Is it "Fred Day" in South Carolina? Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, January 19, 2008
On the evening of the New Hampshire primary I watched an interview with Fred Thompson, already in South Carolina, where he called SC his "firewall" and admitted he had to do well there or he was pretty much done. Of course "doing well" is open to interpretation, but most feel that requires a first or strong second in the vote.
At the moment, he's virtually tied for 3rd with Mitt Romney, but well behind both McCain and Huckabee. Unless the pollsters are again remarkably wrong, well, it doesn't look good for Fred. But stranger things have happened.
The reason this is the firewall state for him, is it is a state he should win, has spent the time (and money) necessary to win - 10 straight days in the state. If he can't pull a win or place where it is expected, it is reasonable to conclude that it isn't going to happen elsewhere either.
If Thompson should fail to garner the votes necessary to take first or second, and drops out of the race, the postmortem will be interesting. He is, by far, the most conservative of the group. In fact, if you look at some Pew Research data, those he's running against are, for the most part moderates with Huckabee essentially being a re-run of George W. Bush and the rest being to the left of Huckabee.
If Huckabee is the strongest "conservative" in the race, conservatives have a problem. To illustrate that point, look at this chart:
While McCain leads in "all Republican voters" his primary strength is in "moderate/liberal" voters with 41%. It is those voters who are nominally Republican who are keeping him in the lead. If I were to guess, most of them haven't a problem with McCain-Feingold, or his immigration stance or a myriad of other positions which scare most of the conservative base.
Huckabee only takes 20% of the moderate/liberal wing while pulling down the majority of the Evangelical conservatives. That's really a nice way of saying "social cons". McCain takes a good number of them as well. The "other cons", who are, of course, the fiscal conservatives, go to Romney, followed closely, again, by McCain.
So for whatever reason, McCain has managed to appeal to either the majority or a close minority in each of the three categories. And why that is so would mostly depend on what each of those categories see is the top issue of the campaign. But I think part of it has come from "defining conservatism down". For instance:
By comparison, 50% of Republicans say John McCain is conservative, and roughly two-thirds describe both Mitt Romney (68%) and Mike Huckabee (65%) as conservative.
I, frankly, view none of them as classic conservatives. If there is a classic conservative in the race, it is Fred Thompson. And he's languishing in "also ran" land. In fact, despite the numbers you see above, McCain, Huckabee and Romney do not chart out at all as conservatives. Check this chart out:
"All voters" are slightly right of center, but as you can see, none of the candidates grade out as "conservative". Instead, Romney and Huckabee get the closest, but what they're actually closest too is what Republicans are suffering through right now - George W. Bush's "compassionate Conservatism" - a total misnomer. But the leading Republican candidate, if he's anything, is a moderate (the charting of Clinton and Obama are interesting as well - you can plan on seeing this chart in the future in other discussions).
While Thompson doesn't show up on the chart, I don't think it is a stretch to say he'd be to the right of George W. Bush. And it seems voters are either not interested in candidates over there, or they're not interested in Fred Thompson, or both.
And then there's another factor to throw in there - electability. Look at the shift there:
That's a remarkable change. And it is driven by moderate to liberal Republicans. Unfortunately, Thompson's numbers took a dive, another factor in why he's in the "also ran" column even though he's looked and sounded better and better over the weeks.
Anyway, something for you to digest as the primary returns come in tonight. I'm sure we'll revisit all of this at another time and try to make more sense out of it. Your comments and theories are welcome.
Oh, and is it "Fred Day" in SC? Well, I actually hope so. It might refocus voters on the important things in the campaign, instead of putting some guy who talks tough but has a record of giving in and attacking liberty in the top spot because he is perceived as having the best chance of winning. Shades of John Kerry.
I’m not sure what the deal is with calling my beloved State a "closed primary state". We don’t register with a party here. I voted this morning (for the star of "Die Hard 2), but I could have just as easily voted next week. South Carolina will let you vote in either primary, just not both.
[McQ] Good point coaster - I’ve edited that line out.
I said myself earlier today, that what is remarkable about this race is how everyone ... and I mean everyone including the Democrats, are trying to co-opt the Reagan legacy. I take that to be a recognition of a desire on the part of the electorate for our pols to veer to the right of just about everyone in the current pack... except, as you note, Fred Thompson. In light of actual positions that Thompson takes, the rest come off as posers and naught more.
Which is what makes me wonder why he’s not doing better. Certainly, the stage is set for a genuine Reaganite, which I take Thompson to be, both based on voting records and currently proposed policies and positions.
In any event, I suggest that if Thompson doesn’t pull this one our, not only is Thompson’s campaign in trouble, but based on my perception of the desires of the electorate, the Republicans as a whole are in serious trouble in the general election. It’s my sense the country.... even a large number of Democrats... want another Reagan. Thompson could win the WH on that basis, if he makes it to the November. The rest of the Republicans, not so much.
And by the way, Obama trying to co-opt the Reagan message, is a calculation I think, that Fred won’t win and the current crop of Republcians will come off as the Reagan- posers they are.
This race is so messed up, especially since you haven’t even had Rudy enter the race yet. You get a strong Fred showing and a Rudy FL win, what you have is a serious mess, with Huckleberry, McCain, Fred, Romney and Rudy all being able to credibly claim they’re frontrunners.