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Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

KANSAS....In a way, the fact that Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucuses isn't all that surprising. It's fertile evangelical territory for him, it's right next door to his home state, and the caucus format probably helps him.

But....still....what a blowout. Usually, even among true believers, you expect a party to rally around its presumptive nominee. Even the hardcore wingers at CPAC, who booed McCain at the beginning of his speech on Thursday, warmed up to him by the end. But Kansas Republicans weren't buying, and they weren't content just to show a pro forma lack of enthusiasm. They crushed McCain like a bug, voting for Huckabee 60%-24%. Hell, "other" almost beat McCain.

There's no point in making too much of this. McCain is going to win the nomination and the party faithful will support him. But it's going to be a fight for McCain to win their love, and that fight might well keep him from broadening his appeal to the middle. Come November, liberals might not be the only ones asking What's the Matter With Kansas?

Kevin Drum 6:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

I (heart) Huckabee!

Posted by: craigie on February 9, 2008 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why the GOP would support a bitter old man who has "war issues".

Posted by: Rula Lenska on February 9, 2008 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Although I don't support McCain I am starting to feel a bit sorry for him. Is it buyer's remorse? Is it that, in spite of not preferring McCain, I don't want to see McCain humiliated? Now I understand Kevin's feelings about Hillary!

The obvious solution is to nominate Hillary. Let's energize the wingnuts, so McCain doesn't lose their votes and doesn't have a wingnutty third party challenger trying to siphon those votes away from him. Plus, it gives him a better shot at pulling in the moderate/independent votes.

This isn't quite the same thing as just handing him the election, of course. It just makes it a closer and more exciting race, and at the same time, it let's us feel good about not holding Hillary's record against her or anything else that her supporters would label as misogynistic. Perhaps Hillary's pro-torture stance, in contrast to McCain's anti-torture stance, will let her pull in some neo-con votes! And the possibility of another bimbo eruption will add some spice to the whole mixture. Exciting times!

Posted by: bobb on February 9, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Oh don't worry about McCain. He will go do anything, anything, to warm up to the party honchos. Just look at how he hugged and supported Bush after Bush's campaign hurt McCain (his own words) with vicious rumors about an illegitimate child. The man has no shame and is willing to put power above his family. He will lose no time sucking up to the conservatives -- whatever it takes.

Posted by: rational on February 9, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

bobb, don't believe the hype. McCain is the pro-torture guy. Without his support Bush would never have been able to gut the supposed anti-torture bill. Were McCain truly opposed to torture he would be out there complaining about the obvious fact that we've spent the past seven years torturing innocents. He is not. His "anti-torture" stance is a sham and a shame. You would think someone who had been tortured would use his political power to make sure his nation didn't stoop to the level of his captors.

John "Torture Supporter" McCain is a disgrace.

Posted by: heavy on February 9, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ain't them caucuses great?

How long will the Democratic Party put up with our own silly caucuses?

Was Iowa useful this time around?

Wasn't Nevada fun? Everybody happy and satisfied that nobody was ripped off?

Name me a caucus in which you have confidence, that you respect.

Posted by: little ole jim on February 9, 2008 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

[rational] He will lose no time sucking up to the conservatives -- whatever it takes.

It won't work very well, though. He's got a long record that isn't wingnut-friendly. He'll get a lot of the wingnut vote, but the difference Hillary would make is giving the wingnuts something to be enthusiastic about -- defeating Hillary.

[heavy] John "Torture Supporter" McCain is a disgrace.

No argument there. But is it better for Hillary to openly embrace a pro-torture stance? I mean better from a lefty point of view. Obviously Hillary's stance is preferable to McCains from a wingnutty point of view, as demonstrated in the New York Post endorsement: "Kudos to Sen. Clinton for taking a tough-on-terror stand, even if it's at odds with her party."

Hold the presses! In googling for that quote, I find that Hillary recently flip-flopped on the torture question. Apparently now she only supports "aggressive interrogation." Glad we got that cleared up.

Posted by: bobb on February 9, 2008 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

This is pretty simple. McCain has always been well-liked in the media, more so than any of the other GOP candidates. And Kansas conservatives hate, hate, HATE the media. If it's not Rush and/or WorldNet, they'll hate it.

Posted by: mmy on February 9, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Weird, when I read this:
he crushed McCain like a bug, voting for Huckabee 60%-24%.
My mind saw it this way on first scan:
he crushed McCain like a bug, vomiting for Huckabee 60%-24%.

