Who was the conservative choice?
Republicans like Nancy French, a Maury County resident who has been preaching the gospel of Romney through her Web site, evangelicalsformitt.org, for the past two years, said she'll have a hard time forgiving McCain's past positions on tax cuts and illegal immigration.
"John McCain has been giving social conservatives the middle finger for 25 years," French said, citing McCain's efforts to regulate campaign finances as just one example of when the candidate has bucked GOP orthodoxy.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," French said. "I want to vote, but I don't think I can pull the lever for John McCain." The U.S. senator from Arizona is the Republican Party's presumptive nominee following Romney's withdrawal from the race on Thursday.
"We're at risk," French said. "Our party is fractured, and the Democrats have strong candidates that people believe in."
First of all, even though I did not vote for Mitt Romney in the end, I have great admiration for Ms. Nancy's work. This State had no more enthusiastic champion for Romney than Nancy French and her husband David. They're good conservatives and good Republicans, and if I'm writing a story about the primary and I need to talk to a Romney person, the first person I would call would be Nancy French.
With that said, The Tennessean did a terrible job with this story. Staff writer Bonna Johnson quite rightly wrote that Republican voters are cool to McCain, but the story was written in a way to suggest that most GOP voters who were anti-McCain trended toward Mitt Romney, but the results showed something different. The only counties where Romney did exceptionally well were the collar counties around Nashville, and in Maury County, home to Nancy French herself. It is a standing rule of Tennessee politics that if a Republican cannot carry any counties in East Tennessee, that person cannot win Statewide. I'm researching the results right now, and I have to admit that I have all counties in front of me and I am having to pick through these Statewide results "by hand," but so far I have not found a single East Tennessee county carried by Mitt Romney. In terms of county-by-county results, both Huckabee and McCain did well here. John McCain carried Knox, Jefferson, Cocke, Cumberland, Hawkins, etc. Huckabee carried Hamilton County by nine points, a huge coup for the Statewide vote (which would indicate that he did reasonably well in the City of Chattanooga), and also carried counties like Blount, Loudon, Miegs, Union, Unicoi, Johnson, and Sullivan. Even in the East Tennessee counties where he lost to McCain (like mine), Huckabee tended to finish a narrow second and Romney third-in some cases a distant third. In the East Tennessee counties Huckabee won, McCain was usually in second-which would seem to indicate that Romney was actually pulling votes from Huckabee here.
Mitt Romney proved to be a very poor Statewide candidate in Tennessee, but you wouldn't know that by the way The Tennessean was covering voter reaction. Mike Huckabee won the State (something conceded very quickly in the article) yet there was no word from Huckabee people in the paper. Romney's candidacy was treated as the predominate choice of Tennessee conservatives, but the results from some of our State's most conservative counties show that Huckabee was the choice of most conservatives, and that Romney may have kept Huckabee from carrying East Tennessee outright (though Howard Baker's endorsement did help McCain, no question of that).
Nothing against the Romney camp (especially Nancy French), but their Statewide showing could be viewed as an embarrassment by some-but there was little mention of that in The Tennessean. I understand that it is a Nashville paper, but Republican primaries in Tennessee are not won or lost in metro Nashville. It might behoove The Tennessean to remember that when covering future primaries.
As for being cool to McCain-I think Ms. Nancy and many know that I feel their pain.