John McCain can't help himself.
I was watching the post-South Carolina interview on Fox where Sean Hannity threw McCain softballs. McCain still balked. (I'm not the only one noticing this. It was glaring.) On immigration, he "knows what to do because I'm from a border state". He said that he understood that people wanted border security. He wouldn't say that he wanted border security. On taxation, he wants to cut spending, or so he says. He grumped through a post-win interview--with a smile on his face, of course--but his hostility was barely hidden.
Is this playing with conservatives? The numbers I saw from Frank Luntz this morning show that it does. What the HELL are they thinking?
Personally, I think voters on the right are desperate. Lower and moderate income social conservatives feel the economic squeeze. Business owners feel the squeeze from the slowing economy. That alone might push Romney to the forefront. He sounds strong, confident and experienced on the economy. Iraq is going well. Immigration has faded as an issue. Suddenly, the pocketbook issues are coming to the forefront. Jeff Goldstein thinks this is what voters are thinking:
Jeff captures my ennui perfectly. And this reminds me of what I've written before: bloggers are a different breed than the average American. The air we breath on the conservative side is as rarefied as the air breathed in newsrooms around America. Here's what I said average Americans want:
Which means that if Fred Thompson drops out of the race (aside: I have no idea what Republican primary voters are thinking — other than that they are no longer interested in conservatism, and have become every bit as statist as their progressive counterparts), I’m resigning myself to a Democratic presidency in 2008 — and to the years of pain that will follow should the Dems maintain control of both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Who knows? Maybe they even get the courts, too.
In other words, Hello “progressivism”! Which, as Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn can tell you, is simply another word for tyranny of bureaucracy under the auspices of an anti-individualistic, centralized coalition government — and is about as “American” (in the strictest, foundational sense) as caviar or goulash or the Yugo. Decline and fall.
The average American has inhaled, had premarital sex, looks at porn, had an abortion but wish there were less of them, knows someone removed from life support and has gay friends. (The votes divide because half believe in trying to maintain the ideals while others feel we should let them go.) The average American lives in a nice house, tries to recycle and worries about Global Warming. The average American works hard, thinks Europeans are pansies and worries about terrorism and the best way to deal with it. The average American is ambivalent about Iraq but is uncomfortable with repeating the Vietnam performance. The average American believes most of the leaders are corrupt wind-bags, but what are you going to do? They like their guy. (Kinda like they like their lawyer, but lawyers in general stink.) The average American hasn't looked all that deeply into the issues, but feels a certain way and votes that way. Political bloggers are not average Americans--they are more attached to ideals and more convinced of their views.
By the time the election rolls around, a solid recession will have sucked the energy, never mind money, and Americans will be jittery, looking for solid. This bodes well for Clinton--as the populace still identifies the name Clinton with golden years (even though the economy has been stronger under Bush).
Speaking of narratives (which The Anchoress does)..... You know, the stuff that is axiomatic, that we all believe because the press pushes forward the idea, can anyone believe anything any of these people say? This year more than any other, I feel that the candidates are willing to say anything to get elected. And so McCain can, with a relatively straight face, imply that he wants border security when he wants no such thing. Huckabee bleats on about small government. Romney pretends at social conservatism.
For all my irritation with George W. Bush from time to time, he campaigned on certain issues and those issues drove his presidency. There were no surprises--at least to me. He campaigned on issues and then, when he became President, he acted on them. The current candidates are "evolving" as they go. We expect this from Democrats, but it is disturbing to have the Republican candidates tap dancing their way through the primaries. Not only that, it's disturbing what messages are succeeding--essentially Democratic messages.
The net effect? A Democrat as President and her name will be Hillary Clinton. And yes, that's a prediction.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News.
UPDATED: Betsy notes this:
I can well envision a President McCain working with a Democratic congress to enact legislation to stifle innovation and research done by drug companies to treat terrible diseases. And it would all be done with that self-satisfied smirk of the self-righteous who believe that they have done something wonderful for the common man while they stifle one American industry that leads the world in helping the world - our pharmaceutical industry. And once they have killed off the goose, there will be many fewer golden eggs to use in fighting all sorts of dread diseases. There is a reason why countries that have drastically reduced the profit incentive for drug companies to do research into new drugs don't have that sort of industry anymore.