Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rich Thoughts

Frank Rich tells Dems to calm down in his column this week, and among other points, makes an observation about the PA primary that I hadn't thought of:

... few noticed that on this same day in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn’t just tell pollsters they would defect from their party’s standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party’s nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That’s more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.


Those antiwar Paul voters are all potential defectors to the Democrats in November. Mr. Huckabee’s religious conservatives, who rejected Mr. McCain throughout the primary season, might also bolt or stay home. Given that the Democratic ticket beat Bush-Cheney in Pennsylvania by 205,000 votes in 2000 and 144,000 votes in 2004, these are 220,000 voters the G.O.P. can ill-afford to lose. Especially since there are now a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. (These figures don’t even include independents, who couldn’t vote in either primary on Tuesday and have been migrating toward the Democrats since 2006.)

The whole thing also includes some funny lines about McCain.


Anonymous said...

I saw that Rich piece too Brendan, I'm glad you're posting on it.

The voter registration thing is definitely a biggie, and one that should be brought up more when people look for silver linings to the drawn out primary (I'm entirely unconvinced by the boiler-plate "upside" proffered: that it keeps McCain out of the media. I think there is much to be gained on McCain's part in being seen as that kindly grandfatherly candidate who is not on TV bickering every night. The media already gives him a pass; we need his gaffes broadcast to the fullest) When people register with a party, it's gotta make them more likely to vote for that party in the general and, crucially, puts their vitals (name, address, district, etc) into the Dem party's voter database, so they can be targeted with messaging for many cycles to come. Growing the contact list is a huge benefit.

Also, the long, long primary is making people whose states have never mattered before feel important. The GOP may not have needed to bother wooing Pennsylvanians or Puerto Ricans, but those citizens will now have been treated to the undivided attention of the Democratic party, which has to build enthusiasm and a sense that they matter to one party, but not the other. This is mana from heaven for the 50 state strategy, especially if there is a lingering grudge held by the FL and MI voters whom Hillary is forcing the eventual nominee to get on the bad side of. (I think FL looks very shaky for Obama in Nov., to be honest, because of the race thing and because McCain is likely the Latino immigrant community's favorite republican. Plus there are a lot of jewish metro-NY retirees there; I expect Lieberman to be a virtually permanent fixture in FL stumping for McCain up until Nov, scaring up votes against Obama's alleged Hamasesque Israel policy)

That said, the idea that the 15% of GOP primary voters who went for Ron Paul are up for grabs seems a far too optimistic to me. People still voting for Paul are die-hard Paultards, and they're not just in it for the anti-war-ness. Out of morbid curiosity, I went over to the website ( of the Nazi group that candidate Tony Zirkle spoke to a couple weeks back (I'm sure you heard of that hullabulloo). They had uploaded the speech he gave to the 56 (lol) "white activists" assembled to celebrate Hitler's 119th, along with the speeches given by the other keynote knuckle-heads: the "commander" of the group, some senile Nazi war veteran who rambled endlessly, and then another congressional candidate, Art Jones, who ran as a National Socialist in some Indiana GOP primary recently. After I sat through all their speeches, I went to youtube and found some more stuff. There's one meeting in a restaurant where Art Jones addresses the crowd, and just a few minutes into his screed about how all politicians in both parties are Zionist swine or whatever, he stops, and as an aside, points out that Ron Paul is different from the rest. Jones seems to try to hitch his goose-stepping wagon to Paul. The point of this long story of my web-surfing is that Ron Paul is held in very high regard by some very unsavory types, who will absolutely not be voting democratic in November. (It's kind of a fun game, actually: find some obscure skinhead activist online and see how many links you have to click to get to Ron Paul. I'll bet it's fewer than 6 degrees of separation.)

So the remaining Paultards (especially in PA; a friend of mine grew up in the sticks there and says she saw confederate flags daily) are not really within reach, IMHO. And furthermore, we don't want them to be. To the extent that an officeholder is fundamentally answerable to those who vote for him (a basic democratic principle that Obama has played up in his "no lobbyist $$" angle), I do not want our president owing anything to these goons.


bjkeefe said...


Thanks for the thoughtful essay.

I agree with you that McCain not being in the spotlight is a problem. I do think, however, that there will be sufficient time to put the spotlight on him come the end of the primaries in early June. If you think about how long the six weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania primary seemed, the five months between June and November should be more than enough. This presumes that Hillary Clinton's antics haven't completely disgusted huge numbers of lefties and Democrats, of course, but I think there will be plenty of time for healing, as well. Part of the healing process will be starting the push to expose McCain's many flip-flops and flaws. Nothing like a common enemy to restore unity.

The real trick, of course, is going to be getting the MSM past their love for St. Maverick McStraightTalk. I do see some signs of this in the NYT and WaPo. I remain dubious about TV "news" doing much, unfortunately, but maybe there will be a McCain Moment or two that they can be shamed into treating like the Dean Scream.

I also agree with you that the long primary's inclusion of previously irrelevant states is a big plus. Obama has already showed an ability to attract serious support in many states that the old Clinton-style Democrats would concede up front to the GOP. Even though he won't have a chance in all of the red states, I think he'll be able to force McCain to spend a lot of money and effort to hold what were previously GOP gimmes.

I think you're right about Florida being a tough win for Obama, but I would point out that this would have been true even without the "disenfranchisement" canard.

I take your point about some of the Paultards not voting for any Democrat. I do, however, think some of them will, either for anti-war reasons or because they're just sick of the way the country has gone under GOP "leadership." Some others might stay home, too, or waste their votes by writing Paul in or voting for another third party candidate. So however you slice it, the fact that so many people roused themselves to vote in a meaningless GOP primary, just to register their dislike of McCain, has to mean something good.

I also take your point about the distastefulness of being beholden to the more unsavory of the Paultards. On the other hand, it's not like these people have any real clout. They're not going to be able to get anything more than an bone tossed to them in some speech. And, as you point out, there's little chance that they'd vote Democratic no matter what they were promised. So I say, I'll take the votes from whomever wants to give them. Can't govern if you don't win.

I'll note in closing that you demonstrate a stronger stomach than mine by being able to sit through those neo-Nazi speeches. I can barely stand to read news reports of them. It's a pity Zirkle is such a fringe candidate, unlikely to win the GOP nomination. It'd be nice to have him to kick around leading up to November.