we might get some bread to make a sandwich, and some water to wash it down, but don't count on it.

And Barney, once again you ... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

And Barney, once again you are an idiot...

McCain didn't lose support for supporting the surge. Try the Amnesty bill that he attached his name to.

And your second point, a campaign for change? It's only a campaign of change on the left, where lofty phrases and a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric actually mean more than stances on issues. The democrat party is the party of "how can we fool them today" while the republican party is where the real debate goes on. As long as it doesn't get co-opted by liberals voting in our primary...

McCain got elected by in... (Below threshold)

McCain got elected by independents and democrat voters. Most of the republican votes went to other candidates.

Then how'd he win those closed primaries? Hmmm...

Um, what "so-call conservat... (Below threshold)
Jojo BoZley:

Um, what "so-call conservatives on talk radio" are you speaking about? I have listened to a few - and I have not heard any misinformed, petty or incompetent talk show HOSTS - you must mean callers to the stations, yes?

Because Rush & Hannity, for two - were accurate, consistent, clear and concise on precisely why McCain is a bad choice for conservatives. He is a "maverick" who consistently went against conservative Republican participles when it _really_ mattered.

This notion that the Republ... (Below threshold)
Alan Orfi:

This notion that the Republican Party has moved to the left is nonsense. Conservatives still make up the majority of the party. McCain was simply in the right place at the right time as three conservative candidates with remarkably similar platforms kept undercutting each other.

If Huckabee didn't win Iowa, Romney would have likely cruised in NH and never looked back. If Thompson hadn't pulled social conservatives from Huckabee in SC, then McCain wouldn't have won there nor in Florida and Super Tuesday would have been completely different.

The left is having their fun with all this garbage about Republicans going soft, but it really was dumb luck more than anything that has landed McCain in this position. I have never seen a front-runner more reviled by his own party... and I'm not yet convinced it's completely over yet.

"Now that McCain is guarant... (Below threshold)
Alan Orfi:

"Now that McCain is guaranteed the nomination..."

Mike Huckabee needs to win 64 percent of the remaining delegates to send the nomination to convention. Given the fact that he really has an excellent chance of winning Texas and its 140 winner-take-all delegates, he would only have to break even with McCain in all other races to prevent McCain from reaching 1191.

This whole notion of Huckabee only staying in the race to hurt Romney is getting old. He needed to get McCain one-on-one to have any chance at all and that is why he focused on combatting Romney. Nobody said squat when Fred did the same thing to Huckabee... as a logical political strategy in SC.

As an authentic social conservative on many issues, Huckabee is going to emerge as a strong alternative in the upcoming days. The next six primaries are critical for him, obviously, but if this gets to Texas, this should become very interesting again.

I honestly don't know who w... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

I honestly don't know who would be worse for the job, McCain or Huckabee. And thats not even getting to the democrats yet...

And thats not even getting ... (Below threshold)
Love America, Immigrant:

And thats not even getting to the democrats yet
You will get depressed. Someone even tries to compare Obama to Jesus here.


There are a number of ol... (Below threshold)

There are a number of old political lessons that were re-affirmed.

* When you have a wide-open field with no clear favorite, the weakest candidate (issues-wise) typically wins. This is because strong candidates are generally strong on only one or two issues. Issue voters then divvy up among the strong candidates based on what issues they care most about. The remainder of the electorate usually consists of dumb-ass mouthbreathers who vote based on superficial factors such as appearance and name recognition. Since primaries are decided based on a plurality of the vote, and the mouthbreathers generally form a plurality, their candidate generally wins the primary.

* What matters most is name recognition. Money and seniority matter only insofar as they contribute to name recognition.

"And Barney, once again you... (Below threshold)

"And Barney, once again you are an idiot...

McCain didn't lose support for supporting the surge. Try the Amnesty bill that he attached his name to." Dave

Oh really dave? Go look at the link below. McCain was polling at 20%-22% percent in January of 2007 (second only to Rudy in the mid 20's). He dropped down to the low teens at the time of Petraeus's report to Congress, and he steadily gained in polls every week since.

So, it looks like you are the idiot dave!


"I have never seen a front-... (Below threshold)
mikem Author Profile Page:

"I have never seen a front-runner more reviled by his own party... and I'm not yet convinced it's completely over yet."

I think you're correct. One of the reasons it is not over is that a big percentage of regular voters, as in my extended family, who almost reflexively vote Republican are not aware of the big picture. They are busy working and raising families and not aware of the victory being proclaimed within conservative ranks over their influence and votes.
They see any unblemished Republican as a default preference to most Democrats because they don't read blogs or conservative commentary on a regular basis. They are not political activists, they are family activists.
They need to be made aware of the fact that their vote for McCain in the face of an almost sure Democratic victory will be used to further marginalize their interests within the Republican party.

Good grief, Barney, I haven... (Below threshold)
Alan Orfi:

Good grief, Barney, I haven't paid attention to you in the past, but I see why people consider you the stupidest poster on the site.

McCain has been touting his support for the surge for a REASON... that is one of a small number of issues he can use to placate the heart and soul of the party. At the same time, he has now morphed his Kennedy amnesty bill into some form of "borders first" pledge. You have the whole thing backward. Sober up, re-read your past posts and try to facts SUPPORT your contentions in the future.

Jayson, you forgot the 24-7... (Below threshold)

Jayson, you forgot the 24-7 touting of McCain by the MSM and open border crowd (WSJ, Weekly Standard, etc).

btw, which "talk radio" peeps attacked McCain's war record? Sure your not confusing him with Kerry?

An finally, I can't wait to get a guy who screams "fuck you" at those that don't agree with him in the Oval Office and his finger on the big trigger.

Cheney already did.<p... (Below threshold)

Cheney already did.

And nobody had it coming more.

Barney.The surge was... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

The surge was going on approximately the same time that illegal immigration was being discussed. So just because he took a hit in the polls the same time as the surge doesn't mean thats why he took the hit. Maybe you should look at the one thing that had millions of people from every state calling their congress-people and senators about. Illegal Immigration. There was a firestorm over that issue. McCain was leading the effort to give amnesty. His polls dropped. People forgot, and now we have Mr. Amnesty himself as our nominee.

You should be happy he's our nominee because he is going to get destroyed in the election. His ONLY hope is getting the Anti-hillary vote, but getting an "Anti-vote" is a tricky thing. Especially when you have to be hated less than the person whose "Anti-votes" you are seeking.

I usually don't talk much about republican F-ups, but this one is the grand-daddy of all republican F-ups. It just means i don't care for the the GOP as a party anymore, but not as much as i loathe the democrat party.

So are conservative Republi... (Below threshold)

So are conservative Republicans actually going to vote FOR Hillary or Obama?

That's the part I don't get...

It's going to be another election where you vote for the person you hate the least., and in reality, McCain I don't hate, I just disagree with one or two of his positions, but overall he IS A CONSERVATIVE. He at least mouths against pork, he supported Bush's Social Security Reforms, he supported the surge and the war, as much as the amnesty bill, I DID like the part about a guest worker program, which would streamline the process and allow for more LEGAL immigrants (removing the amnesty part of the bill would increase the bill's value in my opinion. amnesty was just ONE SINGLE PART of that bill, not the entire bill).

So back to the original question. Conservatives are actually going to vote FOR Hillary or Obama?

Answer me that question. Are you?






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