If last night proved one thing in national politics, it is that marquee endorsements are meaningless. The Kennedy family’s seemingly permanent blemish on the Massachusetts landscape was not enough to secure Barack Obama the state, and John Kerry was about as galvanizing as a booster as he was as a presidential contender.
I very much doubt that Al Gore or John Edwards — both of whom are readying to declare for Obama, according to my old boss, Jewcy editor Tahl Raz — could further tilt the electorate one way or the other. For one thing, Edwards’ constituency of white male voters already seems to be going Obama’s way without having to be told to do so.
Likewise, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s backing of John McCain was both expected and indecisive-both pols have an easy foothold with moderate Republicans in California. McCain’s easy meal of the liberal East Coast only underscores his long-standing reputation as a self-critical conservative; his late alliance with Rudolph Giuliani was negligible since the New York mayor had been polling poorly in the tri-state area as late as the Florida primary. New Yorkers, at least, like the fact that McCain angers the conservative “base” on a variety of issues.
Interestingly, the great failure of vicarious influence last night belonged to Oprah Winfrey. The chat show Gorgon can send a middlebrow novel to the top of the bestsellers list but she is still unable to dislodge Hillary’s command of middle-aged white women – Oprah’s largest television demographic. Clinton took 59% of this block as against Obama’s 35%. (In Massachusetts, where women make up 50% of the electorate, Hillary won them over by a 2-to-1 margin).
We also saw how ineffectual the loudmouth conservative pundits were in advancing the now all-but-deceased candidacy of Mitt Romney. Will Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity really back Clinton over McCain, or was that just a cynical ploy to scare movement wingers into backing Romney? (Slightly off-topic question: if McCain continues to be billed as the “insurgent” candidate, and apoplectic conservatives vow to become “suicide voters,” how can the Republican Party possibly continue its rhetorical supremacy in the war against Islamofascism?)
Mike Huckabee’s impressive gains in the South had at least as much to do with anti-Romney sentiment as they did with evangelical affinities. His eventual withdrawal from the race will almost certainly augur well for McCain: the two men openly admire each other (rumors of a joint ticket are already running high) and McCain’s military pedigree owed to his close second-place returns in all of the Southern states Huckabee gobbled up. Huckabee’s endorsement of McCain is practically a fait accompli, but ultimately unnecessary as well because if the GOP holds out any hope for gaining the White House next year, it will have to rally around its nominee the way Democrats vow to rally around theirs, whoever he or she may be.
Marty Peretz is flummoxed by the Massachusetts surprise: “I can’t understand why Teddy’s enthusiasm for Obama didn’t produce more strength at the polling booths. John F. Kerry support didn’t register, mostly because he himself doesn’t register with the electorate any more any way. There is some primary opposition already announced. But I don’t recognize the candidate’s name. So Kerry may just saunter into office again.”
Ross Douthat wonders who the alternative to McCain is to James Dobson: “Dobson conspicuously didn’t endorse Mitt Romney; indeed, the entire statement more or less assumes a McCain victory, and strikes a note of near-elegiac wistfulness rather than defiance. (Insert your “evangelicals won’t vote for Mormons” speculation here.)”
Richilieu at the Weekly Standard notes: “Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio. Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush. Defeated Senate schemer Rick Santorum now campaigning for Mitt with a way-over-the-top robocall calling McCain nuts. A cheap shot from a prickly guy; a lot of people in GOP politics miss Santorum’s voting record in DC, but very few miss him.”
And proof that movement conservatism’s antipathy towards McCain will backfire? ThinkProgress cites approvingly Pat Buchanan’s claim that if elected John McCain would “make Cheney look like Gandhi.”
Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of Pajamas Media. His blog is Snarksmith.