Now Edwards and Rudy are gone – what next?

It’s a bit on the stale side newswise, but I wanted to bring their withdrawal up this evening to discuss the impact their absence from their respective party races could have.

Let’s start with John Edwards. Once again he was denied the brass ring as he was in 2004. But this time I don’t think he’ll get the consolation prize (such that it was) of being number 2 on the ticket. If you look at how he campaigned on the theme of “soup line America” (even in his concession speech, which now serves as the remainder of his campaign site), I can’t see him on the stump as the Democrat’s running mate. Personally I don’t think Obama would pick him and my money is on Bill Richardson getting the nod if Hillary’s nominated.

But more importantly, where do his votes go? He got a solid plurality of the white male vote in South Carolina, and that’s your average union person. But many of those Rust Belt states don’t vote until later in the campaign and by then it may be a fait accompli.

A big deal was made in Iowa about 70% of the vote going against Hillary but I think the Edwards vote will accrue to Hillary for two reasons: first, I think most of the anti-Hillary vote had already pretty much abandoned John after Iowa when they saw Barack Obama was the stronger candidate; secondly, the race card that Bill and Hillary Clinton dealt in South Carolina will rake in the chips among the lunchbucket set in the Rust Belt. Those may be the states that Bill hits heavily after Super Tuesday because there’s a lot of unionistas who fondly recall the “good days” when Bill was in office. Many of them would be all for the “two for the price of one” idea.

The Democrat polls are tightening a bit in some states but Hillary should prevail nevertheless.

As if the conservative movement didn’t have enough issues, Rudy Giuliani got out of the race and backed John McCain, and in a glowing manner to boot. How about this passage by Michael D. Shear from the Washington Post:

The presidency requires someone with a “clear vision” about the challenges that the country faces, Giuliani told a room packed with television cameras. It requires a person with “will” and “perseverance” to get things accomplished for the country, said the former New York mayor.

“Obviously, I thought I was that person,” Giuliani joked. “The voters made a different choice.”

And then, Giuliani spoke the words that should warm McCain’s heart and help fill his campaign coffers.

“John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States,” Giuliani said, moments after officially withdrawing. “He is an American hero, and America could use heroes in the White House. He is a man of honor and integrity, and you can underline both ‘honor’ and ‘integrity.'”

Rudy was getting around 10% in Super Tuesday states before he exited. If you figure that 60-70% of Rudy’s votes will go to McCain, that’s an extra 2 to 4 points which Mitt Romney or the fading Mike Huckabee have to make up against the Republican nominee of the Fourth Estate Party and I simply don’t see that happening.

More alarmingly to me, I’ve already noticed a trend among voting states where the Democrats have more total votes than the Republicans, and this trend is sure to continue if McCain keeps building his lead and conservative Republicans feel more and more abandoned by the process. They’ll show their displeasure by blowing off Election Day.

In turn, that apathy may hit close to home. If the conservatives on the Eastern Shore decide to forgo the primary, it may boost Wayne Gilchrest’s chances at staving off the twin challenges of Andy Harris and E.J. Pipkin. Judging by our September straw poll, Fred Thompson was a clear favorite among local voters and those voters also liked Andy Harris (note that this was prior to E.J. Pipkin’s entry into the race.) With the Reagan-style presidential hopefuls gone, Harris, and to a lesser extent Pipkin, will have to figure out some way to motivate their charges on February 12.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Odds and ends no. 10

This is the First Congressional District edition. I have a lot of little items covering most of the GOP side.

First of all, looking back at the Chestertown forum, the disdain that the two most well-known challengers to Wayne Gilchrest have for each other isn’t a secret anymore. While he’s probably not going to win the race, I admire Robert Banks for sticking to a relatively positive message. Monday I got this reaction to the rancor from him:

I’ll agree that the debate was entertaining, but not always for the right reasons.

In 22 years of active participation in First District politics, I’ve never seen campaigning like this.  It’s gotten really personal and that has detracted from the substance of the race. The negativity from the other campaigns shows how frustrated they’ve become that this race can’t be bought. The good people of the First District are too smart for that.

The voters are sending a clear message: they are fed up with the election-year promises and win-at-any-cost attitudes of career politicians.

EVERY NASTY AD THAT GOES ON THE AIR HURTS OUR CHANCES OF KEEPING THIS SEAT RED IN NOVEMBER. Let’s remember that.

I am ready to lead the District towards a healthier, more unified Party.

I’m serious about the issues and ready to tackle Washington on the things that critically affect our District.  I am also urging the members of my Party to get on the same page with the election just a couple of weeks away.  We must be united and ready to put an end to the infighting.

On February 12, the voters will speak out against the rhetoric and the negativity.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much they have to say.

While I like the overall tone, I’m not sure the seat is being “bought” since the three major participants are putting a good deal of shoe leather in as well. Our district is more suited for “retail” politics than most since it doesn’t have a dominant media market. Gilchrest and Harris have frequently sought votes in our area by putting their face time in at various public and private events.

Now let’s turn to Senator Pipkin. A frequent reader of my site makes this claim:

(Senator Pipkin) has been the primary opponent for any of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Initiatives…I know because I was there to testify in favor of all the above and Pipkin was staunchly opposed to any of the Renewable Energy Initiatives. (Emphasis in original).

He cites a total of four bills that were introduced in last year’s session, so I looked up the intent of each.

