As the results of the Iowa Caucus come in, I joined fellow conservative activists and pundits John McJunkin, Warner Todd Huston, and Fabian Story to report and dissect the results. Adam Graham leads the discussion in this special joint podcast ofOatney On the Airand theTruth and Hope Report.
Congratulations are in order for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won a resounding victory among Iowa Republicans in the Iowa Caucuses yesterday:
Mike Huckabee 39,814 34% Mitt Romney 29,405 25% Fred Thompson 15,521 13% John McCain 15,248 13% Ron Paul 11,598 10% Rudy Giuliani 4,013 3% Duncan Hunter 515 0%
96% of precincts reporting
What is most surprising in this result is the sheer distance between Huckabee and Romney. Going into the voting last night, I really thought there might be a chance of a narrow Romney victory or a close Romney second, either of which might stand to benefit Fred Thompson over the long haul. Romney's long second is so distant from the top that it has a campaign impact that is more akin to a third place finish.
The most beneficial scenario for Fred Thompson short of victory or second would have been a Romney victory and a Huckabee second place with Fred finishing third ahead of John McCain-the reverse happened, with McCain making a much stronger-than-expected showing and being placed in a position to possibly win in New Hampshire. The good news is that Fred Thompson is not out of the race, but Fred is running out of options and his back is against the wall. If he can stay in the running until South Carolina, he has a shot. Before last night, he had a very good opportunity to win in South Carolina, but now he is a real underdog there. Finishing second in South Carolina is not an option-Fred must win there outright or he's finished. That is the unfortunate reality of the situation, but it is the truth nonetheless.
Mike Huckabee is to be commended, because if he proved nothing else, he proved you can win without great amounts of money, but you must be willing to do months, even years of working and organizing. He put his sweat into victory long before many others even thought about it, and it did pay off.
I discuss a conversation that I had on Wednesday afternoon with Tennessee State Representative Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), and conservative columnist Frank Cagle, who are on the ground with the Thompson campaign in Iowa. Adam Graham and Sharon Cobb join the show for a discussion of "what ifs" in Iowa.
Just when it appears the chips are down forFred Thompson, Team Fred has sent the Tennessee Volunteer Army into Iowa. Lieutenant GovernorRon Ramseyhas been there, along with an armada of the very best of Tennessee's conservative movement. I got a firsthand report of the situation on the ground in Iowa yesterday afternoon during a phone call with two of the participants in the fight for Iowa-my State RepresentativeFrank Niceleyis running all over the Hawkeye State, along with the dean of East Tennessee conservative columnistsFrank Cagle.
Frank Niceley sounded cautiously optimistic, saying that he believed Fred was going to do better than what the polls were suggesting. He said thatMike Huckabee comes across as being quite shifty in person, and that Huckabee reminds him entirely too much ofBill Clinton to suit his tastes. "Maybe it is an Arkansas thing," Frank said, "but he just makes me think ofJimmy Carter." Frank said Clinton gave him the same feeling, and that he wanted a good Southerner as President. "I hate having to apologize for Southern Presidents. Carter, Clinton-I don't want to have to apologize for another."
If I am sure of one thing, it is that Frank Niceley could be a secret weapon for Fred wherever in Iowa he has gone. Like Fred, Frank has a folksy, homespun manner and could charm a rattlesnake. Unlike Fred and like many of the people he and Frank Cagle have encountered in the small Western Iowa towns they are visiting, Frank really is a farmer. He can speak to a lot of these folks on a level that few Presidential candidates can. When Frank Niceley speaks to Iowans about their lives and goes about explaining to them why Fred Thompson is the best choice for President, he can convince them straight into their neighborhood Caucus. One thingFrank Niceleywas quick to point out was what a warm, hospitable welcome they had received in every little hamlet where they had set foot. People were glad to see them, and they acted like it.
