Mark Steyn from New Hampshire on New Hampshire’s primary today.
HH: We begin as we do every Thursday when we’re lucky with Columnist to the World, Mary Steyn, www.steynonline.com, except it’s Tuesday. Mark, Happy New Hampshire Day to you.
MS: Happy Primary Day to you, too, Hugh.
HH: I understand we have global warming underway in New Hampshire today.
MS: Well, in the southern part of the state, I believe they’ve got temperatures in the 50’s. I must say, we have, although it’s early in the winter, we already have huge walls of snow on the road up my hill, and they’re still here. So when I saw John McCain with his ‘save our seasons’ sign, drinking the global warming Kool-aid, I was reminded of what a tiresome person he is in so many respects.
HH: I’ve got to begin by talking some polls from the national race today, Mark Steyn. Mitt Romney surged four points in a four day rolling poll, which is almost impossible to do overnight in the Rasmussen national, meaning that the Sunday night debate had a dramatic effect on the Republican race. Why do you think that’s the case?
MS: Well, I think he had a good performance on Sunday. I was rather hard on him after Saturday, where I thought he was lackluster. But I think McCain suffered, because McCain, that sort of mean, nasty, petty side of McCain, which everyone who’s stood next to him in the Senate men’s room understands, was in full view on Saturday. And really, I think that’s…the situation on the Republican side is very fluid. In a sense, the more…they’re now opposite primaries. There’s a real kind of stampede on the Democratic side for anointing the Obama sire, or whatever people call him, whereas on the Republican side, the frontrunner changes according to the way he’s standing, basically.
HH: Now polls from today, Fox News ran a poll today, shows a 34-33% McCain-Romney rundown, with Mike Huckabee far back in 12%. If in fact it’s a 1 point race, or a 2 point race for McCain, is that a victory enough for Romney to continue on?
MS: I think, I don’t think there’s any point in anybody withdrawing after McCain wins New Hampshire by 1 point. In a sense, the strength of the McCain resurgence has been overstated. I can’t believe that all these extra ballots they’re demanding on the Democrat side, at small town offices up and down western and northern New Hampshire are because, purely for Democrats. They’re independents who in the year 2000, were over in the Republican primary voting for McCain. There’s no bipartisan spirit for McCain this time. I met…whenever I went to a McCain town meeting in 2000, I’d meet Democratic friends of mine who after eight years of the Clintons, were curious to see what this guy was like. There’s none of that this time around. If he does eke out a victory, it’s going to be a much narrower one.
HH: Let me give you some of the early exit data that Fox News reported. This is from the exit polling. In 2000, John McCain won the Republican primary, and 41% of the people who voted in that primary, four out of ten votes, were from independents. And of those independents in 2000, he won 62% to George Bush’s 19%.
MS: That’s right.
HH: Far fewer independents are voting as a percentage this year. We don’t know about whole terms. And thus far in the exit poll, McCain gets 37% and Romney gets 26%. I think that validates your point that he’s no longer the go-to guy for the independent voter, Mark Steyn.
MS: No, and I think a lot of it…this independent category, which is the biggest group in New Hampshire, I mean, it’s a whole, big, wacky catch-all thing anyway. It includes genuinely uncommitted people who are part of the sentimental stampede to Obama. But it also includes people, I think, who were attracted to McCain last time around, and won’t support him this time around, in part because of his support for the war. There’s also people there’s also people there who are among the uncommitteds, who will go over to the Republican thing to vote, that are Evangelicals, who’ll go to vote for Huckabee, or who are left wing kooks who can vote for Ron Paul. It’s a whole, complicated dynamic. And this idea…I mean, I think McCain actually damaged himself to a national audience quite badly on Saturday. That crack of his, that was actually very clever in some ways, mocking Romney as the candidate of change, but it sort of died. And I think the idea of putting this rather sort of spiteful and temperamental 71 year old up against Obama must be concentrating a lot of Republican voters’ minds right now.
HH: Now I can’t imagine, I want to switch over to the Democrats after this, I can’t imagine, as you said, anyone dropping out after this, except, possibly, McCain. I don’t know how he gets any money for a campaign that could only get 30%, or 35% in a state where he got 60 plus percent eight years ago, Mark Steyn.