HB74 – Among other things, it would have revamped the Solar Energy Grant Program in the Maryland Energy Administration to be the Solar and Geothermal Energy Grant Program. (HB960 was a bill with similar intent that my reader cites.)

SB186/HB328 – To establish a Solar Energy Grant Fund to be administered by the Maryland Energy Administration, subject to oversight by the Public Service Commission and specifying the sources of the Fund.

SB187/HB253 – To alter the amounts of specified grants awarded under the Solar Energy Grant Program in the Maryland Energy Administration and repeal provisions relating to the Geothermal Heat Pump Grant Program. (This shouldn’t be confused with the HB253 that Senator Pipkin regularly uses against Andy Harris as a vote for illegal immigrants; that was in the 2003 session.)

None of them made it out of Senator Pipkin’s Finance Committee, but HB74 passed the House of Delegates 136-0. While the intentions have merit, I think I can understand the side Pipkin was on because, hey, we have a deficit don’t we? So I have to disagree with my reader on the financial necessity of the issue in general but he can properly cite Pipkin as one roadblock to passage.

I also heard E.J.’s new radio commercial today. This is part of what his campaign said about it:

Playing on his wildly popular “Who Knew?” ad campaign from 2004, E.J. Pipkin is responding to outrageous and ridiculous accusations by his opponents. In the television, radio, and print ads, Pipkin answers the negative assertions by Andy Harris and his illegal partner, the Club for Growth.

For several weeks, the Harris campaign has been distorting, twisting, and at times outright lying about the Pipkin record. Pipkin dismisses the allegations and explains the truth about the key issues in play.

Unlike ads from his competitors, Pipkin is looking the voter in the eye and telling them what he believes.

Pipkin’s ads are placed to remind voters that E.J. Pipkin has been fighting against higher taxes and out of control government spending for years. Campaign manager Mike Brown believes, “People know E.J. People know E.J. has been fighting for them when it comes to lowering taxes, lowering the costs of health care, protecting the Bay. These ads remind people about what they already know, E.J. Pipkin is a solid conservative who is fighting for them.”

Primary voters can expect to be bombarded with last minutes (sic) efforts to distort records and confuse voters. Our ads cut through the clutter and distortions and go straight to the issues that matter to the voters, ” Brown added.

In the ad, Pipkin states, “You don’t have a business person to operate on you and you don’t hire a doctor to balance your checkbook.”

The TV ad is here, and the radio spot here. A couple things stick out to me on this release though. First of all, no collusion between Harris and the Club For Growth has been proven by the FEC, and that probably won’t be determined until after the election anyway. (I wouldn’t hold my breath for an apology if Pipkin is proven wrong, either.) And he must like the tag line at the end since he used it at the forum. I bet we’ll have another mailing coming with that same theme too.

But the pithiest reply comes from a post on the media buy from PolitickerMD:

On the ads’ recycled ‘Who knew?’ theme, Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins quipped, “And it worked so well for him the first time.”

Andy Harris has been busy in the Wicomico County area over the last couple days. Yesterday he appeared on the AM Salisbury radio program with host Bill Reddish.

First of all, he promised a “different campaign” in the last two weeks as he tried to get away from what was becoming a “soundbite” one. And while Pipkin has been ripping Harris’s perceived lack of financial savvy with his doctor and checkbook talking point, it may give Andy free reign on the healthcare issue. Addressing health insurance in the interview, Harris sought to work on strengthening private insurance while finding ways to encourage employers to contribute to their employees’ insurance costs – all while making an effort to shift the coverage choices from employers to individuals.

Also as part of the ten-minute phone interview Harris called his so-called vote to support illegal immigrant in-state tuition part of a “parliamentary maneuver,” opined that a real economic stimulus would involve making the Bush tax cuts permanent while limiting the size of government, and saw an opportunity to end the situation in Iraq “diplomatically.”

Today in Salisbury Harris appeared in person to secure the official backing of former state Agriculture Secretary Lewis Riley, three members of Wicomico County Council (Gail Bartkovich, John Cannon, and Joe Holloway) and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis. For his part, Harris was:

“…humbled these elected officials from the Eastern Shore believe I will best represent Shore values in Congress. In Washington, I will fight to lower taxes and decrease wasteful government spending, so our economy will produce high-paying jobs for families across the first district.”

He also has a local event this evening that I’ll be attending. That’s why you have an early post this evening and I’ll discuss the impact of Presidential race defections tomorrow.

Another one bites the dust

With over 90% of the votes counted in Florida it looks like John McCain is a 5-point winner. More important to the story is the rumor that Rudy Giuliani is going to drop out and endorse McCain.

Since Mike Huckabee had another poor showing and may not last much beyond Super Tuesday next week, the race appears to be between tonight’s winner and runner-up Mitt Romney. All those voters who may have supported Rudy could follow his endorsement into the McCain camp, making him nearly unbeatable.

Thus, it looks like Maryland will not be playing much of a role in determining who the President would be. Even though Romney has the support of some party leadership in Maryland (both of our RNC representatives have endorsed Mitt), it was a state that would have likely been one of Rudy’s strongest had he stayed in (as he had Governor Ehrlich’s endorsement early on) so one would guess that we will tip toward McCain as well.

While rumors of dropping out have been proven premature before in this campaign, Rudy Giuliani had a strategy of making his stand in Florida. Unfortunately for the mayor, he was flattened by the “Straight Talk Express” and now has to face questions about why he adopted such an abysmal battle plan in the race.