Frank Cagle said that if there was one thing he had learned through participating in the campaign process in Iowa it is that "these polls don't mean anything." While polls are normally important, Frank C. said that he was absolutely stunned by the number of people who were undecided voters. He commented that he did not understand how, with all of the publicity surrounding theIowa Caucuses, that so many folks could be undecided. Both Franks said they had met people who had not decided whether to caucus as Democrats or Republicans, and in one case, they met someone who was trying to decide between Fred and John Edwards!
We agreed together thatFred Thompson has to finish third in Iowain order for the campaign to remain viable, but Frank C. said he really believed that could happen tonight-the number of undecided voters alone could swing the percentages high enough to boost Fred into third place-or perhaps higher. Frank C. said they had visited a town where Fred was set to hold a Christmas Eve event and everyone was very anxious to have him, but they had to reschedule the whole thing-not because Fred backed out, but because a blizzard blew in. Weather is not likely to keep the regulars away from caucusing tonight, but it has clearly had an impact on the candidates' ability to plan where to be and when in the lead-up to today's vote.
Frank C. said a lot of the towns they visited reminded him of small towns in Middle Tennessee with their courthouses and squares. Both men sounded tired and well-worn, but you could tell that they were also having a blast. The entire conversation had me a bit envious, for it made me wish I was in Iowa with the two Franks going from town to town campaigning for Fred (and if I had the ability, I would have been). If Fred does not do well tonight, it will not be from a lack of effort from the Tennessee conservative movement, because some of our best and brightest stars are on the ground for Team Thompson today. When it looked like the campaign was fading, Fred's people sent for the Tennessee conservative A-Team-veterans of the conservative warpath who are movement men and women to the bone. Frank Niceley and Frank Cagle are two prime examples of that, and both are men that I believe in at a very personal level and whose views, abilities, and experience I hold in such high esteem that the very knowledge that they are on the ground working the Iowa precincts for Fred Thompson causes me to believe we just might be in for a surprise tonight.
On this eve of the first Presidential nominating contest in the nation, it would be the case that anasty winter stormhas made its way across the Midwest, and the cold from that system is even impacting the weather in East Tennessee today. Theweather forecast for Des Moinesaround Caucus time tomorrow night is for temperatures around 26 degrees with a wind chill of 12. That isn't unusual weather for Iowa in January-and with similar forecasts forCedar Rapidsand Iowa City, the weather can't really be blamed for any lower-than-normal turnout that may or may not come about tomorrow.
"The polls look good, but understand this — the polls are not enough. The only thing that counts is whether or not you show up to caucus," Democrat Barack Obama told a fired-up crowd of young and old packed into a high school gymnasium.
Amid murmurs of "Amen!" at a pizza parlor in Sergeant Bluff, Republican Mike Huckabee urged hundreds: "Don't go alone. Take people with you.Fill up your car. Rent a van. Hijack your church's bus, whatever you've got to do to get people to the caucus who are going to vote for me."
Allthe candidates, no matter where they might register in the polls today, know that tomorrow is the day that really counts. Turnout is everything in a caucus, because the polls may have you in first, second, or third but if your supporters don't show up to caucus in their precincts on your behalf you will not place as high as the polls were predicting. Although turnout can impact a primary, opinion polls for primaries have been shown to be far more accurate than those for caucuses because caucuses actually take effort to participate in-something that many modern Americans are loathe to exert, even for things that are important. That is precisely why I support caucusing as opposed to primaries as a means to select our presidential nominees, however. If you care enough to take an hour or two out of your evening to attend a political party's precinct caucus, you care enough to have a greater say in who the nominee of your chosen political party ought to be than someone who doesn't give enough of a rat's rear end to plan to be there, or who is too uninformed to cast a primary vote that matters. Yes, I know that some will say "I have to work," or "I have this-or-that problem." For some, they have valid excuses why they can't participate in the process, but most who don't participate could care less. Those who could care less should move over and make room for those who give a damn.
