McCain Wins and Michigan Awaits

On to Michigan — And What?

Manchester, NH –Within two hours of the victory statements of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain last night, political eyes and speculation turned to Michigan and its primary January 15.

"The bottom lline is there is no clear leader and the race is wide open," Michigan State GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, who was at the Raddison Hotel media center here, told me last night.  Noting that polls right up to the New Hampshire balloting showed Mitt Romney, born and raised in Michigan, the front-runner in the Water Wonderland’s Republican primary, Anuzis said "we could have a situation after January 15 in which Romney, McCain, and Huckabee have all won one major contest."  He added that while the South Carolina primary January 19 would be important, "there will be no clear front-runner for the nomination until at least ‘Super Tuesday’ [February 5]."

Anuzis, carefully neutral in the presidential sweepstakes, did point out that Romney had the most endorsements and was ahead in fund-raising, that McCain would probably gain some mileage from his New Hampshire triumph, and that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani "might just start taking off with a strong showing in Michigan."

Mike Huckabee, Anuzis pointed out, has just begun to put together a team in Michigan.  In the chairman’s words, "It’s an organic organization that relies on the churches and social conservatives."  Veteran social conservative organizer Gary Glenn has signed on as Huckabee’s Michigan quarterback and incoming Republican National Committeeman Keith Butler (who will be formally elected in February) recently created a stir when he switched his support from McCain to Huckabee. 

Complicating the situation is that, with Barack Obama and John Edwards passing on Michigan to show solidarity behind its penalization of delegates for going as early as it did, Hillary Clinton is unopposed on the ballot January 15.  Accordingly, since there is no party registration, there can be massive crossover of Democratic voters into the GOP column.  George Wallace’s big win in the 1972 primary was fueled by Republican crossover votes in a movement led by State Sen. Jack Welborn and John McCain was inarguably assisted by Democratic crossovers when he beat George W. Bush in the 2000 primary.  However, the budding "stop Hillary movement" in Michigan, led by Edwards and Obama forces, is encouraging a vote for "uncommitted."

Who Was Who In McCainland

Nashua, N.H. — For an old political writer, John McCain’s victory celebration was a reunion of subjects of articles written in campaigns past.  For one reason or another, past candidates for office and people I have reported on in positions far removed from the McCain-for-President movement descended on New Hampshire last week to help make the Arizonan’s presidential primary triumph happen.

"I told you to listen to me on this one!"  Orson Swindle, called to me, as he and wife Angie descended from the elevator at he Crowne Plaza Hotel shortly after two networks projected his old friend McCain the victor.  Swindle, of course, was a fellow prisoner-of-war in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War.  Nationally known as Ross Perot’s press secretary during the Texan’s 1992 presidential campaign, Swindle nearly won two tight races for Congress from Hawaii in 1994 and ’96, and then was named to the Federal Trade Commission.  As in 2000, he spent every free hour on the stump for friend McCain.

As my colleague Jamie Coomarasamy of the BBC, interviewed Swindle, another past subject of HUMAN EVENTS’ "Races of the Week" feature called to me.  Hal Furman, 1994 Republican nominee for the Senate in Nevada, and wife Sally had jetted into New Hampshire to do volunteer work for McCain and celebrate his win.  "I’ve been a McCainiac for a long time," the former Reagan Administration official told me.

Paul Anaboli, onetime prosecutor in Babylon, New York, had not seen or talked to me since he ran for Congress against then-Democratic Rep. Tom Downey back in 1984.  Twenty-three years later, considerably wealthier after years in the private sector ("One of these days I have to get business cards made"), Anaboli recalled how "John [McCain] and I bonded when he was in the House in ’04 and was one of the few folks who helped me run for Congress."  Like Furman, Anaboli came to New Hampshire at his own expense to help drive voters to polls, telephone voters who might be leaning to the Arizonan, and help him turn out his people.

Republican Reps. John Shaddegg of Arizona and Todd Platte of Pennsylvania were also there to help McCain.  Where Platte is considered more moderate, Shaddegg, like many conservative activists, has disagreed with McCain on issues such as campaign finance reform and the Bush tax cuts of 2001; but he nonetheless put aside the differences to stump for his fellow Arizonan. 

Robert "Bud" McFarlane, retired U.S. Marine and Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor, recalled how he had spent the last few days speaking to small groups throughout the Granite State about why McCain’s background in national security was so important to the U.S.  Ed Cox, New York lawyer and son-in-law of Richard Nixon, was also at the Crowne Plaza.  A key player for McCain in the Empire State, Cox was reportedly pivotal to convincing good friend Jack Kemp to deliver a primary eve endorsement to the Arizona senator — in spite of the fact that McCain has been anything but a supply-sider.

All told, I realized Tuesday night that John McCain has made and kept a lot of friends, many of whom he has helped to run for office in the past and a number of whom have had disagreements with him.  As one backer put it, "You never really get close to John until he’s called you names and screamed at you."  That "McCain network" will obviously travel far to help him.  As to whether it will be enough to get him through what increasingly appears to be a long and grueling nomination process remains to be seen.