Off topic:

Chelsea pimped out with plastic surgery! How cool!
http://www.goodplasticsurgery.com/archives/004880.html

Posted by: franklynotfrankly0 on February 9, 2008 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

McCain has been pandering to the right so hard that if he moves any further to them, he'll just fall off the cliff. He's calling Democrats surrender monkeys and now he's for those tax cuts that he voted against (recall the 2004 flip-flop mantra). Of course, tax cuts lead to more tax revenues according to McCain because Lawrence Kudlow told him that. McCain is either no longer Straight Talk or in possession with his marbles if he be really believes the nonsense he's saying.

Posted by: pgl on February 9, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have a new theory: The reason the Right hates McCain so much is because he might actually be electable. I think they've decided it's more fun whining permanently in opposition, than it is to have power and watch all your pet theories be exposed as the cranky insanity that they are.

Posted by: craigie on February 9, 2008 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Before you all go off on the traditional riffs on Kansas, consider this (data from CNN)

Number voting in the Dem caucuses: 36,500
Number voting in the Repub caucuses: 19,000

That’s a 66% participation victory for the Dems.

In Kansas.

Posted by: JohnN on February 9, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK
Hold the presses! In googling for that quote, I find that Hillary recently flip-flopped on the torture question.

Gee. Wonder why bobb didn't find what he was looking for.

Posted by: little ole jim on February 9, 2008 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

The Kansas Republicans have gone so far-right crazy that the traditional Republican officeholders there are defecting and running as Democrats. I grew up in Kansas, so it makes me sad. Kansas had a liberal Republican history, dating to the Bloody Kansas days when northeastern anti-slavery Republicans helped settle the state. I remember how proud I was of that history in school.

What the Republican establishment, nationwide, never counted on was that an evangelical would emerge who seemed to be a real person, is likeable, and on a few issues is not demonstrably nuts. Huckabee is the mouse that roared, the chickens coming home to roost, reaping what you sow, or pick your metaphor.

In short, I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

Posted by: BWR on February 9, 2008 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Gee. Wonder why bobb didn't find what he was looking for.

Okay, okay, it's not clear whether she really flip-flopped on the torture issue, and the reason I didn't find a definitive answer is that there isn't one. Some people thought one particular statement sounded flip-floppish.

But it depends on what the meaning of the word "legal" is. Was she using the word "legal" the way you or I might, or was she borrowing Bush's definition of "legal" in the context of torture, the way she borrowed Bush's definition of "success" in order to praise the "success" of the Surge? I'm going to go with the Bush option, because it fits the pattern, but you can interpret whatever way you want.

Posted by: bobb on February 9, 2008 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a Kansan, born and raised (although now living in Seattle). At least partly relevant to this post, I grew up in working class Kansas, not Johnson County.

Anyway, I notice that many people were surprised by Obama's huge win (73%)and now Huckabee's.

A couple of points:

Sure, most of the state is pretty hee haw. But Kansas City (including the Kansas side) has a huge African-American population. Also, Kansas was founded as a free state by abolitionist settlers who migrated there specifically to battle pro-slavery forces from Missouri. John Brown for example. That legacy continues. It's a solidly conservative place, but race relations tend to be much better than in most red states, and Sebelius is not the only Dem Governor in recent history. Hate-monger Rev Fred Phelps (who is not a Kansan--- he and his church are an import from The South hated by all Topeka) along with the Christian Right's takeover of the school board have created a lot of high profile national stories that don't accurately represent the majority of Kansans, even the rural folks. And although Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback are wingnuts, the tradition of moderate Republicans like Nancy Landon Kassebaum hasn't entirely disappeared. (On his better days, you could lump ol' Bob Dole in this camp).

As for Huckabee: yes, the evangelicals are strong and organized. But a trace of the populist tradition of William Jennings Bryan continues and Huckabee appeals to that. In the feedlot/meatpacking cities of the West (Dodge, Hutchinson, Junction City), people are hurting economically.

Yes, there are plenty of rednecks, hayseeds and other assorted knuckle draggers. But Alabama it ain't.

Posted by: Amur on February 9, 2008 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't Huckabee be the presumptive Republican nominee?

McCain can only do well outside of traditional Republican areas, which also happen to be the most populous and control the most delegates.