Studies show thatonly around one in ten eligible Iowanswill participate in a Precinct Caucus tomorrow night. If those traditional turnout numbers hold, it means that around 10% of the voting population of a small State in the upper Midwest will decide which candidates become the frontrunners for the Republican and Democratic nominations in 2008, and their lack of support could send other candidates home. That is as it should be. The people who bother to turn out at a Precinct Caucus are more representative of both political parties than the average voter-they are the political grassroots. If they won't support a candidate, that means the party as a whole will have a hard time getting behind that person. If a candidate can motivate the grassroots to turn out to caucus for them, they can motivate those same people to support them in the fall.
I want to personally take the opportunity to wish all of my readers and listeners a happy, joyous, safe, prosperous, and successful New Year. I may write a bit later today, but for now I pray that readers will indulge me a bit. Like a few of you, I have had a few drinks this early morning and may have a couple of more later today while enjoying the annual bonanza of college bowl games that takes place this time of year. In addition, Nicole and I will both be enjoying a day off today, so I am going to blog lightly while I enjoy some time with her.
My Catholic readers should be reminded in the midst of all of this celebration that today, January 1 (the Eighth Day of Christmas), is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, so please find time to get to Holy Mass today. If you can find time for the champagne but can't find time for the Lord today, your priorities are not where they ought to be.
To help get us in the right mood for today and keep us there, here is young Chloe Agnew of Celtic Woman with the Ave Maria.
On Friday I discussed why many social conservatives find themselves unnerved byMike Huckabee. Over the weekend Jeffrey Lord wrote an essay for The American Spectatordescribing how Huckabee's economic philosophy not only places his conservatism into question, but he uses the Leftist pejorative "Greed" to describe capitalism. In particular, Huckabee has referred to the conservativeClub for Growth, the leading advocates for libertarian economics as "the Club for Greed." Why? The good folks at the Club have dared to criticize Huckabee's economic record:
The Club is famous for delving into the records of GOP candidates for not just the presidency but other offices as well, carefully combing the fine print of their speeches, programs and votes as office-holder or candidate and matching them to the Reagan ideal. Mike Huckabee, it seems, has supported any number of taxes while governor, and the Club has inevitably zeroed in on his economic beliefs.
What disconcerts is Huckabee's gut level response. Instead of either defending his record or admitting to a mistake or challenging the views of the Club he said this: "The Club for Greed, I call them. They hate that. Oh, they hate it. And I enjoy giggin' them about it..."
Is Huckabee among those who believe that making a profit is tantamount to greed? I understand that many of my liberal friends subscribe to that erroneous line of thinking, but that is the very problem with Governor Huckabee.John Edwards-a man who made his living from suing people-uses class warfare rhetoric all the time referring to profits as greed.Al Gorereferred to those who opposed his economic ideas in 2000 as "the forces of greed."Hillary wants to "take those oil company profits." Where does Hillary want to put them, in the federal treasury? If so, we can all rest assured that the price of gas will not go down since the feds will be the ones getting rich off of oil. To theseDemocrats, economic growth and opportunity equates to personal greed. Apparently, Mike Huckabee shares their view of economics as opposed to the conservative one.
A President Huckabee stands to have plenty of support for his programs-from Democrats. His lead opposition is likely to come from the very party that would have nominated him.
If you think conservatives rebelled over President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because she was not seen as a serious conservative, you've seen nothing next to the reaction that would greet a President Huckabee as he abandoned Reaganomics in favor of some sort of Edwards-lite economic program.
Although I don't necessarily supportMitt Romney, he is right on one score-for the Republican nominee to be successful, he must have the support of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and what he calls "national security conservatives." Rudy Giuliani's attempt to cater to only one of these groups while completely disrespecting the other two will cost him the nomination-and so it should be with Huckabee. The Governor needs to explain if he believes in conservative economics or not-if he does he must explain what his past remarks meant in his mind, and if he does not he should explain to the Party faithful why it is that we should therefore give him the nomination.
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