Saturday, January 19, 2008

McCain Wins South Carolina (And Conservatives Still Don't Have a Candidate)

The voters in today's GOP Primary in South Carolina could be divided up into four many demographic groups: there were Moderates, there were Conservatives, there were Evangelical Christians, and there were Retirees. About a quarter of the voters were moderates, according to exit poll data, and John McCain garnered two-thirds of their votes.

That means that of the 33% of primary voters who went for McCain, about half called themselves moderates. Older voters, according to the Associated Press, also tended to cast their ballots for McCain.

But the majority of South Carolina's GOP voters described themselves today as either Conservatives or Evangelical Christians (most of whom qualify as Conservatives, as well).

So why did the most moderate of the GOP's candidates win South Carolina? Simple: Conservatives still don't have a favorite son. They split their vote four (or maybe five) ways and diluted their power as a voting block.

You might say that Conservatives are more concerned today about their differences these days than about their similarities. Evangelical Christians are looking for a candidate with a faith based message and they think they've found on in Mike Huckabee. He carried the Evangelical vote for the most part. But the Fiscal Conservatives who are more concerned with financial policy than religion don't much like Huckabee because they question his record on taxation and spending during his tenure as governor of Arkansas. Those voters split their ballots between Romney and Thompson. And while Evangelical voters might be willing to accept Thompson as a candidate, they have a problem with Romney's Mormon religion. Romney has failed in his bid to attract the support of Evangelical voters.

Perhaps the most important factor in the South Carolina GOP Primary was McCain's ability to draw some voters from every camp. He gained a degree of acceptance among both Evangelicals and Fiscal Conservatives.

It is worth noting that Mike Huckabee is the darling of the misnamed "Fair Tax" crowd at the moment. The only other candidate that supports that proposal in Ron Paul. And if Ron Paul's people had voted for Huckabee, their four percent of the vote would have made Huckabee the winner. That's assuming a lot, I know. If bullfrogs had wings...

Ron Paul finished fifth in the race. And Giuliani came in a distant seventh.

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