Wicomico Neighborhood Congress – January 2008

January 29, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 3 Comments 

Unlike the last time our countywide group met in November, the topic at hand wasn’t one that had two opposing sides with viewpoints of at least some validity. Tonight we talked about crime, which has only one side that’s lawabiding. (I did talk to one gentleman though who said there could be two groups against us – criminals and law enforcement.) And it wasn’t surprising that we had an overflow crowd in the Delmar Town Hall for the event.

Two speakers dominated the bill this evening. One was Troy Williams, who serves us as the Assistant United States Attorney for the state of Maryland, and the other was Dan Dougherty, the Assistant Wicomico County State’s Attorney. I’ll start with Williams, who spoke about a crimefighting technique discussed in the book Fixing Broken Windows by George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles.

The title of the book is a metaphor for an approach to fighting crime that takes what Troy called “unpredictable individuals” off the streets through aggressive enforcement, creating a perception of a more safe area. It didn’t necessarily mean the crime rates went down, but people felt more free to move about neighborhoods where this theory was tried. As my memory serves, it’s a similar-style approach to one Rudy Giuliani took as mayor of New York City.

One example Williams gave was that of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, which became a gang haven. When the police engaged the community, they gained the support of the residents who could help eradicate the problem by keeping a sharp lookout. The police were also given a bit of leeway to come in and “kick ass” as well. It was one thing that Troy stressed, as the approach works best in smaller communities and sections of larger areas as the population is more homogenous with common values – otherwise, some may object to the possible infringement on indivdual rights the method sometimes entails.

He also talked about some of the techniques needed to repair communities that were at the “tipping point” that weren’t necessarily law-enforcement related but required community support, such as drug treatment, employment and housing assistance, help for ex-offenders, and most importantly an increase in expectations from the community – don’t shrug our shoulders and accept the problem.

While Williams gave several examples of crime-fighting programs (such as the EXILE sentencing for gun crimes we have locally, along with the federal “Weed and Seed” program that Salisbury participated in), the most intriguing to me was called the “Drug Elimination Program” from High Point, North Carolina. In this instance, law enforcement builds a case against overt drug dealers but intercedes prior to arrest with a warning that they should cease those activities because there’s enough evidence against them. It gives these (mostly) at-risk youth one chance to keep their record clean. Troy spoke of a similar program proposed in Baltimore for the secondary-level dealers, the ones who would take over after the worst offenders were taken off the streets without that second chance. Then there would be examples to point at.

One possible problem I see with that approach came up in the discussion when Dan Dougherty took over. His topic was “Gang Resistance in Wicomico County.” Even though our county is more rural than urban, yes indeed we have a gang presence – close to 500 gang members have either been confirmed or suspected in our 90,000 resident county.

The problem comes, as Dougherty noted, in the gang mentality. That mentality has three main traits to it:

  • If gang members want something, they take it. They don’t respect others’ rights.
  • They don’t expect to live past the age of 30, which leads to the point above.
  • Prison doesn’t scare them; in fact, it’s a rite of passage. Dougherty compared it to a crime academy.

(Come to think of it, if you look at the first part inversely and think of being converted to a religion you may not want to become part of by threat of death, this could well sum up an al-Qaeda jihadist as well.)

Then Dougherty gave five reasons that the mentality was taking hold in our youth:

  • A culture of violence, from mass media in particular.
  • Easier access to guns and weapons.
  • The breakdown in the family (“it’s not parents, it’s parent.”)
  • No fear of punishment. (The line from the Offspring song “Come Out And Play” comes to mind – “you’re under 18, you won’t be doin’ any time.”)
  • A stressful environment and constant anger, like road rage.

All in all, gang membership was becoming an “alternate lifestyle” and even children who would appear to have all the advantages in life were drawn to it. One example Dan gave was of an upper-crust girl arrested with three other gang members in a car, who explained, “I always wanted to date a gangsta.” In her rebellion she became an accessory.

What I got out of the things Dougherty said is that most of what is needed to combat the problem comes from the family, with the help of law enforcement. My shorthand way of putting it is to work on the problem from both ends – get the ones who are already too far gone off the street and dry up the supply of youth by becoming more involved as parents in our children’s lives. (Of course, we have to work on those single-parent families as part of it.) Dan made the point that the Fourth Amendment only applies to government, not to parents.

There were several slides of gang graffiti as part of Dan’s presentation, many of which were found in county schools. One commentor noted after Dan spoke that the teachers tried too hard to be friends to their students and “let things go by.” But it was countered that the schools can’t be all things – Dan noted now that students get free breakfast and lunch, pretty soon they’ll want dinner and a place to sleep too. As I noted above, parents have a role to play in their child’s upbringing. Sorry, Hillary.

At this point in the proceedings we were supposed to break into groups by county region, identifying problems and brainstorming about solutions. While we had a small group representing our part of the county, to me this portion of the program was the weakest link. You really can’t get a good discussion of the entirety of the subject in fifteen minutes, but that was all we had allotted since our speakers went a bit long. Perhaps the best original solution was by one of the other groups that suggested we clone our Sheriff, Mike Lewis.

With that said, a question came up about growing the Sheriff’s Department, but County Executive Rick Pollitt was “not aware” of any plans Lewis had to get more personnel. Their prior approach had been to “shore up the people who were here” by increasing pay and benefits for the Department.

