Carol Platt Liebau: The Stakes

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Stakes

As Bill Nicols points out in the Politico, a lot is riding for Republicans on today's Florida primary.

Obviously, the X factor is the extent to which Rudy Giuliani's diminished fortunes helps John McCain, the logical other choice for social moderates. If a lot of early voting was done when Rudy was still riding high, then a lot of people who might otherwise have voted for McCain if they were voting today may already have cast their ballots for Giuliani (which helps Romney). On the other hand, if they waited, people who would have voted for Giuliani had they voted early may switch to McCain in order to hold off Romney (which, obviously, helps McCain).

One thing is obvious: Mitt Romney has emerged as the conservative alternative in the race. Upset that he's a flip-flopper? Well, there's a strong argument that McCain is even worse.

What's more, a McCain victory is bad for conservatism either way. If he wins and has a Democratic Congress, he could well decide to govern in a way that renders conservatives irrelevant. If he's the nominee and he loses, he's probably still going to succeed in splitting the GOP -- the party that has been most hospitable to conservative ideas and the best vehicle for enacting them. Reaction to my column yesterday (linked immediately above) was astounding . . . and emails 9:1 are against McCain as the GOP nominee.

If McCain wins the nomination, anybody who wants him to win had better hope like heck that Hillary Clinton is the nominee -- although, if George Will is right, that will mean a contest between a Clinton and a George Will argues McCain is a "Clinton impersonator". Hillary represents the only chance that a decent segment of the Republican Party will even consider voting for him. If it's Barack Obama, far too many GOP'ers will simply sit on their hands -- and you can forget about the vaunted tidal wave of independents who are supposedly going to sweep McCain to victory in the general.


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