Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Georgia key for Romney

Further updates here.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m. More analysis at Protein Wisdom and Liberty Pundit.

UPDATE 1 p.m.: Just got off the phone with veteran Georgia political observer Phil Kent.

"I think it's going to be close here with Romney and McCain," Phil said, citing the final Insider Advantage poll showing a three-way neck-and-neck race. Georgia "could be the upset that's going to buck this McCain trend."
In case you haven't seen this (via Ace of Spades):

UPDATE 11:40 a.m.: Michael Barone analyzes Georgia:

The first state to close is Georgia, at 7 p.m. . . . Republicans have a close three-way race here. Romney needs to win the high-income Atlanta suburbs (I'll be looking at the Cobb, Fulton, Forsyth, and Cherokee County returns); McCain needs to stay even with or ahead of Mike Huckabee in south Georgia, as he did in most of South Carolina.
Barone's analysis very much tracks what I was getting from the Romney volunteers in Georgia last night: "If it was up to Metro Atlanta, Romney would win, but ...."

But, keeping Romney competitive in the more rural parts of the state depends on (a) overcoming anti-Mormon bias, and (b) getting evangelicals who support Huckabee to understand that a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain (whom the evangelicals hate).

* * * * *
UPDATE: Super Tuesday roundups at Michelle Malkin and Hot Air, and Jim Geraghty handicaps Super Tuesday at NRO. Linked at Riehl World View -- thanks, Dan.

MORE UPDATES: The Dole-to-Rush letter is panned by Malkin. Notice what Rush says:

On his radio show Monday Limbaugh said that if McCain is elected president, he would destroy the Republican party by working with Democrats to pass liberal legislation.
"This is how he's going to get even with Republicans for defeating him in South Carolina in 2000," Limbaugh said. "The Republican Congress will effectively be neutered." ...
Limbaugh also suggested conservatives should be wary of media endorsements of McCain. McCain has won the endorsement of the New York Times.
"It was just six months ago that if a candidate was endorsed by the liberal media we were instantly suspicious of them," Limbaugh said.
Now he said, "we've got drive-by media organizations having orgasms about McCain."
The sounds very much like what I've said:

John McCain wants to lead something other than the Republican Party that elected Ronald Reagan to the White House 1981. He is in defiant opposition to the Republican Party that captured Congress in 1994. His campaign is one of unlimited personal vengeance against the Republican Party that rejected him in 2000.
John McCain is out to destroy the Republican Party as we have known it, and he certainly needs no advice on how to do that, given how much he's already done.
* * * * *
Georgia looks like the state to watch in the Super Tuesday battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

While Romney is surging in California, and McCain is comfortably ahead in winner-take-all New York, polls in Georgia show it too close to call, reports from my friends at Team Romney indicate a tough fight in a competitive three-way race for 72 delegates in Georgia -- the third-largest Super Tuesday state and the largest of the states with a proportional distribution of delegates.

The problem for Romney in Georgia is simple: Some voters are too stupid to understand that, at this point, a vote for Huckabee is effectively a vote for John McCain.

"They don't get it," a very tired Romney volunteer told me of her encounters with Huckabee voters. "They hate McCain, but they're voting for Huckabee, and it's the same thing."

Key endorsements may swing some undecided voters and "soft" Huckabee supporters toward Romney. Sadie Fields of the Georgia Christian Alliance came out for Romney on Monday, an important endorsement in a state where Romney's volunteers say they're encountering a lot of anti-Mormon bias.

Georgians for Romney lists the Romney endorsers in Georgia's House delegation: Rep. Jack Kingston, Rep. Phil Gingrey, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, and Rep. Tom Price. As one of my Georgia sources told me with scarcely concealed disgust, the state's two Republican senators (Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isaakson) both endorsed McCain. "They both ran as conservatives, but as soon as they got up there, they both supported McCain on amnesty -- until they found out the voters were against it, then they changed their minds."

Romney held a huge rally at Georgia Tech on Monday:

Romney is running neck-and-neck with John McCain for the Georgia presidential primary, with Mike Huckabee trailing in third.
Romney said he expects to do well here Tuesday and in California and in many of the other 20-plus states where ballots will be cast.
"Georgia is going to have a big role in this," Romney said. "I keep hearing from my friends here that Georgia is going to come my way."
Here's CNN video from the Georgia Tech rally:

(Hat-tip: Jews for Mitt.) According to Peach Pundit, popular Atlanta radio host Herman Cain introduced Romney at the rally.

In the end, the story in Georgia comes down to those stiff-necked, thick-headed Hucktards, with polls continuing to show the Huckster at around 25%, despite his having zero chance of winning the nomination.

"I haven't had a full night's sleep since Thursday," a weary Romney volunteer told me Monday night, explaining she'd just had a 30-minute nap. "It's unbelieveable."

The Romney volunteer had joined a group of Evangelicals For Mitt supporters who went Sunday to Woodstock First Baptist -- one of the state's largest megachurches in a Cherokee County suburb north of Atlanta -- where the Huckster preached a "Jesus wants you to vote for me" sermon:

“I'm not here today to campaign,” said Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor during his visit to Sunday service.
But as Huckabee gave his testimonial at the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, there was little doubt about the conservative voters, who support him.
Attempts at "outreach" to the Baptists of Woodstock by the Evangelicals For Mitt crew were ... not exactly received with blessings and thanksgiving, let's put it that way.

The Romney campaign unleashed a last-minute round of robo-calls in Georgia on Monday. At Peach Pundit, former Fredhead Chris Farris endorsed Romney. (Remember, more than 200,000 Georgians have already cast their ballots in early voting.)

We'll keep an eye out on Georgia and update ...

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