Truly I think our expert speakers were more valuable than the community brainstorming in this case. I actually received a copy of Fixing Broken Windows and will have to thumb through it when I get some free time. While it may not work perfectly here, at least I’ll be more informed about some alternatives in doing something practically everyone in our society wants to accomplish, fighting crime. But as Dan Dougherty asserted in his presentation, it’s not going to happen overnight because it took 40 years to get to where we are now.

Our next meeting will be sometime in early April and that’s going to be another doozy for me as we discuss the environment. Yep, I’m going to get along great there…

WCRC meeting – January 2008

January 28, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – January 2008 

Tonight’s meeting focused on our invited guest, First Congressional District hopeful Dr. Joe Arminio. Here he was talking with folks before the meeting.

Joe Arminio discusses issues with one of his supporters. In the foreground is a gentleman reading one of his newspapers.

Obviously we took care of some of the important club business first, such as reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. As always, we reviewed the minutes from our last meeting, which was November’s gathering with fellow candidate Andy Harris. (In the interest of equal time, Wayne Gilchrest also came to visit during this cycle, along with departed candidate John Leo Walter.) And the treasurer’s report was given before the speaker began.

With the completely different format came a completely different Joe Arminio than the amped-up presence at yesterday’s Washington College forum. Instead, by first asking us what issues we had in mind and wanting to make the event more like a seminar than a speech, he seemed much more in his element.

Joe Arminio doing a seminar on his economic and world views.

So what issues did we have in mind? Well, they were the hot issues all Republicans seem to be facing – the economy, illegal immigration, and the Long War. Those three issues, Arminio contended, were basically all that his competitors were discussing, and not other matters of fiscal and foreign policy. Certainly he had ideas on the three topics we’d brought up but there were other aspects not brought into the race. There were a total of 10 principles he wished to address during the campaign. And like a professor, he asked questions of the audience as well and used me as a backup to some of what transpired yesterday at the forum for topics he wanted to introduce.

Somehow he managed to tie together a vast array of issues into three basic areas – monetary policy, trade policy, and foreign policy. And like a typical college class, there were some that got it right away and a few whose eyes glazed over quickly. He even had handouts, his recent newspapers dubbed The American Way. I was sort of in the middle as I was also trying to mentally synthesize things into a good (but not necessarily long) summary. As you keep reading, bear in mind Joe claimed to be a “Jeffersonian before a Republican.”

Key among his monetary policy ideas was his version of the American Dream, something that was easily realized before 1972. At that point “real” wages peaked and two-income families became the norm. It was no longer the ideal of one breadwinner and one to raise the children, which was how Arminio defined the American dream in this case. So what had gone wrong? America, he argued, had “scuttled” policies that made this success possible. Among other items he cited were changing our trading stance to one of more unfettered free trade (GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA), dropping the gold standard, and growing the money supply too rapidly. A lack of knowledge about monetary policy, he charged, will “bring down the country.” That and a $40 trillion debt bubble in Federal Reserve interest.

With a brief foray into patent issues thrown in (because it was large corporations and foreign interests like China and Japan who were changing patent policy from “first to invent” to “first to file” so they could snatch patent rights from the true inventors more easily), Arminio spent a good deal of his time discussing his views on trade.

“Protectionism where appropriate” was his model. He told us that originally Republicans were the party of protectionism, while Democrats had a long history of advocating free trade dating back to 1856. But the roles have reversed over the last decade or so as Democrats are switching to a more protectionist view, particularly on NAFTA. Arminio also had unkind words to say about the North American Union, where it was a “travesty” that Congress had “no role” in stopping it. It was a product of the executive branch, Arminio said. As further proof of trade bills as a step toward political integration he talked about this interview Larry King did with former Mexican leader Vincente Fox, a good friend of President Bush.

In asserting that Gilchrest had denied the existence of a NAU at previous forums, Joe equated this as a truth that’s part of a higher truth that Wayne may well have not been aware of. More proof of Joe’s theory came in discussing the NAFTA Superhighway, where the first border check would not come at the Mexican border, but in Kansas City. Arminio pinned the defeat of former Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun on the issue, claiming opponent Nancy Boyda (a Democrat) used his denials about the corridor to upend him in 2006.

And as he did yesterday, Joe talked about the disappearing trade surplus in agricultural products due to lower tariffs and subsidies to large corporate farms. Corporatism also was brought up when he discussed briefly the consolidation in media over the last two decades. Fewer people control the message now.

Finally, he went somewhat in depth on foreign policy, particularly with Iraq.

There were two main points he drilled home about our foray into the Middle East. One is that the real reason we went to Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein was because he violated a gentlemen’s agreement of sorts worked out by President Nixon in the early 1970’s that oil would be traded for dollars (“petrodollar recycling”) – Hussein moved to trading in euros in 2000. That was why the top-secret report that there was no linkage between Iraq and al-Qaeda was ignored, a report he alluded Gilchrest knew about (because he had top-secret clearance) but did nothing to stop the invasion that ensued.

What it boiled down to was that, in Arminio’s opinion, his opponents were centered on a few issues and missing the basic philosophy that it was a multifaceted process we need to get things back on the right track. (As he said yesterday, he needed 10 years.) And he could’ve kept going tonight but we tried to keep him to about 40 minutes because we had some other issues to take care of.