All those "RINO"s (Republicans In Name Only) in the less-than-truly-American states are giving McCain the delegates to win the nomination, but we have been hearing for years how these people are to be rejected by the party faithful for not having the proper anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-liberal, pro-gun and pro-God positions.

I think the Republicans would have a lot fewer problems running their party if they stopped letting Northerners, Midwesterners, New Englanders, Mountain staters, and Pacific Coasters interfere with internal Republican issues like who to nominate for President of the United States.

Posted by: anonymous on February 9, 2008 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Amur - you say "Hee Haw" like it's a bad thing. That was an unappreciated gem of American musical culture. No television show today would have on folk talents like Grandpa Jones, week after week, for decades.

Saaaaaa-lute!

Posted by: anonymous on February 9, 2008 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey--- I'm a Hee Haw myself!

As for the show, Roy Clark and Buck Owens are two of my musical heroes. No fooling.

Posted by: Amur on February 9, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

And check out the Republican results in WA state.

Posted by: Colin on February 9, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

There's no point in making too much of this. McCain is going to win the nomination and the party faithful will support him...

Maybe the KS gopers were just trying to send a message that Huckabee better be the VP nominee or else.

Posted by: DrBB on February 9, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

As for the show, Roy Clark and Buck Owens are two of my musical heroes. No fooling.

Dunno from Buck Owens, myself, but I will say that Roy is one of the most virtuosic flat pickers in the history of the art. Just sayin.

Posted by: DrBB on February 9, 2008 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

KANSAS....In a way, the fact that Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucuses isn't all that surprising. It's fertile evangelical territory for him, it's right next door to his home state, and the caucus format probably helps him.

You're not suggesting Arkansas is next to Kansas, are you?

Posted by: anon on February 9, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

I remember Buck Owens's "Tiger by the Tail" LP on the coffee table a lot back in the 60's when I lived in Wichita. Interesting that the Grateful Dead covered it:

I've Got A Tiger By The Tail

Lyrics: Owens, Howard
Music: Owens, Howard

Played on 11 June 1969 by Garcia, Lesh, Hart and Constanten (with John Dawson, David Nelson and Peter Grant) at a concert billed as "Bobby Ace And His Cards From The Bottom Of The Deck." The list is from DeadBase - no known tape of the performance exists. These are the lyrics from the original Buck Owens version:

I've got a tiger by the tail it's plain to see
I won't be much when you've got through with me
Well I'm losing weight and I'm turning mighty pale
Looks like I've got a tiger by the tail

Well I thought the day I met you you were meek as a lamb
Just the kind to fit my dreams and plans
Now the pace we're living takes the wind from my sails
And it looks like I've got a tiger by the tail

Well every night you drag me where the bright lights are found
There ain't no way to slow you down
I'm about as helpless as a leaf in a gale
And it looks like I've got a tiger by the tail

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 9, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

"...it's right next door to his home state...

Arkansas has six states "right next door," and Kansas isn't one of them.

Then again, if a presidential candidate can improve his chances of winning by being from a state with a lot of neighbors, then they might as well all be from Tennesee, with eight neighbors.

Of course, it's possible you can be from Tennessee and not be able to win at home, either...

Oh well. There's always Oslo.

Posted by: Grumpy on February 9, 2008 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Why can't Huckabee be the presumptive Republican nominee?"

Because McCain pretty much has this sewn up, mathematically speaking, thanks to the "winner take all" system in the early Republican primaries.

Posted by: PaulB on February 9, 2008 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that McCain had wrapped up the Republican nomination was faulty to begin with. Yes, he was way ahead in delegates, but that was only because the opposition to him was split among several candidates, allowing him to win several winner-take-all states with less than 50% of the vote.

Now that it is a two-person race, the opposition to him, which is quite substantial, will coalesce around Huckabee, much like what happened in Kansas today.

After all, wasn't it just a few weeks ago that everyone in the media was pointing out that McCain was getting most of his support from independents in open primaries.

Posted by: mfw13 on February 9, 2008 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Whether it is McCain opposition consoladation, or just voters voting their hearts rather than strategically, McCain won all four states today. I thought that was more impressive than the Obama sweep today, which the press was fixating on. I'm not so sure mfw13 might not be right. But I'm ignorant about what sort of Republican primaries are left, if they all award delegates proportionately, rather than winner take all, he has it sown up. But if they are all winner-take all, Huckabee could still be a spoiler.

