South Carolina

I'm watching the South Carolina results roll in and I'm sorry that Fred Thompson didn't win this one. (Right now he's in third place, which is at least better than he'd done elsewhere.)

With 22% of the vote in, it appears that McCain has it -- winning by an eight point margin over Huckabee. (36% to 28%) Too early to call, but I think it's unlikely Huckabee being able to turn that kind of lead around.

OTOH, Fox is saying that the race appears dead even based on exit polls.

On CNN, I saw an interesting analysis by Bill Schneider, who waved big charts -- one listing the evangelical vote as follows:

55% Huckabee

27% McCain

12% Romney

Now, if it is true that McCain with all his baggage comes in second behind Huckabee and Romney is third, it confirms my theory that anti-Mormon prejudice is driving the Huckabee phenomenon. That's because Romney is more of a social conservative than McCain, and closer to the evangelical point of view. That Romney would be third, IMO, reveals anti-Mormon bias.

They're still saying it's too close to call.

(Meanwhile in Nevada, Hillary won. I'm not enjoying her inevitability one bit.)

MORE: Here's an ominous warning from Victor Davis Hanson, who thinks that if McCain gets it, the social conservatives will sit it out, and Hillary will win:

I think those who might prefer a McCain or Giuliani will be perfectly happy to vote for the ticket should a Romney or Thompson be the standard bearer. But from the recent rhetoric, it almost seems the inverse is not true. And if that is the case, then a President Clinton seems to me a sure thing--which of course may be the desire-- in the fashion that 1964 purists thought their loss logically led to recovery in 1968 or 1976 had to transpire to get to the promised land of 1980. I would remind conservatives, however, that we are in a war, and that sitting out 2008 might mean allowing a candidate to win (pick any of the three Democrats) who has promised to withdraw all troops in 2009, regardless of the battlefield landscape (perhaps versus a McCain Presidency who surely won't do that).
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Some people are more willing to hold their nose and vote than others. Which means that those who refuse to hold their nose get to decide for the nose-holders.

If you don't like it, try holding your nose in the other party!

MORE (08:40 p.m.): With 46% of the vote in, it's getting closer, with 33% McCain to 29% Huckabee.

MORE: Stephen Green is drunkblogging the results and he points out that the evangelical vote is just starting to report in, so the results could change:

Another thing to watch is, the Bible Belt's own Bible Belt is just starting to report in, which could put Huckabee over the top.
(Via Glenn Reynolds, who appears to be quite sober.)


If I get drunk, might that affect the results?

MORE: With 61% in, Fox News' Britt Hume is saying "Somewhere there must be a very large cache of Huckabee votes."

They keep talking about exit polls showing McCain and Huckabee are even.

MORE (09:04 p.m.): With 67% of the vote in, it's 34 to 29 and they're still saying it's too close to call.

The Horry county results are missing, and according to Michael Barone it's 5% of the state.

Again, they're wondering why the results don't match the exit polls.

(History shows there's nothing new about such an anomaly.)

MORE (09:06 p.m.): With 72% in and Greenville (a heavily evangelical area) now reported as coming in for McCain, Hume is saying "something has to give."

Carl Cameron just reported that McCain is getting ready for his victory speech.

There seems to be some tension between the results and Fox's reluctance to accept them.

MORE (09:17 p.m.): With 82% in, it's now 33% to 29%. Thompson is still in 3rd place.

9:18 p.m.

It's over

AP has called it for McCain, and Fox now agrees.

MORE: Stephen Green makes what I think is a painfully truthful remark about Fred Thompson.

After tonight, Fred Thompson's campaign is over. (Reminder to self: Don't endorse candidates you like, you jinx.) And Mike Huckabee has peaked. As Bill Kristol said on Fox a moment ago, if Huckabee can't get 50% of the South Carolina evangelical vote, then tonight is the highwater mark of his campaign.

Which leaves the Republicans with McCain, Romney, and Giulliani. And if Giulliani doesn't win -- and win convincingly -- in Florida, then he's out, too.

I'm sorry to see Thompson not do better. What I found most interesting about toniight was McCain's surprising strength among evangelicals.

Stephen Green has more about the Democratic race, but I won't spoil it. (Hint: there will be blood.)

