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Sunday, January 20, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Ok, the Toaster failed to produce a Toast-o-Meter between MI and this weekend’s contests, but here’s a quick post-primary/caucus assessment.





The Republicans. While the mass of contests on February 5th could yet reshuffle the stack, I continue to think that McCain will be the nominee (a position I have had for some time, and wrote about on the 17th of December). There were three separate posts that I read this week that are of interest in this regard. Perhaps the most interesting was by Charles Franklin1 who wrote about what he saw in the polling as An Emerging Republican Consensus. Specifically he noted (and this was pre-SC), that the trends all pointed towards a coalescing around McCain that started before New Hampshire. It is worth following the link and looking at all of Charles’ graphs that show the trend lines for the contending candidates, and which he summarizes as follows:

when we survey the Republican field, only one trend stands out unambiguously and uniformly across states: McCain’s rise and emergence as the only candidate doing better and better almost everywhere.

Another most fascinating observation that Charles makes is as follows, and which fits into my own “McCain as leftover candidate” thesis.

Also surprising, given McCain’s testy relations with so many Republican groups, is the relatively small number who would refuse to vote for him. McCain suffers only 9% of Republicans who would never vote for him in the Pew poll. Huckabee is at 8%, Giuliani at 15% and Romney at a devastating 20%.

The stunning numbers in that list are McCain’s and Romney’s, because they are the top tier candidates at the moment. McCain’s number is fascinating, because the argument has long been that he had burned too many bridges in the GOP to be elected, but that more and more appears not to be the case. The fact that Romney has turned off a fifth of Republicans is devastating and explains, in part, why he has struggled to emerge as a true front-runner in a crowded field.

The two other interesting posts on McCain were Matthew Shugart’s analysis of McCain’s vote share in terms of GOP voters, and a post at OTB concerning a study that shows that the two GOP candidates who are closest, ideologically, to the American electorate, are McCain and Giuliani.

A quick run-down:

  • McCain: Despite the current delegate counts, he is the current front-runner. Having won in two very different key early states clearly gives him the momentum.
  • Romney: While he has the most delegates, the most money and the most wins, it is difficult to see (for me, anyway) how he captures the nomination if he doesn’t win Florida, and the polling in that regard doesn’t appear to be a likely source of optimism on that count. So far he has only won in two western caucuses where most of the field did not campaign, and the state of his birth where he father was a multi-term governor. Is that really a steady foundation upon which to build?
  • Huckabee: If he can’t win in a state where his evangelical bona fides and economic populism ought to be quite popular, where is he going to win? Even if he pulls out a southern state or so on Feb. 5th, will it really matter?
  • Thompson: Word is that he is staying in for Florida. Now, is this a manifestation of denial or, as the talking heads were suggesting last night, a strategic move to split the very conservative vote between himself and Huckabee to help out his buddy McCain? I’m going with last-gasp denial.
  • Giuliani: Not surprisingly, I agree with Ross Douthat’s assessment: Rudy Is Toast (although I would go with “Burnt Toast” and barring a miracle in Florida, “Crumbs at the Bottom of the Toaster”).
  • Paul: Woo-hoo! Second in Nevada!! Do I smell comeback?2
  • Hunter: He, mercifully, dropped out.

The Democrats. At the moment, the momentum is Hillary’s, partially due to the coverage of yesterday’s Nevada caucus, with the focus on vote count instead of delegate count (it would seem that Obama, despite less votes, will get more delegates, although the delegate allocation will not take place until April, meaning no one knows for sure who won how many).3 Next Saturday, Obama has a key chance to steal back that momentum, but it is clear that neither has the upper-hand at the moment. One thing that is clear is that Edwards is toast, whether he wishes to publically (or, even, privately) acknowledge the fact or not.

One of the more concerning and, I would argue, unhealthy elements of the current Democratic race is the way in which it is becoming charged with identity politics and seeming attempts to utilize race as a blunt and cynical tool by the Clinton campaign and their allies.

A quick run-down:

  • Clinton: My sense is that she is still the more likely candidate, but it is hardly a given.
  • Obama: Forget the Nevada delegate count nonsense, win in SC and the media will declare you the front-runner again.
  • Edwards:
    Pledges to stay in it to the convention notwithstanding, the man is done as done can be.
  • Kucinich & Gravel: The fringe candidates is as the fringe candidates does, as my mama used to say (or something like that).


  1. h/t to Matthew Shugart for bringing it to my attention via e-mail []
  2. No, just burning bread []
  3. At the end of the day, the Nevada caucus rules, in both parties, simply underscores, in my opinion, the screwy and reform-worthy nature of our candidate selection process. []
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11 Responses to “Post-Toasties (Nevada and SC edition)”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    McCain’s problem is his unpopularity among so many Republican groups. He’s unlikely to do well in closed primaries and there are a lot of those coming up.

