No Passion for McCain

But fear of Obama may suffice across South


Take a look at any early electoral map projection. You will see a solid chunk of red in most states of the Confederacy. Such projections are primarily grounded on historical performance—and as the small print always says—may not reflect future returns. Add in the wrinkle of the Bob Barr candidacy and the old rules might look archaic.

The problem for John McCain starts with his lack of popularity among Southern conservatives. He is respected, but not beloved by supporters. This contrasts sharply with the frenzy Barack Obama generates, as evidenced by his resounding primary wins across the South, none more impressive than his May 6th victory in North Carolina, where Obama pulled in nearly 900,000 of almost 1.6 million Democratic votes. In November 2004, John Kerry, with a former North Carolina senator on his ticket, only totaled 1.5 million votes in the state, losing to Bush-Cheney's 1.9 million.

There are two schools of thought on what these numbers mean. First, it is argued that Obama has basically maxed out his possible new voter total in North Carolina and across the South. Combined with moderate voters reassessing his candidacy and fatigue among his supporters, this would wash out any modest gains in new Obama votes between now and the general election. This view seems doubtful given the energy Obama generates, which puts me in the second camp; those who believe that Obama, as the official presidential nominee of Democratic Party, will touch off a massive get out the vote effort across the South.

If the latter unfolds, the McCain campaign will then have to accelerate efforts to try to peel off white votes from Obama and woo former Hillary Clinton supporters, plus an agressive get out the vote effort among Republicans. The latter would be hard, and in part explains the downright loopy run on "one term pledge" ideas for McCain.

Evangelical voters with their hearts set on, say, a Huckabee presidency/rapture would be free to vote McCain with a clear conscience in 2008. Think of it as political four-year ARM. Voters can remake the terms in 2012, guaranteed. In effect, this is an attempt to turn lack of enthusiasm for McCain into a strategic asset—lease him for four years, not eight.

But even with this gimmick, the lack of enthusiasm for McCain remains. Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett recently told me that his fellow Tar Heel Republicans are simply not moved by McCain. He pointed out that the perception that North Carolina is a lock for any GOP presidential candidate overlooks that for years it was Jesse Helms supporters who were supplying the underlying campaign energy—energy that is long gone.

Into this vacuum strides freshly minted Libertarian Party banner carrier Bob Barr. The former Georgia congressman isn't exactly a household name in the region, but neither is he an unknown, owing in part to his TV appearences and frequent spots on talk radio in Atlanta and Charlotte. Might he provide someplace for disgruntled conservatives—particularly fiscal conservatives and opponents of federalizing every known public policy issue—to land in November? Perhaps. Particularly if McCain devolves into a single-issue "patriotism and torture" candidate, as presaged by the head of Georgia GOP the other day.

Referring to McCain's stint as an abused prisoner of war in Vietnam, Georgia Republican Party chairwoman Sue Everhart declared, "John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross."

However, McCain's actual saving grace may be Obama. Conservative voters otherwise disgusted with the senator from Arizona on campaign finance, entitlements, taxes, or illegal immigration imagine a soft-on-terror Obama presidency and recoil from even casting a vote for Barr.

"Any vote not for McCain is essentially a vote for Obama," says Clay Johanson, to the easily imagined sound of Barr's LP opponents hissing and groaning. Johanson, a 39-year old technical consultant from Charlotte, is precisely the voter McCain needs to come out in order to carry his supposed red base in South—a young, techie Republican not particularly enamored of John McCain.

Should this view hold sway on Election Day, one of the oldest rules in American politics will stay in force—voters without anything to vote for can usually find something to vote against.

Jeff Taylor writes from North Carolina.

NEXT: Your Two Minute Hate Starts... Now!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Conservative voters … imagine a soft-on-terror Obama presidency ….”

    Translation: “Conservative voters don’t want a black man in the White House.”

  2. Bob Barr is hardly George Wallace.

    I don’t McCain’s worrying too much.

  3. Translation: “Conservative voters don’t want a black man in the White House.”

    Since I’m libertarian, not conservative, I’ll let others speak for them.

    Personally McCain is the fourth worst choice for President. On the issues that most concern me (gun rights, civil liberties, stay-out-of-my-wallet issues, and let me run my own life) Clinton is marginally worse than McCain. Obama is marginally worse than Clinton. “Christian government” Huckabee is marginally worse than Obama.

    So your translation is wrong. It’s simply that the only reason I would vote for someone who thinks concealed carry needs to be federally prohibited, is to keep someone who wants to bring government under church control away from the White House. The same is true of any white male gun-grabber.

  4. LarryA,

    Good luck keeping McCain out of your wallet, and staying out of the lives of any draft-age males, when he needs to pay for his wars.

  5. “Conservative voters don’t want a black man in the White House.”

