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National Review’s Rich Lowry on the GOP, Florida Eve.

Monday, January 28, 2008

HH: Joined now by Rich Lowry, Rich of course is the editor of National Review. Rich, welcome back, always a pleasure to talk to you.

RL: Hi, Hugh, thanks for having me.

HH: What do you think happens tomorrow in Florida?

RL: Oh, I don’t know. Close, close, close. Tight as a tick, as they say. I think what we know, Hugh, in these kind of, when polls show it close like this, no one really knows what happens, and it can break strongly one way or the other at the end, or as we saw in South Carolina on the Republican side, not, and you just have a very long night. So I really have no idea what’s going to happen.

HH: Now we’ve got a number of different polls out there from Zogby having McCain up three, Rasmussen says tied, Survey USA says Romney up one, inside the margin, they all are. Then you’ve got this Public Policy Polling with Romney up eight, and this Datamar with Romney up thirteen. Do you believe any of them?

RL: I have a hard time believe Mitt is up eight or thirteen. I tell you, as a Romney supporter, I would feel a little better if the vote were Wednesday or Thursday. I’d like it better if this Crist endorsement had a little more time to work its way through the system, and kind of wear off a little bit, and people focus back on the issues and the economic message, which I think Mitt has been so strongly delivering down there over the last week or so. So I’d feel a little better, because I thought Romney had the strong momentum going into Friday. I thought McCain, the endorsements, especially the Crist endorsement over the weekend, probably gave him a boost. And I just don’t know exactly where it is right now.

HH: Now I do think there was some blowback at McCain for the attack on Romney. Let me play for you a bit of a conversation I had with Rudy Giuliani an hour ago, actually only an hour and a half ago on this program:

RG: So these are the kinds of differences we should be talking about, not the kind of stuff they’re doing, one calling the other dishonest. Neither one of them is dishonest. Neither one of them is dishonest. Neither one of them is in favor of a timetable for retreat. It’s kind of descending into issues that ultimately hurt us in terms of winning an election.

HH: So you don’t think Romney is in favor of a timetable?

RG: No, I read those remarks, and I think I understood what he meant. What he meant was you’ve got to have internal ones. I don’t think he was talking about the same…yes, he was talking about a timetable, but he wasn’t talking about the same kind of timetable that the Democrats were supporting, you know, a public timetable for retreat, which by the way, Hugh, I think has been one of the more irresponsible recommendations of any group of politicians I’ve ever heard in my life.

HH: Now let me also play for you, Rich Lowry, Jeffrey Toobin on CNN yesterday, one of McCain’s MSM buddies. This is kind of startling:

JT: Speaking of straight talk, you know, no American politician has gotten more adoring press coverage than John McCain. But let’s be clear about what John McCain is doing about Mitt Romney. He’s lying. He’s lying about Mitt Romney’s position. No question about it. And you know, I think that this idea that Mitt Romney supports timetables…now in fact, most Americans support timetables to get out of Iraq. Mitt Romney doesn’t happen to be one of them. But that’s really outrageous what McCain is doing, bringing up this ancient interview, and distorting it at the last minute so he doesn’t have to talk about the economy.

HH: Rich Lowry, your reaction to this whole scandal, attack, as well as Rudy’s and Toobin’s reactions?

RL: Well, I think they’re right. I think it’s totally dishonest, and I took away a couple of things from it. One, I think McCain just kind of feels entitled to this cheap shot, because he was genuinely up front about the surge, he was more courageous about it than pretty much any other major politician. So he just feels, though, he can deliver this low blow. And the other thing that is going on, I think, is McCain is much more comfortable attacking harshly and unfairly his enemies within the Republican Party than he is attacking Democrats. And layered on top of this is his obvious, and I think I find it very distasteful, but his obvious hatred for Mitt Romney. If you saw the clip of McCain today, chortling as he was talking about Romney’s flip-flopping, it’s this kind of insincere McCain laughter that masks his true bile that he’s directing towards Mitt Romney. So I find the whole thing, from the dishonesty to the kind of sentiment animosity it’s revealing about Mitt Romney, to be really unworthy of John McCain, and kind of a shame.

HH: And does that, do you think that that reaction is general? Or is that specific to the sort of information addicts that are pro-Romney people?

RL: I have no idea, Hugh. You know when I’ll have the answer?

HH: Tomorrow night.

RL: When I look at the exit polls tomorrow night, and I feel a tease out and answer for you. But I just know from so many of these late-breaking incidents, whether it was Huckabee with his press conference fiasco in Iowa, or whether it was Hillary tearing up, it’s really hard to know how they play. And another example of this was South Carolina, the Democratic side, on Saturday. Pretty much everyone until Saturday night thought the Bill Clinton attacks were working on Barack Obama. I thought they were working. And then we saw that overwhelming tidal wave for Obama, and boom, all the punditry switched around in a second. So I just don’t profess to know. We have to wait and see how this plays. I think it could hurt McCain. I think it should hurt McCain. But whether it is actually hurting or not, I don’t know.

HH: There’s another story out there that could hurt McCain, and may argue should hurt McCain, which is the appointment of Dr. Juan Hernandez as his Hispanic outreach director. Michelle Malkin, I had her on this program, she’s blogged about it a lot. This man said very controversial things. It’s gotten no mainstream media attention at all, though, Rich Lowry. Of course, Mark Krikorian over at your site wrote at length about it today. Does it matter?

RL: Well, I don’t think that’s an issue that’s breaking through very much. Perhaps it should matter. I have to say I haven’t followed it very closely. That’s kind of Mark’s bailiwick. I will say watching McCain on the stump, I was down there in Florida Wednesday and Thursday of last week, you know, he sounds like Lou Dobbs on immigration now, and I just think it’s so obviously insincere. Someone got up at one of his town halls, and asked him if he’d consider pardoning the border agents, those two border agents, Ramos and Campion. And he basically said yeah, I might, you know, we need more information about that, there’s an investigation ongoing. You know in his heart he thinks the guy who is asking that question is an idiot and a right-wing fanatic. That’s how he thinks of him. But he’s pretending to get himself through to this nomination. And I just don’t believe anything he’s saying on immigration, and I think one of the first priorities he would have as president of the United States would be cutting an amnesty deal with some sort of border enforcement window dressing on it, with the Democratic Congress.

HH: 30 seconds left, Rich Lowry, if he ekes out a small win over Romney, it’s not going to be a large one, does that end the campaign? Or does Super Tuesday, Romney live to fight again?

RL: Well, Romney will definitely fight on Super Tuesday. I think the margin would matter a lot. It’s been hard to predict, going back to my humility as a pundit here. It’s been hard to predict how the momentum bounces off of these contests from one contest to the other. But winning would be better than losing, obviously, for Romney. And I think the stakes are higher in Florida for Romney, because McCain has a national lead, and most polls still.

HH: Well warned, Rich Lowry from National Review.

End of interview.

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