MS: Well, he does have a money shortage, so he needs to win big, or as big as he can, and he needs to win Michigan. You know, everyone, since Iowa, everyone’s been saying oh, Romney needs to do this or he’s finished, he needs to win that or he’s finished. McCain is in the same situation, except he’s got a lot less money. And if he wins weekly, alongside a big Obama landslide, Obama’s the guy who’s going to be on the front pages of America’s newspapers tomorrow. And if McCain wins by a point and is a footnote to that, is he going to be able to attract enough money to do anything in Michigan or South Carolina? And I think that’s a pretty big question.
HH: I have to agree with you. I think that he’s on life support now. He needed the surge, and he’s not going to get it. Now the question is, how important is his sort of recidivism on immigration? And by that, I don’t mean he’s reverted to McCain-Kennedy, but he refuses to be contrite about Z visas and other things.
MS: Yes, I mean, the Z visa, I think, is an absurdity, because basically it means every single human being on the planet who can get here on the day the Z visas are introduced is eligible for U.S. residency. And I would invite Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden and everybody else to come down and apply for those Z visas on that day just to make the point. It has resonance in New Hampshire. This isn’t a state with a lot of illegal immigrants, in part because we don’t have welfare. If you go next door to Maine, this sudden Somali population that has emerged in the Lewiston-Alban area accounts for 46% of the welfare population here. So New Hampshirites know that, and they’re not pro-illegal immigration. McCain’s appeal, such as it is, is purely tonal. It’s the fact that if you stuck him in plaid, he would seem like a passable Beltway imitation of a cranky Granite Stater.
HH: Now let’s switch over to Obama. Just riff on this, Mark Steyn. What is going on here?
MS: Well, I think the Democrat situation is basically always the same. They want the same old policies on whatever you name – affirmative action, abortion, all the rest of it. But they want a fresh face on it, because Democrats, the more they become wedded to these kind of cobwebbed 60’s pieties, the more desperate they are for some sign that they’re still on the cutting edge, that there’s still something new about them. And so it’s the face with which you package these ancient policies is the only way the Democrats can feel good about themselves. And this is poor Hillary Clinton’s problem. She just seems old and tired next to this crazy, insane enthusiasm for a guy who in the last 24 hours has been compared to Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and the Princess of Wales. And that’s just before breakfast.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, though, that can’t last. This is America. People get built up for the purposes of tearing them down. And I’m afraid that he’s never, ever been under any sort of serious microscope.
MS: No, he hasn’t, and at some point, he will come under the microscope. The question is, you know, we hear all this thing about the Clinton dirty tricks operations, and those of us who were covering the Clintons in the 90’s are quite familiar with that. You know, the Clintons always used to do this thing about how they were, they used to tut-tut about the politics of personal destruction, even though they were the best practitioners of it. And you have to imagine that Obama must be thinking these guys have got something waiting up the pipeline for me, because Hillary is not going to take defeat after defeat lying down. At some point, she is going to have to open up, or her team are going to have to open up, subtly, and find some way of destabilizing this guy.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, do you agree with me that if Hillary loses this primary, she’s finished outside of New York? She can never mount another run for the presidency. The Clinton era will be over.
MS: Yes, I think so, and I think that would be a healthy thing. I’m not in favor of a hereditary head of state in the United States, and I think it would not speak well for this country if it were to go Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. I just think there’s something about that that isn’t quite right in a democratic republic. This is Hillary’s problem in effect. She’s simply the wife of a popular president on the Democratic side. When you actually evaluate her in her own terms, she’s an extremely weak candidate. What she had going for her was the sense of inevitability. And once she’s no longer inevitable, what’s left?
HH: Mark Steyn, we’ve got 30 seconds. Give us a prediction on who’s facing off against whom in November.
MS: Well right now, I think you’d have to say Obama has, could well run away to the nomination. I think on the Republican side, you know, we’re on a multi-pronged see-saw, and it’s going to be a couple more states yet, even before the field narrows.
HH: Mark Steyn of www.steynonline.com, always a pleasure.
End of interview.