Monday, February 11, 2008

Let him prove it

The McCain (coronation) campaign of 2008 reminds me of a good lesson I learned in 2004.

In Indiana's House District 86, Mort Large and Andy Miller were vying for the chance to take on State Representative David Orentlicher.

At the time, I was the Manager of Political Affairs for the Indiana Chamber. Being that Orentlicher is no friend to the business community, we were looking to get involved in the 86th.

The line on Mort Large was that he couldn't win the general election. Because of an unfortunate oversight on his taxes, he had temporarily claimed multiple homestead exemptions. In addition, it was feared that his socially conservative views made him unelectable.

Andy Miller, however, had similar views. He also was socially conservative. However, due to a number of factors (none of which made complete sense to me), he was considered more electable. So the Indiana Chamber decided to help him with the Primary (with significant financial contributions). Miller lost.

During the decision time, I argued that if Miller was more electable, he should be able to defeat Mort Large on his own. That's the definition of being a better candidate right? If Miller was so much better of a candidate, he should be able to prove it. Both were good men. Both would make better State Reps than Orentlicher. So why get involved. I was over-ruled.

I was right. In the end Large was the better candidate. He defeated Miller in the Primary despite being considerably outspent. Then, scorned by those who supported Miller, lost the general election to David O.

This situation is remarkable similar to the 2008 Presidential. I've never supported Huckabee (I was a Thompson man myself), but the argument that McCain is a much better candidate for Republicans is not yet proven.

  • With far less money than McCain, he has managed to obtain about 1/3 of McCain's total.
  • Despite McCain's coronation last week, with supportive statements from none other than President Bush, Huckabee defeated McCain in 2 of 3 contests Saturday. He nearly defeated McCain in left-leaning Washington State.
  • Huckabee is far more articulate than McCain.
Perhaps the better strategy for Republicans would be to let McCain prove himself. He's gotten to where he is thus far primarily because he's the last man standing. He's yet to win reasonable majorities of the voters (unless you include blue states he's got no chance of winning in the general). He's yet to obtain the support of conservatives or evangelicals- who gave Bush victory in 2004.

So let's not coronate the man. It's premature.


Anonymous said...

Goodness. Your logic is pretty flawed, let alone your history.

If the goal is to win the general election, one probably has to appeal to a fair number of moderate and independent voters. Wingnuts don't do this well, but they do appeal to the "base" and the "fringe" of those on the left or the right. It's not that complicated a theory: the electorate for the primary is much much different than the electorate for the general. Look at what happened to Goldwater.

Kurt Luidhardt said...

Unfortunately, anonymous, you have simply regurgitated talking points from the media.

Consider this:

George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both won by running on decidedly far right platforms. George H.W. Bush won on Reagan's coat-tails and then lost because he abandoned the Republican platform (compromising with the Dems).

Bob Dole was nominated for the exact same reasons we are putting up John McCain. He was supposedly more electable than other, more conservative, Republican candidates. He tried to appeal to the "center" by attempting to remove the pro-life plank from the Republican platform.

He lost big.

The lesson. We are a center-right country. If you are a Democrat, run to the center. If you are a Republican, you win by staying true to your principles.

Furthermore, look at John Kerry. In 2004, Dems elected him over Howard Dean because they thought he was more electable. It's unwise to elect someone simply because you think someone else will like him.

Anonymous said...

Your history remains poor,and you ignore the institutional point: if voters are (roughly) arrayed from left to right, there's going to be a center point.

The US may be a "center-right" country compared to others, but there's only one center point of the American electorate. If candidate A is further from the center from candidate B, many in the center will vote for candidate B.

But by all means: nominate Huckabee. Please.

Kurt Luidhardt said...

Again, you fail to provide any reasonable proof of such comments.

If your logic is true, name a Republican who ran as a centrist and won the Presidential race- any time in recent years. I'll give you George HW Bush, but he crashed and burned without the banner of Reagan.

Gerald Ford? Ha.

Nixon was significantly right. The only Conservative Republican candidate since Eisenhower to lose has been Goldwater.

For the record, I stated clearly that I am not advocating for Huckabee. McCain is decidedly more conservative than Huckabee on a number of issues.

We won't nominate Huckabee. But McCain has yet to prove that he's the most electable.

Anonymous said...

I already provide the proof. Look up the "median voter theorem." Dispute it.

And, pray tell, how do operationalize your terms? Who counts as a "far right" candidate and who does not? One also has to take into account the ideological distance of the opponent from the center into the model as well.

Now, you want moderate R's who won? W ran as a moderate his first time. Remember the compassionate conservative? Eisenhower was a moderate and won. Goldwater was not, and lost badly. Hoover was a moderate (and a disaster). Coolidge was somewhat moderate and won. Harding was a moderate and won. Reagan was not the furthest right in his primary in 80. Same for W. How many examples do you want? Try as you might, you most likely cannot win the presidential race by exciting the base alone.

And, even though this may be anathema to you, sometimes the MSM gets things right.

But by all means: try to win the general without a candidate that can appeal to the broad middle of political spectrum and the independents.