Senator McCain was surely joking when he famously declared that the mainstream media was his base. But I continue to think that the developments we are seeing in this race do indeed go back to each candidate’s base–and that Senator McCain’s statement was unintentionally truthful.
For some evidence of this, see the Portsmouth Herald:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the winner of the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate held Tuesday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, according to a WBZ/Franklin Pierce College poll released Thursday.
Twenty-two percent of the 409 potential Republican primary voters polled on June 6 picked Romney, while 18 percent thought former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani won the contest. The difference of 4 points is within the poll’s margin of error.
Only 11 percent of those polled thought Arizona Sen. John McCain won, and none of the other seven candidates garnered totals over 3 percent. Of interest is that 42 percent of those polled who watched the debate or read accounts of it saw no clear victor, while 22 percent of those polled chose not to watch the debate or read any news accounts of it.
I’m not sure I’d make the claim that Governor Romney won. About twice as many people as picked him said nobody won, and his advantage over Mayor Giuliani was within the margin of error. But that’s not my point. My point is that this poll, as well as Frank Luntz’s focus group, both said Senator McCain didn’t win and Governor Romney did well. Why is this notable? Well, maybe I read the wrong stuff, but pretty much every MSM mouthpiece I saw or read after the debate thought Senator McCain had won and Governor Romney had been unimpressive.
What does that say? To me, it says that Senator McCain’s statements and positions are attractive to one group–the MSM–and Governor Romney’s are attractive to another, namely the conservative base. And of course, Governor Romney has proudly pursued the support of the conservative base throughout this campaign, whereas Senator McCain has clearly not really broken the habit of sticking it in the base’s eye (see immigration). Small wonder, then, that for months, the MSM has been not just viciously attacking Governor Romney–but fomenting allegations that it believes will displease the audience he is trying to reach, namely that he isn’t really a conservative.
Of course, as the pro-family warriors with whom he allied himself in Massachusetts have said, that’s bunk. But if you can get the lie to stick, it’s a good strategy.
Small wonder also that the MSM has returned to its formerly flowery descriptions of Senator McCain as a maverick superstar in light of his latest work on immigration. Your base is coming home, Senator. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. Better that than that they continue to meddle in the real primary by making conservatives believe things that aren’t true about the only candidate who not only shares their convictions, but also has a long record of success as a problem solver, change agent, and superb communicator. And if you don’t think we need all of those things…you should watch more C-SPAN (my guilty pleasure). This morning I was watching a rebroadcast of General Lute’s confirmation hearing. The discourse here in Washington on the war is just pathetic, and the invective Senator Levin was throwing around–in terms of what an awful job we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan–was just depressing. I don’t think things are as bad as he claims, but they’re not as good as we’d like (change agent/problem solver needed) and as we all know, the case for the war in which we find ourselves is just not being made (communicator needed).
Oh, and if you’re wondering who I think Mayor Giuliani’s base is, it’s moderates. Right now he’s getting some buy-in from social conservatives, but his base–those who won’t fall away when they learn more about him–is moderates who think a stool can only have two legs. And if you think that model will work, you should take a look at the performance of the Republican Party in the 1960s and 1970s, before conservatives (including religious conservatives) gained control–when we elected one Republican president (who proved one of the most liberal of the twentieth century) and zero Republican Congresses. During those years we lost a war, saw Roe v. Wade handed down, received the gift that is Justice John Paul Stevens, and near the end thought the answer to our problems was electing Jimmy Carter, of all people. When a well-organized and enthusiastic-bordering-on-rabid Democratic Party steps on a stool like that, it splinters.