Dr. Bartkovich briefly plugged the Lincoln Day Dinner, which was the extent of his report. Other new business was announcing the upcoming Lower Shore YR meeting this Thursday and the speaker for our next meeting (Jared DeMarinis of the State Board of Elections). We’ll also elect officers then, and the slate is the same with one exception at the moment. I’ve volunteered to maintain my position; however, nominations are still open.

It wasn’t the show I thought it might be, but we certainly had a lot of information thrown at us by Dr. Arminio. Whether it will translate into more support will be discovered on February 12th.

I had one final question for him afterward, and it was on something I wish was covered in yesterday’s forum. Given his stance on tariffs and given we import 2/3 of our oil, where did he stand on securing more energy sources domestically?

His answer centered on three issues. One of them was attempting to do away with the “petrodollars” alluded to above, while the other two would be to build oil reserves while at the same time investing much more in alternative energy sources – research that had been squelched by the major oil companies in the mid-1970’s.

Personally, I don’t mind the first two parts so much but I’m not sure I buy the corporatism aspect of the last part. After all, if you use his media allegation as an example I shouldn’t have a website because the corporations own all of the mass media. Similarly, there’s always someone with ingenuity out there and I think that even with the cutting edge most alternative technologies are at, they’re still nowhere near ready to take over the bulk of our energy needs. Maybe by the end of this century but not now. It’s not because the oil companies don’t want these things out – after all, oil will run out someday and what would their business be then – but because technology isn’t where it needs to be to mass-produce a substitute. Just my two cents.

2008 Kent/Queen Anne’s candidate forum

I took the scenic drive up to picturesque Washington College in Chestertown for a First District candidate forum sponsored by the Kent County Republican Central Committee, the Kent and Queen Anne’s County Republican Women’s Club, and the Washington College Young Republicans. Lots of sponsors, full participation from the five candidates, and a pretty packed house of about 175 people made for an informative and entertaining afternoon.

(Speaking of pictures, my local blogging cohort Joe Albero will have plenty – he was there too. Here’s just one.)

The format was pretty basic – opening statement; a total of eight questions, some solicited from the audience; and closing statement. The six questions from the moderator dealt with the economy, cost of health care, farms and inheritance tax, immigration, how best to keep the seat in Republican hands, and the surge in Iraq. From the audience came two questions, one about term limits and the other regarding how to help small businesses. I’ll devote a few sentences to each question and put some of the more humorous stuff and my personal impressions at the end. Yes, it’s a long post but these things are important to inform prospective voters. Watch TV if you want a thirty-second soundbite.

Opening statement:

I’d just taken my seat as Robert Banks concluded his opening statement, but I did note that he said, “I don’t like what I see” regarding the tenor of the contest.

Wayne Gilchrest followed with the same Norman Cousins quotes he used at his Salisbury University appearance in November as the basis of his opening remarks.

Andy Harris chose to stress four reasons for his bid – to help rebuild the state and national Republican Party, limit the size of government, win the War on Terror (aka Long War), and refocus on values.

Vowing to reduce government by 20%, Joe Arminio called himslf the only “true Republican” in the race as the rest were “neocons.” He also derided what he termed was a plan for a “permanent presence” in Iraq.

E.J. Pipkin asked “who knew?” that he was a tax and spender. After denying a charge by Harris that he was, Pipkin brought up two other issues that he and Harris differed on – the 2006 Healthy Air Act (SB154) that he supported while Harris opposed it, and the infamous tuition for illegal immigrants bill (HB253 – 2003). Saying that this forum would be an opportunity to “get the truth out” he made a show of tearing up a Harris mailing, vowing to go home and “put it in the garbage where it belongs.”

First question: is the economy going into recession and how do we grow it?

Calling the upcoming refunds “welcome”, Robert Banks then wondered why they would take so long? Like other instances of “found money” he believed it would be spent and help the economy.

Ever a student of history, Wayne Gilchrest talked about really lean times like 1933, the height of the Great Depression, with its 25% unemployment rate and 50% foreclosure rate. In this case, while conditions aren’t as dire as other historical cycles, the announcement of the stimulus program “triggered confidence” in the economy.

Andy Harris pleaded that the government was “out of control” and it needed to be decreased in size. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent, he said, and repeal the alternative minimum tax – in short, “get government out of the way.”

Our government has an “addiction to debt,” Joe Arminio said, and its ups and downs could be blamed on the fluctuations in the money supply. Another factor was lagging industrial production, which he blamed again on the “neocons” running the government.

E.J. Pipkin said he wouldn’t do an appendectomy, so he “wouldn’t hire a doctor to fix the checkbook.” After that swipe at Andy Harris, he spoke on how he’s geared his life to fiscal matters and noted he wouldn’t need “on-the-job training” with the government’s financial dealings.

Question two was on the rising cost of health care and insurance.

Wayne Gilchrest talked about various ways to fix a “fractured” system, stressing that the SCHIP program “meets a need”, but also noting we need a blend of the private and public sectors to address the problem.

Using that infamous figure of 47 million uninsured at some point during a particular year, Andy Harris opined that government shouldn’t be the insurer of all people; rather, it was time to make insurance personal with incentives to employers to help fund their employees’ plans. Even the plan the federal government uses should be made open to everyone, he added.

Joe Arminio chose to address the issue through a call to double wages by adopting the economic plans addressed in his book rather than government give out the “scraps” of health insurance assistance.

