The Friday Political Thread: Dead Hippie Edition


SATURDAY UPDATE: Over at Reason.tv we've posted Ron Paul's first New Hampshire TV ad, which is being torn to bits in YouTube comments and the Ron Paul Forums.

– Republican Bobby Jindal was elected governor of Louisiana in a landslide–the state's first non-white governor and the nation's first Indian American governor. Expectations are very, very high.

– The GOP held a debate and John McCain got off a one-liner about Woodstock that he proceeded to milk for a TV ad.

– The DREAM Act failed in the Senate. SCHIP failed in the House again. Both failed despite winning a clear vote majority, which is why America's system of government is the best in the world. (I'm being serious.)

– Sam Brownback, the grateful recipient of some attention for the first time since Ames, met with Rudy Giuliani and didn't not endorse him. Giuliani endorsed the Red Sox. Who's the bigger sellout?

– One million people signed up to support Stephen Colbert on Facebook.

Larger issues…

McCain, Who Won't be President. Ramesh Ponnuru is far too interesting a pundit to be pigeonholed like this, but his thought experiment about John McCain winning the presidency with a one-term pledge seems a piece with the larger McCain media narrative. The Rudy Giuliani storyline has been "social conservatives finally turn on him and sink him." The Fred Thompson storyline has been "he's lazy and he'll collapse." The McCain storyline has always been "he'll mount a comeback, but when?" Thus Ponnuru's argument that McCain could distance himself from the GOP jungle and "win a mandate for… fixing entitlements and beating terrorists" by pledging to retire after his first term. It's an idea that was floated in the Ronald Reagan campaign in 1979-1980 and abandoned because it would have made him look old and weak. But Ponnuru believes in the potential of McCain-as-savior and thinks he's the conservative with the best shot to win.

So, about winning. According to polls, McCain stands a better chance than the average GOP candidate of holding the White House. But McCain's acceptance of public financing for the primary might make him the most unelectable of the top candidates. If he wins the nomination it will be grueling, close-run, and exhausting for his campaign war chest. McCain will be out of primary cash, and unable to fund his general election campaign until the GOP convention kicks off in September. That would mean five or six months when McCain is off the airwaves against either Hillary Clinton–who's already winning over the bet-hedging donors that gave to her husband in the 90s and Bush in the oughts–or Barack Obama, who would have just pulled off a primary victory that made King David look like a piker. Five or six months during which the Democrats are able to hammer McCain in the rust belt and the sun belt, play around with ads in Virginia and Tennessee… basically build up a 15- or 20-point advantage heading into the convention, where McCain (who's said a contest against Clinton would be one of ideas, not insults) would presumably replay the Kerry '04 strategy of lining up aging Vietnam vets along the stage to blur the rest of the issues. How–unless the rest of the country learns to love McCain again, the way the press corps does–does McCain dig out of a hole in September '08?

Ron Against the Machine. On Monday, the Ron Paul campaign will launch a $1.1 million TV ad blitz in New Hampshire. "In the first commercial," reports Julie Bosman, "shot last week in New Hampshire, voters present some of the themes of Mr. Paul's candidacy, including his opposition to the Iraq war and his past as a doctor in a small Texas town." (Bosman quotes our own Nick Gillespie's analysis.) Marc Ambinder visits New Hampshire and confesses that national political reporters "did not take Ron Paul seriously" for "the longest time." The St. Anselm College poll puts Paul at 7.4 percent in the state, ahead of everyone but McCain, Rudy, and Mitt.

I predicted that if Paul started to garner real support, negative attention would switch from his policy stances to his connections on the ostracized right. And here it comes. The trend-setting conservative blog RedState has banned Paul comments. HotAir is chasing down Paul's donations from the White Pride fringe.

Huckabacklash. Those people who predicted Sam Brownback's withdrawal from the Republican race were right. In Iowa, in national polls, Huckabee is experiencing a well-timed mini-surge. The mainstream media love him: I remember watching reporters beam and smile when it became clear that Huckabee would come second in the Ames Straw poll, blowing away Romney's momentum. So the conservative press is pushing back. John Fund chatted with conservatives who say Huckabee's got no head for economics and left his state party "in a shambles." Quin Hillyer, who cut his teeth in Southern politics, marshalls Huckabee's record of not-illegal-graft and general weirdness. Depressed conservative Rod Dreher takes stock of both their arguments.

Below the fold…

– Matt Taibbi hits the road with Mitt Romney and chucks some pavement at the governor's coif.

– Terence Samuel has the (increasingly convoluted) theory of how Obama can beat Clinton.

– Jim Geraghty draws a path to the nomination for the GOP's five frontrunners.

– Daily Kos commenters storm the Clintons' barricades, ineffectively.

This week's installment of Politics 'n' Prog comes from Renaissance, fronted by Annie Haslam in their strongest incarnation from the classic 1975 Turn of the Cards LP.