Posted by: bigTom on February 10, 2008 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Now that it is a two-person race, the opposition to him, which is quite substantial, will coalesce around Huckabee, much like what happened in Kansas today."

Even with that, I think it's still almost mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win enough delegates. He'd have to win, and win big, in damn near every single contest from now on. And keep in mind that not all of them are winner-take-all, which means that even if Huckabee beats him, McCain continues to pick up delegates.

What's interesting is that McCain has won a simple majority of votes in so few states: 55% in New Jersey, 52% in Connecticut, and 51% in New York. In every other state, he was under the 50% mark. Equally interesting is his dismal performance in caucus states, where 26% is his best showing so far. Bizarrely, that 26% might actually be enough to give him victory in Washington.

McCain appears to be a winner by default, not because of his popularity among Republican voters. And that speaks well for Democratic chances in November.

Posted by: PaulB on February 10, 2008 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

"McCain won all four states today."

???

There were three states in play today, not four, and McCain lost Kansas. The races in Louisiana and Washington are still too close to call, with Huckabee up by a couple of percentage points in Louisiana and McCain up by a couple of percentage points in Washington.

Posted by: PaulB on February 10, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

With 98% of the precincts reporting, everyone's projecting Huckabee the winner there, 44% to 42%.

Washington is still in play.

Posted by: PaulB on February 10, 2008 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

If the chart at RealClearPolitics.com is accurate, very few of the remaining Republican contests are winner take all (Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Vermont are the only ones they list). If that's correct, that's probably why everyone is anointing McCain.

Posted by: PaulB on February 10, 2008 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Um...Since when does Kansas border Arkansas?! Nearby, yes, but not "next door." Sorry to nit-pic.

Otherwise, solid arguments...

Posted by: JeffH on February 10, 2008 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

These guys don't change their minds. They will tolerate McCain as soon as the fear of BillGoreKerryClintonObama sets in. They might even pretend to sing his virtues. But they will never like him, unless he wins, and then bombs brown people and appoints Alito clones to the Supreme Court, while dropping frequent references to the "Democrat Party". This last is something, by the way, that straighttalkmoderatemaverick McCain has already been doing.

Posted by: MG on February 10, 2008 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

What about Edwards delegates? Can they change their affiliation now that Edwards is out of the race? If so, do they have to be formally awarded by Edwards to a candidate of his choice? Trying to understand this.

Similarly, what about Romney's delegates now that he is out of the race? How does the GOP work with such delegates -- it is a large number.

Posted by: rational on February 10, 2008 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

I am from Kansas, and a Democrat a hard to find. It is a Republican state. The description of a "blow out" might be a little over stated. This was a measly turn out for a R state. Very few people showed up to caucus. Rather than a blow out, it seems like a pathetic turnout. I find this true for all the state. More people show up in Nebraska than in Washington state? I don't find these numbers that impressive. What does that bode for the general election?

Posted by: Jerry on February 10, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

As for the show, Roy Clark and Buck Owens are two of my musical heroes. No fooling.

Dunno from Buck Owens, myself, but I will say that Roy is one of the most virtuosic flat pickers in the history of the art. Just sayin.

Posted by: DrBB on February 9, 2008 at 10:44 PM

On Buck Owens: Let's not forget the Beatles covered one of his songs, "Act Naturally" (flip side of the "Yesterday" single in the U.S.).

On Roy Clark: Great session man. Was in the D.C. area for several years in the late fifties, then left for a gig in Wanda Jackson's band. (That's him with the hot guitar licks on Wanda's 1961 classic "Funnel Of Love," the B-side of her hit "Right Or Wrong" and a record whose brilliance has been belatedly recognized in recent years.)

Posted by: Vincent on February 10, 2008 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

The flunkies in the Beltway may come around to support McCain because beggars can't be choosers. But outside the Beltway, we provos have more options than simply giving the Little Admiral a wave on his victory lap.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on February 11, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I live in Johnson county. I was going to go caucus for Mitt. He quit. I figured McCain was a done deal so I decided to sleep in before I put the McCain sticker on my car. I'm sure lots of other Republicans in KS did what I did. I wouldn't read too much into this other than Huck was organized to turn out his people and the rest of us weren't. See you in November when KS goes for McCain.
Jimbo

Posted by: jimbo on February 11, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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