The answer that Harris gave, claimed E.J. Pipkin, was his own idea of an “insurance exchange”, and while he’d worked to help do away with some of the more onerous state programs like certificates of need, Harris was “part of the system” that benefitted from those rent-seeking restrictions.

Robert Banks told the room that “Hillary shouldn’t be the architect for health care” and stressed a need for affordability and portability. Moreover, he took the stance that 12 million illegals shouldn’t have health care.

Question three dealt with farms and the inheritance tax.

Citing his endorsement by Ehrlich’s Secretary of Agriculture Lewis Riley, Andy Harris addressed this question from the standpoint of making the Bush tax cut package permanent and recoupling the rates trigger amounts that Maryland and the federal government exact on estates – currently, Maryland follows the old federal rate trigger amount that’s higher.

(Per comment number 3, it should be clarified that it’s the trigger amount that varies between Maryland and the federal government – looking at my notes I wrote down “decoupled with feds in state” and assumed later he meant the rate. So I’ve corrected this. The commenter, by the way, is the attorney who filed the FEC complaint on E.J. Pipkin’s behalf, James Braswell.)

After calling for an end to deficit spending and a return to a “Kennedy-size government,” Joe Arminio thought the best method to help farmers would be to enact protective tariffs on foreign goods. He also chided Gilchrest about spending “farm money on farms”, not biodiversity, referring to the Delmarva Conservation Corridor.

E.J. Pipkin talked in general terms about his work against taxes prior to the special session, telling the attendees that there was a difference between working and simply voting.

Since he had served previously as an Orphans’ Court judge, Robert Banks had seen the effects of the death tax. While he also supported making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he talked about the Maryland estate tax rate being a prime reason his parents moved to another state.

Wayne Gilchrest started out his response by adding to his health care answer, bringing up the idea of liability reform there. Then he mentioned a couple good parts of the current farm bill, an emphasis on smaller farmers and closing a foreign investment loophole.

Question four brought us the subject of illegal immigration – what about ending benefits and deportation?

Returning briefly to the prior question, the trade surplus was now gone, even in the agricultural commodities portion of trade, said Joe Arminio. Then he emphasized that not only illegal immigration but legal immigrants as well were part of the problem. He advocated a much-reduced flow of immigrants into the country.

No amnesty or preferential treatment, stated E.J. Pipkin, and securing the border was part of Washington’s responibility. He then took aim at Gilchrest for his support of a “blue card” program for immigrant agricultural laborers and again took the opportunity to hammer Andy Harris about HB253.

Robert Banks made it short and sweet – “no amnesty, no way.” Instead it was time to begin a “phased, humane deportation.”

Defending the “blue card” bill, Wayne Gilchrest countered that the bill would expand opportunities for “legal” workers. He also stated his opposition to granting rights to illegal immigrants along with securing the borders and improving employer verification technology.

For Andy Harris, it was a “personal” issue. He pointed out that he beat HB253 in 2003 after amendments were added in conference that made him object to it, calling on people to read the veto statement. He also spoke of leading a filibuster against pro-illegal bills in the 2007 session.

Next up, a question on how to keep the seat in GOP hands.

E.J. Pipkin stressed a need to differentiate between the two parties on particular issues such as taxes, spending, Chesapeake Bay, and health care. Government in DC and Annapolis shared a “spending problem”, a problem he had spent nine years fighting as opposed to nine months, an aside directed at Harris.

Neither Senator “knows the First District,” claimed Robert Banks, chiding Harris and Pipkin for running negatively against a “good man with bad votes” in Wayne Gilchrest. He implored both to “run on their own record.” It was like Hillary and Barack, he concluded, to the laughter of the gathering.

After it was quipped by someone that the Banks statement must have made Wayne Gilchrest into John Edwards, the Congressman noted that people don’t necessarily care about partisanship, they simply wanted to have certain things done. It wasn’t about ideology so much as it was about dealing with people on both sides of the aisle.

Andy Harris spoke about the “high stakes” for the GOP, which had wandered away from its principles before the last election, thus they were shellacked. The First District, he continued, is conservative and he pointed to his record in the Senate as being one that voters would agree with.

Joe Arminio didn’t like the infighting either. After taking a few moments to counter Gilchrest’s immigration record (NumbersUSA, a group advocating a hard line on immigration, downgraded Gilchrest from a “B” rating to a “C” rating in recent years), Joe expressed a number of his principles that he could get done with the help of Democrats.

The first of two audience questions dealt with term limits.

This was a question that flustered Robert Banks. After tiptoeing around the issue and saying it had good and bad points, he deferred to needing to study the concept further.

Wayne Gilchrest asserted that term limits weren’t necessary, since there had been 365 new members of Congress elected since he started in 1991. Initially, he’d considered signing a term limit pledge since it was a hot issue at the time, but decided not to.

On the other hand, Andy Harris supported a Constitutional amendment to enact legislative term limits, suggesting 12 years’ service in each body of Congress was sufficient. While there had been turnover in Congress, he argued, the incumbent retention rate was 99.5 percent.

Joe Arminio pleaded with those present that he would need 10 years to do what he needed to do, such as bring back the dollar’s value and boost industry. He vowed to “raise the roof” in Congress. Also, he charged that Gilchrest was in support of term limits originally.

E.J. Pipkin turned thumbs-down on term limits, as they “empower bureaucrats” who do not have a term limit themselves. He also stated his case that many of the GOP losses in 2006 stemmed from “right-of-center Democrats defeating extremists.”