    Translation: “Conservative voters don’t want a university socialist in the white house”

  6. Don’t count on fear of Obama to get some of us evangelicals to the polls in Nov. It’s not gonna happen. A lot of us have decided to let Obama have it for 4 years and by then voters will be good and ready for a conservative President. A REAL conservative.

  7. As I see it, we have three, (3) Liberal Democrats vying to lead the nation into oblivion. Senator McCain, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. The only Candidate that I could stomach voting for is Barr. Not my first choice, not my best choice, not even my least onerous choice. But still the better choice among the dismal choices available. I WON’T be stampeded into making a BAD choice , (voting for McCain), by falling for that old worn out chestnut of, “if you don’t vote for McCain, you’re voting for Obama. That would only work on me if I were stupid enough to believe it. They are all frightened out of their wits, (in the two MAJOR failed parties), that a third party candidate will win. I’m a registered Republican. The Republican party SHOULD be afraid! Very afraid!

  8. “Evangelical voters with their hearts set on, say, a Huckabee presidency/rapture”

    Haha.. That line was just perfect.

  9. lot of us have decided to let Obama have it for 4 years and by then voters will be good and ready for a conservative President. A REAL conservative.

    your party doesn’t get to be conservative anymore, ever since it decided to trigger (and continue to support) a liberal Wilsonian crusade in Iraq.

  10. It never ceases to amaze me that people actually believe a nobody like Bob Barr is going to make trouble in states that Republicans win by over 20%. Does anyone with half a brain actually believe such bullshit? If you think Barack Obama has a chance in states like Georgia because Bob Barr is on the ballot, you are an absolute idiot, plain and simple.

  11. “Conservative voters … imagine a soft-on-terror Obama presidency ….”

    Translation: “Conservative voters don’t want a black man in the White House.”

    Exactly what i thought

  12. Ambrose Bierce would add a new definition for his dictionary for “conservative” – (def.) modern redneck Christo-Fascist who works to deprive freedom for others.

  13. Alan Vanneman,

    Bigotry always makes a person look stupid, yours is no different.

    Believe it or not, there are reasons to vote for McCain over Obama other than Obama’s race.

    I won’t be voting for either one though.

  14. Well, it looks like McCain’s VP shortlist has been leaked to the press. Emeril? Really?

  15. “Conservative voters … imagine a soft-on-terror Obama presidency ….”

    Translation: “Conservative voters don’t want a black man in the White House.”

    Yeah, that explains why Al Gore and John Kerry won exactly zero southern states in the last 2 elections, and Bill Clinton could only get his home state to vote for him twice.

  16. Unfortunately the only way to return the Republican party to it’s Conservative roots is to allow all the current Neo-Cons fail miserably. I’ve lost more freedoms, rights, and pride in my country under the current administration than I did under Slick Willy Clinton. We can survive another JFK wanna-be, but we can’t enact the deeply needed changes in the Republican party if they win with this false conservatism they are using now.

  17. This is a curious article. Even Obama fanatics only give him a shot of winning Virginia and perhaps North Carolina of all the Southern states. The rest of the states will be solid for Mc Cain, barring some unexpected electoral landslide.

  18. I’ve heard of Barr’s name, but have no idea what he stands for. I do know that Libertarian Party candidates tend to be more than a little bizarre.

    As to Obama being black, well, thats one of the few reasons to vote for him. Maybe once we get a black prez, we can move on to MLK’s world of judging by character rather than skin color.

    And yes, I’m one of those white evangelical Christo-fascists.

    If you like freedom, thank a Baptist. You might even consider, just consider, getting over class and region based bigotry.

    Anyways, for now, I figure on writing in Duncan Hunter. If the Libertarian Party didn’t manifestly hate those who do more than them to save Liberty, I might consider voting for Barr. But a lot of Libertarians hate Baptists more than they love Liberty.

  19. Tennwriter:

    I certainly don’t hate baptists, and I can promise you that Bob Barr doesn’t; he’s a methodist himself, and only seems to have problems with pagans.

  20. I’m one of the folks that Jeff interviewed for this article. It seems to me that Bob Barr will draw off a lot more potential McCain voters than Obama voters, and that Barr is this year’s Ross Perot as far as the GOP goes. So I believe it’s true when I say that any vote not for McCain is a vote for Obama.

    Would I prefer a libertarian in the Oval Office? Certainly. But do I think there’s any likelihood of this happening, at least this year? Absolutely not. And since I absolutely don’t want Obama in the Oval Office (and not because he’s black — I don’t care about that — it’s what he says and stands for that I think is dangerous), the only logical choice is McCain. I don’t love McCain as a candidate, but he is clearly preferable to Obama.

    And to those who think that four years of Obama would set us up for a Reagan comeback… while I agree in theory, the reality is that four years of Obama might set us irrevocably on the path to the end of this nation.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.