Do You Remember Walter?

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Back in February, when anti-war Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest lost his safe Maryland House seat, anti-war conservatives wondered if the GOP was undergoing a purge. Ron Paul sent out a panicky fundraising letter, begging his friends to prevent him from getting Gilchrested. Joe McLaughlin, the county commissioner challenged Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina's coastal 3rd district, crowed that he was closing in. There was plenty of anecdotal evidence for a McLaughlin surge, if you looked for it.

The walls at Cubbie's diner used to be plastered with pictures, stickers and campaign signs for Rep. Walter Jones, who championed the eatery's idea to serve up "freedom fries" in the days before the start of the Iraq war.

But the Republican soured on the war soon after it started, and now there's a new banner hanging above the grill: Joe McLaughlin for Congress.

"Walter abandoned us," said Cubbie's owner Neal Rowland. "Walter hopped on the bandwagon. But when the heat got turned up, he hopped off."

But today, I'm told to expect an easy Jones win, with McLaughlin unable to crack the 40 percent support floor. The last public poll showed Jones crushing McLaughlin by 38 points (with a high undecided vote); it was two months ago, but Jones has only consolidated since then.

He got lucky. McLaughlin talked to most of the right people in the district, and at least one D.C. conservative group was considering jumping into the race to help him. The meltdown of Republican congressional candidates in open seats and the paltry fundraising of the party's congressional campaign committee made a sure-thing incumbent with a fat bankroll look pretty good.

Meanwhile, in the Research Triangle-centered 4th District, B.J. Lawson is sounding confident notes about his primary. "We're getting an overwhelmingly positive reception when I meet people at the polls," Lawson says. "We have 20 percent of them covered. As far as I can tell, Augustus [Cho, Lawson's libertarian-bashing opponent] has signs out there but no one working the polls."

Turnout looks lighter than the general election of four years ago. When Lawson's wife visited a Wake County precinct, 600 voters had cast ballots by noon, compared to about 1200 in 2004. It's an open primary, where independents can vote in either race, and Lawson's seeing "the vast majority" of independents jump into the Democratic primary. (This is mixed news for Hillary Clinton: This is a district where Obama should be romping, and he needs high turnout, but independents are going to go heavily for him.)

Lawson wouldn't hazard a guess about how Ron Paul will do. "There isn't a get out the vote organization, but the guys from the MeetUp groups are doing a good job putting signs out there." The 4th district and its college towns will probably be one of Paul's best areas—it's the only place he campaigned.

Sort of related: Paul was asked about the "gas tax holiday" on Fox News today and pronounced it "a pretty good idea" but "foolish if you don't consider also cutting spending."

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  1. Village Green Preservation Society getting another shoutout?

  2. I’M GOING TO HAVE “THE MILLION-POUND SEMI-DETACHED” STUCK IN MY FUCKING HEAD ALL DAY!

  3. But today, I’m told to expect an easy Jones win, with McLaughlin unable to crack the 40 percent support floor.

    Um, at 58-16 Jones over McLaughlin, he not only cracked that floor, he broke through the basement foundation and is halfway to China.

  4. I think that Weigel is a walking encyclopedia of references to The Kinks.

  5. Wow. A libertarian actually comes out and says that getting rid of the gas tax may actually not be all that bad an idea. Goes against the attitude that certain personalities at REASON have had lately.

  6. Hey jkp, you’re forgetting the second part of Paul’s comment: “foolish if you don’t consider also cutting spending.” I’m fairly certain most (if not all) commenters here are speaking out against abolishing the gas tax under the assumption that spending will not be curtailed. I know I certainly fall into that boat.

  7. Goes against the attitude that certain personalities at REASON have had lately.

    Drink?

  8. I’m glad to see Weigel writing a piece on Ron Paul without resorting to invective. (The subjective “panicky” can be ignored for the moment–it’s a long, hard route back to balanced journalism, and we’re cheering Weigel on all the way.)

  9. How many of these “independents” voting in the Dem primary are actually dittoheads looking to continue the execrable “Operation Chaos”?

  10. Hey jkp, you’re forgetting the second part of Paul’s comment: “foolish if you don’t consider also cutting spending.” I’m fairly certain most (if not all) commenters here are speaking out against abolishing the gas tax under the assumption that spending will not be curtailed. I know I certainly fall into that boat.

    Exactly. One of McCain’s supporters in the RNC was trying to explain the gas tax, and when asked about how it would be paid for, all she could come up with was ‘grow the economy.’ That’s not much of an answer at any time, but certainly not when we’re in a troubled economic moment like today.

  11. Cubbies makes an excellent hamburger. I’ve eaten the freedom fries as well.

  12. “a pretty good idea” but “foolish if you don’t consider also cutting spending.”

    See Ron B. even a Paleo can do it…it should not be so hard for a Cosmo like you to do as well.

  13. I’m all in favor of getting rid of the gas tax, but the government will cut spending when pigs fly. So we might as well keep it, since as a user fee it’s less oppressive than the other taxes that would have to be raised to pay of the costs in debt in the future. Ron Paul 08!

  14. Shouldn’t Lawson reap a huge advantage by way of his name? You’d have to think that of the votes who don’t know much about either Congressional candidate in North Carolina (which has to be pretty decent chunk of the voters), “Lawson” is going to get the nod over “Cho” by an overwhelming margin. I know at least one Anglo politician down here in South Florida legally changed his name to Martinez or something for that very reason.

  15. I think this is the 3rd Reason article that’s come up in the last three days of my daily “Ron Paul” News Googling. I didn’t even bother reading this article, and don’t expect that I will. Is Reason so desperate for web hits now that the policy is to use Paul’s name in at least one article per day?

  16. your not realizing that ron paul is a, if not the fixture of libretarian movement at the moment so it isn’t that hard to imagine him getting mentioned often in articles by a libretarian magazine, is it?

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