Seventh question: was the surge worth the price in Iraq?

Troops and their command in Iraq were “stunningly competent” with an original “flawed policy”, said Wayne Gilchrest. The change that has occurred did so once the burden was off the shoulders of the military and a dialogue with involved parties begun.

Andy Harris took Gilchrest to task for his “timetable” vote, mentioning he supported the surge and leadership of General Petraeus early on.

Taking a much darker view, Joe Arminio told us the surge was leading toward a world war and an “empire in perpetuity.” He castigated Gilchrest for not “cross-examining Bush in 2002” before the Iraqi conflict started, and claimed the whole war was a “distraction,” because what was truly important was countering the replacement of the dollar by the euro as the world’s standard currency – noting that Saddam Hussein started that process prior to our invasion.

After what I thought was a bit of pandering about thanking the people in the area who had served, E.J. Pipkin did state his support for the troops without any sort of timetable for withdrawal.

“We’re there, we need to deal with it,” said Robert Banks. He also wasn’t in favor of any timetable.

The final question came from the audience and asked what the candidates would do to help small business.

Andy Harris led off by blaming “overregulation” for small business ills, claiming that it created more overhead. He also brought back the idea of streamlining health insurance, saying that all of the mandates on what has to be covered makes insurance less affordable.

Calling small business the “last stop” of the economy, Joe Arminio instead stated “industry and farms are (the) lifeblood of the economy,” and spoke about helping those entities through the principles he’d advocated earlier.

There would be no need for appendectomies in Washington, charged E.J. Pipkin. He disagreed with Harris on focus, saying that taxes were “the number one issue” for small businesses. Again stressing his leadership in fighting the tax increases in Annapolis, Pipkin pledged to take on the same fight in Congress.

Robert Banks promised, “I will vote against any tax increase.” He also expressed support for the stimulus plan again, and added he’d work on the issues facing small business like health care, overregulations, and tort reform. Opposed to Arminio, Robert called small business the “backbone of America.”

After Wayne Gilchrest talked briefly about small business providing jobs and stability, he went back to revisit the surge question and explain his vote on a timetable. In it, he pointed out that the vote was simply the “sense of the Congress” and only “recommended” a withdrawal date. His idea was to push the Iraqi government into action by telling them we wouldn’t stay forever.

Closing arguments:

E.J. Pipkin was “proud of his record.” As in his opener, he took umbrage at a Harris mailing which called him a “hero to Democrats” and showed a photo of him with Martin O’Malley, the governor giving a thumbs-up. Angrily explaining that the photo-op came at the launching of a broadband initiative, he told the group it was five years of his hard work that led to the point where the picture was snapped. It was another one for the garbage, he nearly shouted as he tore the mailing to bits.

Not one to miss out on theatrics, Joe Arminio brought out a long board that he claimed was part of the remnants of one of his 4 x 8 campaign signs. He asserted that it had been trampled on just like the Constitution had been, with a “secret treaty” signed that would keep us in Iraq permanently and the neocon policies that led to a huge “debt bubble” as two examples.

Andy Harris was much more low-key, talking about his endorsements by Governor Ehrlich, the Gun Owners of America, and the Eagle Forum among others. He stressed a need to return to “true fiscal conservatism” and mentioned that he’d not violated a pledge he gave to the Americans for Tax Reform group not to raise taxes, nor had he voted for any state budget presented by a Democrat. Also, he wanted victory in what he termed a “generational” effort in the Long War.

Wayne Gilchrest talked about having a nice Sunday afternoon at the forum rather than being in a canoe on a river, but brought up his two big endorsements by Newt Gingrich and President Bush. He saw it as a reflection of the mutual respect and dignity he’d served in Congress with. In one final note on his military service, he pointed out that several Presidents had talked with our enemies in the Soviet Union and China, but what if they’d talked to Ho Chi Minh before the Vietnam War?

“Enough is enough,” concluded Robert Banks. He claimed this was the “worst campaigning he’s seen in his lifetime” but also took Andy Harris to task for being a “friend” of earmarks, not necessarily ones in the First District. He also countered Harris from an earlier forum that he was already a pro-life candidate.

What I thought (in ballot order):

Joe Arminio drew the funniest remark of the forum from Robert Banks, who asked (Doctor) Andy Harris if he could prescribe some Xanax for the exceedingly animated candidate. Banks also drew another laugh when he asked Arminio if he would be signing any books. Joe wanted to make sure Wayne Gilchrest got one.

But it all got in the way of his points, which certainly set him apart from the other four. One observation I had was that it would be one tough drinking game if you had to take a slug every time Arminio said “neocon” at the event. And by claiming to be on the Ron Paul ticket, he may be limiting his appeal. Local Republicans do have an opportunity to see him for themselves tomorrow night as he’s our Wicomico County Republican Club speaker this month.

I admire Robert Banks standing up for an end to the negative campaigning that has plagued this race. Banks also added a much-needed quick wit to the proceedings, coming up with good observations. Another gem I didn’t previously mention was after the animated Arminio finished an answer, Banks chimed in, “well, this won’t be a boring forum will it?” Or looking at Pipkin and Harris after answering a question, quipping that the two were even dressed identically, too.

He does need to bone up on some of the issues though, as drawing a whiff on term limits makes him look unprepared. It will be interesting to see how his political career unfolds after this race, since he does have an engaging personality. A lead foot, too.

