Huckabee voters across the country are indeed coming to Rush’s conclusion that “a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain.”
Romney credits talk radio with helping to lead his comeback after his narrow loss in Florida. While it is difficult to overstate Rush’s influence on American conservatives, and while all of the talkers have audiences that do indeed listen intently, the real reason behind the Romney surge is the incredible connectedness of center-right voters and the sheer amount of data they take in. The talkers just opened the spigots on the information, much like they did when the audience killed the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill in the spring and summer. Rush sets the menu for more than 20 million people, and the rest of us for smaller but still very large audiences. But the listeners decide what to order.
Once the score was clear after Florida –a McCain or Romney nomination– the Republican base quickly began to rally to Romney because the Republican base cares deeply about the issues that bind the Reagan coalition –tax cuts, originalist judges, free markets, and of course the value of unborn life and traditional marriage.
A vote or McCain or Huckabee is widely understood as a vote for a long eclipse of that agenda. The turn to Romney led by Rush and then Sean, Laura, Mark Levin et al was simply the widespread and widely broadcast recognition of the choice in front of conservatives.
California is among the most wired of states, with a Republican base used to communicating around the dominant MSM represented by the Los Angeles Times. The big shift to Romney coincides with Arnold’s and Los Angeles Times’ endorsement of McCain and underscores just how weary the Golden State GOP is of accommodation to political elites. Arnold was elected as an insurgent on a recall but has not governed as an opponent of Sacramento. Republicans genuinely like Arnold just as they genuinely admire McCain’s heroism.
But this election is about much more than affection or admiration for candidates. It is about the ideas behind their desire to lead, and Romney’s ideas are Reagan’s.Romney came to some of those convictions later than long-serving Republicans in the party and beyond, but he’s where they want him to be, and he’s not going to abandon these ideas upon entering office.
In Georgia and throughout the evangelical precincts of the south and the west, the Huckabee vote is dwindling because evangelical voters don’t need to make any more statements. The evangelicals need a political leader who can win and who will work towards the goals they want, not agree with their theology. The prospect of a McCain candidacy and an Obama presidency has clarified things in a wonderfully abrupt fashion for them. Most of them have no desire to look back in a few years and see themselves as the Perot voters of 1992. They are flowing to Romney because they really do care about the culture they see in decline and McCain’s indifference to it. They know that Huck has no chance of winning the nomination. A gesture isn’t enough in these circumstances.
Finally, over the past few days, the enormity of the Obama challenge has become obvious, fueled in part by the stunning $32 million Obama took in in January. By contrast, in his best month ever, McCain took in $7 million in January. Extend that differential through August 31 when the fall campaign begins and each candidate is limited to the same amount of money (if Obama even agrees to that tradition.)
That would mean $224 million in receipts for Obama and $49 million in receipts for McCain.
Except that the differential could easily expand, not contract, as Hillary’s donors will rally to Obama and the conservatives would hardly rush to fund a McCain campaign built on a series of assaults on their first principles.
And that doesn’t include the 527s and their vast contributions to the Obama candidacy. There aren’t any 527s for McCain.
Belief in the ideas that Romney advances, concern over the McCain agenda and record, and alarm over the Obama tide equals the Romney surge. It is real and it is continuing, but whether it is enough remains to be seen. Watch Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Colorado and the western states tomorrow night. Don’t be discouraged by McCain’s lopsided wins in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. If Arizona delivers less than 50% of its votes to McCain the message about the deep weakness of the Arizona maverick in the fall will be impossible to miss.
And then on to California’s 54 different contests and hopefully to Virginia, Ohio, Texas and beyond.