As I predicted last week, Mike Huckabee kept John McCain close tonight in Virginia (McCain may BARELY, if he is lucky, end up with 50%), after beating McCain in two out of three contests this weekend while barely losing to McCain (who got only 26% of the vote in his “victory”) in the third. The networks indicated earlier that it might even be closer still, so now they are turning on a dime and saying, wow, McCain’s victory was “larger than anticipated.” That is hogwash. The win is MUCH, MUCH smaller than ALL the idiotic polls were showing, and thus much smaller than anticipated — up until the anticipation changed just three hours ago. What really happened is that McCain badly underperformed (except compared to what I personally predicted). This means that McCain still has a long, long way to go in solidifying his base.
There will be a great deal of time for people to weigh in even more on what McCain needs to do to garner the enthusiasm of the people who usually do all the legwork in campaigns. Most of the analysis so far, though, has set up a false scenario. The analyssts say that McCain has a problem because the more he changes his positions to placate conservatives, the more he costs himself among independents; and vice versa. They miss the point. What McCain needs to do is less to move rightward on issues (although that would be nice) than to make amends in TONE and RESPECT to conservatives. He can say, look, “on some issues of principle we just disagree, and I hope you understand that I am acting due to principle just as you are. BUT, and here is the new thing, I now realize that in my fierce defense of my stances, I have not always shown enough realization that you, too, were acting out of principle. I may have let my fighting spirit get the best of me. I will not apologize for my issue stances, but I WILL and do express regret for the tone in which I sometimes expressed my disagreements with you. I made it sound as if you were my adversary, rather than as if we were having an honest and respectful disagreement among friends. Look, I can’t change who I am. But I can change how I fight. And I also change how I listen, so that maybe we can find at least some common ground in areas where we at first appear to be completely apart. All those things I vow to do, and I ask you to hold me to it.”
Something like that.