!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN"> David Limbaugh
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Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2000 /18 Adar I, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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A conservative
firewall, after all


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT SEEMS that both John McCain and television's talking heads underestimated the strength and resolve of South Carolina's conservative Republicans. In forecasting the end of the conservative movement, they factored in everything except conservatives themselves.

McCain undertook a task that was too ambitious, even with the unbridled assistance of the major media. He didn't simply try to expand the Republicans' base. He attempted to hijack the party itself for independents, disaffected Democrats and reform-craving malcontents of every stripe. In South Carolina at least, conservative Republicans had a different idea about whose party it is.

Ronald Reagan reached out to independents and boll weevil Democrats, but he didn't abandon grass-roots conservatives in the process. While McCain said he was using the Reagan model of inclusion, he was actually employing the politics of exclusion -- exclusion of conservatives.

McCain didn't just ignore the right wing of his party. He went out of his way to offend them. Could there be some truth to that rumor that McCain has a habit of demonizing those who have an honest disagreement with him? Just as he has impugned the integrity of many of his Senate colleagues, he accused pro-life organizations of corruption because they opposed his reform proposal they believed would effectively mute their defense of the unborn.

McCain didn't appear concerned about alienating traditional Republicans because he was expecting to overwhelm them with heavy turnout among Democrats and independents. Intoxicated from his New Hampshire victory fumes, McCain apparently thought he could forge a new coalition under the GOP umbrella and maybe even add the Reform Party as well.

He had so energized crossover voters in New Hampshire that he convinced himself that he could do the same in South Carolina and subsequent states, especially those with open primaries. What he obviously failed to anticipate was that by polarizing grass-roots Republicans, he ignited a backlash that caused them to turn out in droves.

McCain must have been guilty of the same kind of thinking that led George Stephanopolous of ABC's "This Week" to the scintillating observation that, "Excluding Christian conservatives, Bush lost among Republicans." Yes, George, and excluding their wings airplanes won't fly, either.

Beyond misreading the GOP base, McCain also made another grave miscalculation. He grossly underestimated George W. Bush and his ability and willingness to fight back.

Unlike Sen. Bill Bradley, who initially failed to return hostile fire from Al Gore until it was too late, Bush rapidly and forcefully responded to McCain's negative campaigning. And when McCain cried foul as Bush shot back, Bush was undaunted and undeterred.
A McCain "moment"

McMedia apologists are blaming Bush's victory on negative campaigning, too much money and the religious right. But exit-polling data shows that voters believed that it was McCain, and not Bush, who had engaged in unfair tactics. And isn't it funny that before the vote results shell-shocked the media, they were saying that Bush's war chest and the religious right were impotent against this populist reformer?

George Bush was running a sleepy campaign prior to New Hampshire. But his stunning defeat there woke him up. He realized that the presidency would not be given to him; he was going to have to earn it. And he came out of Austin ready for a duel.

In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina vote, we witnessed Bush growing before our very eyes. The adversity of the McCain challenge ripened him into a mature candidate. While McCain was trying to create the impression of a stature gap between himself and Bush, it was Bush who emerged as the gracious adult, as evidenced by his victory speech and post-election interviews. McCain's concession remarks were riddled with bitterness, hostility and negative innuendo directed at Bush.

Democratic operatives smugly contend that this Republican civil war is going to make Bush a sitting duck for Al Gore. To the contrary, the contest has groomed Bush for battle. Dubya's default campaign mode may be less aggressive than necessary, but when attacked he has proven himself to be a ferocious counterpuncher. Since Gore is a ruthless campaigner who knows only one speed (which is to relentlessly assault his opponent), he is made to order for the Bush campaign.

Let's get ready to rumble!


JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

02/22/00:Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?

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