Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And they're coming down the homestretch...

Well, we are still no closer to knowing anything.

Unlike the post I linked to above, I am agnostic on South Carolina's power to decide the nominee this year. I say that with no small degree of sadness.

With three races in the books, the Republicans have come no closer to falling in love with a candidate. Every candidate has proven too flawed to make the essential sale. Huckabee was made for Iowa -- a folksy evangelical who likes to make it seem that he plays nice. We can declare McCain to be the President of New Hampshire. Mitt Romney's history and strengths (businessman who would know how to handle the federal bureaucracy) dovetailed perfectly with struggling Michigan. Each candidate did well in states that you would expect them to do well in and have proven utterly incapable of building on that to attract new voters to their flock. McCain can't get the conservative grassroots to forgive him for past trangressions and Romney can't convince them that his recognition of past transgressions is real and not political expediency. Huckabee can't anyone other than the evangelicals and Rudy can't get the evangelicals (or anyone else for that matter).

Fred is an interesting case. He is probably the most acceptable candidate to the grassroots. His appeal comes in person, where his demeanor shows that he is steady rather than lethargic. His is a campaign that you warm to slowly, but surely. It's a similar affliction that McCain faces: the candidate himself is the best way to convert voters, but you don't have the chance to run a truly retail campaign in a crowded primary field.

I am now agnostic on the idea that South Carolina will decide the presidency. It may serve as a way to winnow the field, but I don't even agree that Florida will decide. Until a candidate breaks through to really reach new supporters, each primary will be decided on demographics. I still would bet on Romney being the nominee because his money makes him best suited to win a war of attrition. The big money will come in for a candidate once they break through that wall, but until they do, Romney will best suited to win in states where air wars take precedence over retail politicking.