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    But, the numbers that Charles Franklin notes would indicate that he is perhaps not as unpopular in those circles as the cw would argue. Further, Romneny appears to be less popular.

    As such, if McCain is more popular than Romney, who is going to beat McCain? Thompson is done and Giuliani’s run appears stillborn, so who is left? Huckabee? If Huckabee can’t beat McCain in SC, how is he going to beat him in NY, California and so forth?

  3. MSS Says:

    I really object to the term, “fringe,” whether applied to Gravel and Kucinich or to Paul, Hunter, or the dearly departed Tancredo.

    It has negative connotations, as if some combination of dangerous, loony, or other disparaging adjectives.

    My position on this is clear: Given the undemocratic electoral systems used in this country, the presidential nominating contest remains the most open process of debating competing visions for the country, and if we can’t debate ideas outside the establishment mainstream when choosing who will be allowed to run for our only national offices, then when can we?

    Calling candidates “fringe” implies they do not belong, and is an inherently undemocratic label.

  4. The Moderate Voice Says:

    More Primary Analysis: McCain Inevitable And Clintons Ready To Punce?

    Arizona Senator John McCain will be the last man standing in the Republican battle for the 2008 Presidential nomination. And if Senator Barack Obama felt Senator Hillary Clinton’s camp played hardball in Nevada, just wait until he sees what awai…

  5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:


    I take the point, but at some point a candidate is on the margins or fringe or franja or something. Certainly in terms of numbers and likelihood of achieving the nomination, which is my focus here. Kucinich and Gravel both are literally on the fringes of the vote at this point in the race, and really have been there the whole time.

    I do agree that the term “fringe” can, and normally does, have negative connotations. Of course, saying “losers is as losers does” didn’t seem all that polite and “one-percenters are what one-percenters does” seemed awkward (although now that I type it, it does sort of fit the whole ridiculous breakfast-based metaphor…).

    And, to be fair, certainly Tancredo, Paul, Gravel and Kucinich have, at times, said some loony things (granted, it depends on one’s point of view) and I find Tancredo, specifically, to have some dangerous views on immigration.

    Still, there is little doubt that the propensity is to treat such candidates as though they are cartoon characters, which isn’t fair and while I try to go too far on that count, I am guilty of so doing at times.

    In all seriousness, what noun would you suggest to describe a Tancredo, Gravel, Hunter or Kucinich at this point?

    Recognize, too, that clearly there was some flippancy, as is my wont, in the usage above.

  6. Li Says:

    Just thought I’d knock on your door, Dr. Taylor, and point out that another doctor doubled his his poll numbers in at least one state this week.

    I figured since you’re throwing out the “comeback” jab I can toss out a “eat your words, just a little” jab. =P

    Alas, though, I will give no prophacies of a nomination win. But delegates is far, far more then the pundits were offering him for a very long time.

    On the topic of McCain vs. Romney, I really don’t think McCain has that big an edge on Romney right now, although a dominant win in Florida could do some serious damage heading into super Tuesday I guess. I’m not sure it matters much…I really think it is a Dem year.

  7. Political Mavens » Post-Toasties (Nevada and SC edition) Says:

    [...] Click [...]

  8. Jan Says:

    that’s funny, I thought one was supposed to use adjectives, not nouns, to describe. . . :)

  9. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:


    Indeed, I originally typed “adjective” and replaced it with “noun” because I had referred to “the fringe” (using the term as a noun)-although I did use it as an adjective in the post itself (“fringe candidates”).

  10. MSS Says:

    Rather than fringe, I prefer minor. In the same way that Greens and Libertarians are minor parties (getting 1-2% of the vote, or even less).

    I don’t’ find major vs. minor pejorative in the same way as fringe, which is much more in the eye of the beholder, anyway. (That is, to me, Gravel is not fringe, he’s my bliss point (almost), but Tancredo and Hunter are. But all are certainly minor.)

  11. MSS Says:

    Oh, one more thing. ‘Fringe’ in the sense of articulating or enacting out-of-the-mainstream policy positions (and by implication also being loony or dangerous) cross-cuts major vs. minor.

    For instance, the current administration of the US government is certainly that of a major US party, but its ideas and actions on many a front are fringe (and dangerous, and often loony) to the vast majority of the world’ politically aware, aside from the minority of Americans who voted for him (less than 30% of eligible) and the even smaller minority today who still register approval in the man (and his party).

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