Primary fever in the Old Dominion
It isn't often that Virginia plays a significant role in primary campaign season, and while it may not be as crucial as South Carolina or California, it was enough to draw all five of the remaining candidates here. Barack Obama has a sizable lead over Hillary Clinton in the polls here, and John McCain has an even bigger lead over Mike Huckabee. (See end of post.)*
Governor Huckabee made a campaign appearance at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport today, so I figured I ought to show him the courtesy of hearing him out. (He also stopped at Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Roanoke today.) At least 500 people were crowded into the building, and plenty of reporters were there, too. Huckabee was introduced by former presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, and both men emphasized their strong conservative stance on issues such as abortion, immigration, and taxes. Huckabee is just as charming in person as you would expect, and noted that the Shenandoah Valley looks a lot like his home state of Arkansas. Sweet talk aside, he is pretty convincing on a rational level. There are some issues I agree with him, and others I don't. I am all in favor of radical simplification of the Federal Tax code, as he calls for, but his "Fair Tax" proposal (a nationwide sales tax with rebates for poor people, replacing the current income tax, etc.) is too radical for my tastes. Some question how it could possibly be administered by the Federal bureaucracy, which calls into question Huckabee's call to "put the IRS out of business." That sort of crowd-pleasing populist rhetoric borders on demagoguery. The point is, Huckabee is conducting an honorable, positive, spirited campaign, thus helping to keep the public's attention focused on the Big Choice they will face in November. I don't think I will vote for him, but I admire and respect his effort.
UPDATE: While watching one of Huckabee's other Virginia rallies on TV, I saw someone holding up a sign saying "Crunchy Cons for Huckabee!" Now that's something that might get me to take a closer look at Huckabee, who does indeed appeal to a wide variety of sincere religious people, including nonconformist ones. (See my Sept. 6, 2006 post.) Also, I wasn't aware of the controversy in Washington state, where the State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, declared McCain the winner before all the caucus results were tabulated. (Only 87% of local units had reported.) See Huckabee's blog. Republican party officials manipulating delegate selection processes!?? I guess that's why most reform-minded people favor primary elections over caucuses, which are often skewed toward one candidate or another.
Sen. McCain paid a visit to Richmond today, joined by Sen. John Warner, former Gov. Jim Gilmore, and other leading Virginia politicians who have endorsed him. One of those standing by McCain's side was Delegate Chris Saxman. A few months ago I thought Saxman's support for McCain was a lost cause, but it turns out he was pretty astute.
* Who is Ron Paul?
Ron Paul never was a serious contender for the presidency, but he is a serious voice who speaks for many thoughtful people who are fed up with mainstream politicians. Rep. Paul made a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg a few days ago, which seemed a bit odd since fundamentalists are not among his main constituents. Driving home along I-64 last week, I saw a strange glowing object in the dark sky up ahead. Thankfully, it was not a UFO but a tethered mini-blimp with Ron Paul's name on it. It's just another example of the oddball publicity campaign for the "Republitarian" (Republican / Libertarian) candidate from Texas. (Apologies to Myron. )