Monday, July 09, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue: A Conservative Summation of the 2008 Presidential Primary Races

John Hawkins, owner of the Right Wing News blog, is back from his brief vacation and has his own round-up of the 2008 Presidential Primary races for both parties.

In general, it is a fairly good summary, I think, of the conservative take on the races. But, I also think it has the expected conservative "oversights" and "blindness."

For instance, Hawkins tends to present a more hopeful and wistful analysis of a potential Fred Thompson candidacy, and the man hasn't even entered the race yet. Also, he discusses Newt Gingrich who is almost definitely not likely to run. And yet, there is no mention at all of Ron Paul, who has some surprising resiliency both in fund raising and in maintaining a stable polling position among the 2nd tier GOP hopefuls. Now, granted, Hawkins didn't mention any of the second tier candidates, including Duncan Hunter, for whom he consults; but Ron Paul is not your typical 2nd tier candidate. He's a spoiler of sorts, and would merit consideration, I think, for the same reasons that Newt Gingrich would merit consideration.

I don't think Ron Paul has a shot at winning the GOP nomination; but I do think that his libertarian leaning supporters are likely not to vote for any of the GOP frontrunners in the general election for two reasons: (1) Because all of the front-runners are establishment GOP politicians, which Paul supporters tend to disdain; and (2) more importantly, because the GOP establishment and the front-runners themselves have treated Paul so shabbily and dismissively already in the primary such that Paul's supporters, who tend to be almost fanatic in their devotion to the man, may take his mistreatment more personally and give the other candidates the middle finger in a general election.

That's one glaring oversight in the Hawkins analysis. Another problem is that Hawkins doesn't afford the GOP race the same kinds of pessimistic considerations as he does the Democratic race. To me, at least, the most obvious example of this is his explanation of how primary race campaigning may translate into general race campaigning. For instance, Hawkins says about the Democrats:

If Edwards drops out, you have to figure that most of his support would move over to Obama, since in many ways, they're such similar candidates. It's also worth noting that although Hillary has a strong lead at the moment, it's not an insurmountable lead, and while she is very well known to the general public, Obama is not. What that means is that Obama has more room to grow. Combine that with his fund raising numbers and I suspect that this will turn out to be much more of a horse race on the democratic side than people are anticipating. That's bad news for Democrats because it likely means a race to the left in the primary that will be difficult -- in the YouTube & blog era -- to simply reverse once the general election comes around.
That's a fair assessment as far as it goes. But what I would take issue with is how he thinks a "race to the left" in the primaries might be difficult to reverse in the general election. My reaction to this notion is simply that a "race to the left" in the primaries doesn't require much of a reversal in the general election. And even if it did, it won't be that hard to do because that's kinda what always happens. Of course, in spite of Hillary Clinton's sometimes positioning as a moderate, all three Democratic front-runners are already considered to be more left-leaning to begin with. So, I don't see how the primary race could go much more to the left than it already has. If there is any primary race that has been more stuck in the center and likely to shift in the direction of the extreme, it is the GOP race.

Furthermore, the Hawkins assessment doesn't take into consideration that moderates and independents are leaning towards the Democrats because of a strong disaffection with the GOP these days. So a "race to the left" in the Democratic primaries will be much less of a determining factor in the general election than Hawkins wants so desperately to believe.

Now, outside of the aforementioned, another important omission in the Hawkins take on things is that Hawkins doesn't seem to think the same analysis applies to the GOP. He doesn't talk about the GOP's inevitable need to "race to the right" during primary season and the "reversibility" of this for the general election. In fact, he probably thinks a "race to the right" isn't such a bad thing at all. But it has the same, if not more, risks as a "race to the left" would for the Democrats. In fact, when you think about it, it seems even more relevant for the GOP than it does for the Democrats. For instance, if Thompson enters the race as the "conservative" candidate, watch how much the top three GOP front-runners (the Rudy McRomney cabal) shed their RINO credentials even more than they already have tried to do and tilt even harder to the right. Also, the fact that the GOP base feels so unloved by the GOP establishment following the Immigration bill fiasco, the need for a "race to the right" to recapture and reanimate this base is all the more relevant. Finally, I don't see how such an inevitable "race to the right" will be any less difficult to reverse in the general election than a "race to the left" would be for Democrats. In fact, I think it will be objectively harder for a GOP candidate who tilts right in the primaries to reverse course in the general election to recapture the imaginations and votes of a moderate center that is already fed up with what is perceived as an intransigent, secretive, and abusive rightwing establishment in the White House.

So, that's my evaluation of the Hawkins assessment. Again, I can't say Hawkins isn't generally giving what might be considered a fair take on the race from a conservative perspective; but I do think it suffers from the natural inclination of a conservative to put some kind of sugarcoating or positive spin on things for conservatives that just might be more wishful thinking at this point than a real, objective analysis.

PS: Still no word from Hawkins on why he banned me from commenting on his site.

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