Tuesday, January 22, 2008



McCain's like a grumpy, grouchy old man, a characteristic that has more allure for Lieberman and Lindsey Graham than it does for normal people, even Republicans. It's like he has Tourette Syndrome and can't help blurting out all kinds of crap that gets him in trouble. He lost Michigan to a pathetic nonentity because he told people-- perhaps honestly-- that the jobs they've lost (because of trade policies he's always supported), are never coming back. Willard, always ready and willing to say whatever anyone wants to hear, told them everything would be ok if they voted for him and-- being Republicans-- they did. Looks like McCain just stepped in it again, this time in Florida.

A few days ago I interviewed Alan Grayson, a progressive Democrat running for Congress in Orlando. When I asked him what issues were important to the people he meets on the hustings he talked about issues that are important to all Americans, like the unending war in Iraq, the health care crisis, the $2 million/minute trade deficit, etc. And then he said that there's a problem of great importance to Floridians that is specific to Florida.
One of the concerns here in Florida is the very high cost of home insurance. Since the hurricanes 3 years ago the cost of insurance for housing has really jumped tremendously; it's become a very significant part of peoples' budgets-- and it's completely unavoidable. It's a local issue very much on people's minds. I don't think people have the same sort of concerns about this in Montana.

Grayson also started talking to be about unrestrained growth and it's impact on the quality of life, in particular on the overcrowded highways in his district. I could have pointed out the impact of that kind of growth-- so assiduously pushed by McCain and the Arizona Republican delegation for decades in their own state-- on drinking water (or lack thereof). But let's stick to the high cost of housing insurance for now, which is exactly what Florida's ultra-popular Republican governor, Charlie Crist, would like to focus on.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain campaigned for Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2006 Republican primary and would welcome him returning the favor. But unlike rival Rudy Giuliani, he's not taking up Crist's call for a national catastrophic insurance fund.

McCain seemed to suggest that the government needs to improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead.

"I do not support a national catastrophic insurance policy,'' McCain said in Coral Gables. "That insurance policy is there and it's called FEMA and it's called national disaster preparedness...I still do not have confidence that FEMA is capable of handling those responsibilities.''

Brace yourself for Giuliani picking up on this disagreement over a national insurance pool.

Crist, like Grayson, would like to find some solutions to the prohibitively high cost of home insurance. Giuliani is buying in-- and Romney will say whatever it takes to whatever audience he's in front of. Huckabee is broke and isn't a factor except in some Panhandle snake-handling churches and Frederick of Hollywood is tired and over the whole thing, just waiting for his ambitious, driven wife to allow him to crawl home and sit on his recliner. McCain, at heart-- despite his p.r. machine-- is a right wing ideologue who is more interested in crowing about his rightist cred than about working together to solve real problems in real people's lives.

FEMA might have been the right thing to bring up when Bill Clinton was president but everyone in hurricane country is painfully aware of what FEMA has meant under the control of Republicans. It won't fly and it looks like Charlie Crist will be sitting this one out.

In this morning's Washington Post E.J. Dionne says Florida is "crunch time" for McCain and that he is certainly not inevitable.
McCain exorcised the ghosts of South Carolina on Saturday, winning a critical primary in a state where he was savaged eight years ago by George W. Bush. McCain's loss ended his chances in 2000, but the ferocity of the campaign against him only burnished his legend as the brave independent willing to confront a Republican political machine that punishes free thinking.

McCain's politics-be-damned image has proved remarkably durable, even though he more recently cozied up to his right-wing critics in the anti-tax movement and the older parts of the religious right. Where he once bravely opposed Bush's tax cuts, McCain now spouts orthodoxy in declaring they should be made permanent. He speaks of himself as the true Reaganite because of his opposition to federal spending.

In South Carolina it was enough-- but only because moderates, liberals and independents identified McCain as the best available alternative.

McCain won overwhelmingly among voters who described themselves as moderate or liberal, but he lost to Mike Huckabee among conservatives. He ran more than 2 to 1 behind Huckabee among those who identified themselves as very conservative. Even though McCain has long opposed abortion, he ran strongly among voters who favor keeping it legal. He lost among those who would outlaw it.

And McCain did not actually carry self-identified Republicans who voted in South Carolina. Independents saved his candidacy.

...In many of the states that vote next -- notably Florida, which casts ballots next Tuesday-- independents will not be able to come to McCain's aid. In such closed primaries, he will have to emphasize his fealty to traditional conservatism and use his strong support for the Iraq war as a Republican credential. Yet the more McCain tries to look like a typical Republican, the more he threatens his standing with middle-of-the-road voters.

Florida will be especially complicated because Rudy Giuliani, who has hung back from the competition so far, is fiercely contesting McCain for moderate voters, particularly Republicans who favor abortion rights. They are a more significant constituency in the party than is usually recognized.

Giuliani, unlike McCain, is an outright proponent of keeping abortion legal. In an effort to hold down Huckabee's support among evangelicals-- and to challenge Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on the issue-- McCain no doubt will point, legitimately, to his long and consistent pro-life stand. McCain was able to do this in South Carolina without losing pro-choice votes because Giuliani did not compete there. In Florida, Giuliani is a viable alternative and could cost McCain critical votes.

McCain thus confronts the most difficult challenge he has faced so far. He made his name as a straight-talker who does not shade his positions to satisfy potential critics. But to win the rest of the way, McCain may have to offer himself as a split personality.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home