Patrick’s post below bemoans the apparent unwillingness of Huckabee voters to rally to Romney. I think that is far too premature a complaint to voice, because we have had exactly three days since Rudy threw in with McCain, the clearest signal yet to values voters that their agenda will not be the agenda of a McCain campaign.
The fight against McCain-Kennedy in the spring and summer took about two weeks to first organize and then gather overwhelming strength.
The battle against Harriet Miers (yes, I backed the president on the losing side of that one so I recall it well) took a week or so longer.
But once the conservative voice begins speaking as one or nearly one, it is very effective, and that began to emerge on Thursday after the Reagan Library debate.
When Rush declared on Thursday that a “vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain,” the focus became very, very clear for conservative voters –who heard it.
That message has been repeated a few times by others from Laura Ingraham to Mark Levin and most of us in between, as well as by folks like Rick Santorum and Denny Hastert. Messages take a while to get delivered, but they eventually get there. McCain is using endorsements from the political elites like Arnold and Rick Perry to blunt the new media, and MSM is pushing back with an “inevitability” narrative that is nonsense even as realistic assessments give McCain a great advantage going forward.
But the picture is very clear and voters see it: McCain or Romney. Huck doesn’t have a shot, an thus a vote for him is a vote for McCain.
Romney doesn’t even have to spend much more money to communicate this or the crucial differences between him and McCain on taxes, the First Amendment, judges, climate change, and especially illegal immigration. He now has the new media on board and amplifying his message. If there is movement towards Romney on Tuesday, he has many incentives to stay on through St. Paul, and especially through Ohio and Texas in early March. He gets more earned media every day from here on than any candidate has enjoyed on the GOP side since the campaign began. That’s a huge force multiplier and it is just coming to bear on the race.
Seven long years ago Mickey Kaus publicized the “faster Feiler thesis” that politics is moving faster and faster because of the incredibly rapid flow of news and analysis. That was seven years ago and we are going at multiples of the speed of 2007 when it comes to news and reactions to news. Things change with incredible quickness.
The most recent example: New Hampshire. On Monday before the vote, Obama had a double digit lead in the polls. One senior Clinton advisor confided to one of my talk colleagues that it could be 2 to 1 for Obama.
But Hillary cried and Obama’s hopes died. The MSM just didn’t see it coming.
No one was crying this week, and McCain is hoping that Rudy/Arnold are the drivers of the swing.
But the reality is that “Rally to Romney” is the dominant story in the conservative new media. The results won’t be clear until Wednesday morning, though polls like this Rasmussen in Missouri and Rasmussen in Tennesssee which show McCain with a narrow and falling lead of only 3 points underscore how volatile the race is. A Romney win in either of these states certainly propels the campaign forward to Texas and Ohio at least. (This Tennessee poll has Romney ahead.) Four days is a very long time in 2008.
A Huckabee voter on Tuesday could have a lot of reasons for sticking with Mike, but one of them cannot be protecting the legacy of Reagan or the platform of the GOP as it has existed since 1980.
The choice is very clear, and Republicans have a long weekend to think it over.