MORE (10:04 p.m.) I'm watching McCain speak, and I have to say, while he gets a lot of criticism for his age, he seems incredibly tough and vibrant.

It may be an awful thing to say, but being tortured all those years in a North Vietnam POW camp might have made him far stronger than most men his age. (Or younger.)

But then it might be in the genes. He just thanked his mother, who is is standing right there. How old might she be?

Really, the age factor alone is almost inspiring.

The guy really comes through.

I have to say, it's a really good speech. McCain at his finest.

(Bear in mind that I speak as a cynical asshole who's very hard to impress, much less inspire.)

In a word, it was moving. There's more to this than positions on issues.

MORE: It's Saturday night and people are busy with other things, but I think McCain really connected in a way that I can only describe as moving to the emotions.

Talk about comebacks; the guy was all but written off!

AND MORE (01/20/08): I'm happy to see that I'm not alone in my positive assessment of McCain's speech. Here's Lawrence Kudlow:

Sen. John McCain capped off his big win in the South Carolina primary with the single best victory speech of anyone in the campaign season so far.
Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links the Pajamas Media roundup, as well as these observations by TigerHawk:
Watching McCain's victory speech, I agree with my co-blogger CardinalPark -- the Republicans have a pretty good field. So far, I could support all of McCain, Romney, Giuliani, and Thompson in the general election. I would have a hard time forcing myself to the polls if Mike Huckabee were the Republican candidate (given our likely choices on the other side), but if he cannot win in South Carolina, where can he win?
That's the best encapsulation I've seen so far. (All the more so because I agree with TigerHawk.)

MORE: Glenn also links Bill Kristol's observation that "You fight an election with the politicians you have," and I agree.

Many do not. I have lost count of the number of Republicans who are on record as saying that they will never, ever, vote for McCain. (Some are making public pledges, and I will not name names.)

While I may be reading him wrong, Kristol seems to frown on overly robust criticism of GOP candidates ("conservative commentariat should take a deep breath, be a bit less judgmental").

Actually, I think robust criticism is a good thing -- especially in the primary, where the job is to test the candidates' mettle, and weed out the losers now, lest they lose to the Democrats later.

What I don't think is a good idea is to get locked into a chorus of "I WILL NEVER EVER" thinking.

I know I'm far from perfect in the "never-ever" department, but as the old saying goes, two weeks is a long time in politics.

Too many never-evers, and you can end up looking foolish.

Or, worse, having to eat your words...

MORE: Looked at another way, it's one thing to get all hot under the collar, and to vent freely. But when what might have been heated hyperbole is ratcheted up to the level of a solemn and unbreakable pledge, people can become prisoners of what is no longer rhetoric.

MORE: Let me illustrate by way of example. There is no serious GOP candidate whose politics I abhor more than Mike Huckabee, and of course I'm on record as being against him. But if I solemnly pledged that "I will never ever vote for Mike Huckabee," I've written off all future hope that he might be persuaded to change his positions on anything. Why would he waste his time arguing with anti-Huckabee pledgers? It would be illogical for me to make such a public pledge -- even if in my heart I knew I could never vote for him. (Even there, I'm reminded that there is always the remote possibility of what is called "a change of heart.")

posted by Eric on 01.19.08 at 08:27 PM


from Victor Davis Hanson, who thinks that if McCain gets it, the social conservatives will sit it out...
Well, I think a lot of just plain old conservatives - and libertarians - will be sitting it out, too. I know I will. I won't vote for McCain under any circumstances. And if Huckabee is the GOP nominee, I'll vote for the Democrat.
Bill Quick   ·  January 20, 2008 11:14 AM
"You fight an election with the politicians you have,
Facile hack-speak. You should fight an election with the principles you have. You only fight with whatever politicians come to hand when you no longer have principles. And as far as I can tell, a GOP that could nominate a McCain or a Huckabee has no principles left, and is just as soul-less and power-driven as anything on the progressive side of the spectrum.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Bill Quick   ·  January 20, 2008 11:21 AM

I have no qualms about writing off either McCain or Huckabee. You see, there is no reason to trust any "change of heart" they might suddenly profess. In their case, I think it's better to recall the Tale of the Scorpion, and proceed accordingly.

Bill Quick   ·  January 20, 2008 3:28 PM

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