Wayne Gilchrest maintained his low-key style, which fits him like a glove. He doesn’t need to score a lot of points in these forums because he can watch his two primary opponents hammer on each other while he calmly goes on. One thing that was mentioned in the audience chatter was that it was good Wayne explained his Iraqi timetable vote, since it looked really bad otherwise. Having that as less of an issue as events have unfolded plays to his advantage.

I’m not sure if it was intended or the need anticipated, but Andy Harris did a reasonably good job of not rising to the bait of the attacks E.J. Pipkin levelled at him. He stuck to his ideas of what he wants to do if elected, and was the only candidate to attempt equating what he believed in with Reaganesque principles of smaller government. It’s a refreshing change from the bulldog stance Harris uses in his media buys (although not all are within his control.)

Perhaps he felt a need to angrily defend himself on his home turf, but E.J. Pipkin, in trying to look like an aggrieved party, came across as somewhat of a hothead. There were many snide remarks about his “Baltimore County” opponent, including the appendectomy remarks I wrote about before. Nor am I sure the theatrics helped his cause. I’ve noticed a change in his advertising as well as he’s adopted a very negative tone lately – his last mailing stating in large letters, “Andy Harris should be ashamed” – referring to charges one of Pipkin’s operatives leveled in an FEC complaint.

What you have is the product of 2 plus hours of sitting and observing, along with 5 1/2 pages of notes. I invite those of you connected with the campaigns to comment if you feel I said something in error; after all, I don’t have a transcript in front of me.

And while I commend the Kent and Queen Anne’s County groups that put this on, next time please be a little more clear on the location! I planned it to be 15 minutes early but got lost and arrived moments late. Otherwise, it was a good show and hopefully area voters are more informed.

Thoughts on the Shorebirds Hot Stove banquet

January 26, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Thoughts on the Shorebirds Hot Stove banquet 

I didn’t really put my reporter hat on nor did I take my camera, but if you’re interested in my impressions of the event this evening, I put them on my Myspace blog. Wanted to leave the political stuff toward the top this week. But come summer, Shorebird of the Week will be back and not on Myspace!

Some high-level backup for my thoughts

January 26, 2008 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Some high-level backup for my thoughts 

As most people know by now, President Bush and House leaders approved an economic “stimulus” plan earlier this week, a package that will be put to a vote in the House next week. It will take members of Congress with real stones to say “no” to this but they would have my support. I disagreed with the whole concept and said so here.

While I’m no better than an armchair economist, there is a group out there who actually studies the “dismal science” of economics and they share my skepticism about the effects such a program would have long-term. The Club For Growth also sees this as the “wrong way” to go. According to Club President Pat Toomey:

“One-time rebates and temporary business tax breaks that the President and the Democrats seem to be coalescing around are the wrong approach. If we truly wanted to stimulate the economy, we would make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent tomorrow. Instead of doling out temporary rebates, it is essential that we increase incentives for work, savings, and investment, and you do that by lowering marginal tax rates and making those reductions permanent so people have the confidence to plan and take risk.”

So far so good. Toomey and his group also address another tax issue:

“Temporary rebates, as many have discussed, are merely a redistribution of wealth from one group of taxpayers to another, without changing the underlying factors that drive economic growth. They won’t help us avoid a recession.”

“In contrast, permanently indexing capital gains for inflation will boost the economy by encouraging capital formation and investment. It will almost certainly boost the stock market instantly. If President Bush wants to stimulate the economy immediately, rebates won’t do the trick, but indexing capital gains for inflation will be a big help.”

I also think that suspending backup withholding would put money in people’s pockets immediately, but I guess the Club For Growth won’t go that far.

What makes this a little more relevant to the local scene is the fact that, as astute voters like the ones who read monoblogue know, Andy Harris has the endorsement and financial backing of the Club For Growth. The question may have to be asked at tomorrow’s GOP candidate forum in Chestertown whether the aspirants on our side have the will to tell Americans that a little pain right now will make for better times in the long run or if they’ll pander to the short-term desires of our instant gratification society and “stimulate” them.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Radio days volume 10

January 25, 2008 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - Congress, Campaign 2008 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Radio days volume 10 

I suppose I’m getting to be pretty decent at this stuff, as Bill and I ran over the usual 10 minutes a guest gets. I’m a little heartbroken that he had to skip the Rush Morning Update on my account, but we’ll all make it through regardless.

Made a list of about seven talking points to go over but we ended up doing two or three. I knew we’d talk about the First District Congressional race and how negative it’s become. While we briefly touched on the low-key campaign Wayne has had as he watches his two main opponents beat on each other, lately I have noticed the Gilchrest campaign finally getting into the act as far as negativity goes. In a radio spot I’ve heard a few times lately the claim is that both Harris and Pipkin “vote with O’Malley 85% of the time.”

That may be true, but it’s for the same reason that the majority of legislative votes in Maryland seem to be unanimous or almost so – there are things that the General Assembly has to do in order to keep counties running. Governor O’Malley, just as Governor Ehrlich did before him, signs dozens of bills after the session that deal with small matters like this. In turn this ratchets up the percentage of time that Harris and Pipkin vote “with” O’Malley. I’m sure the case can be made that they voted with Governor Ehrlich a vast percentage of the time too, but that doesn’t sound nearly as bad to a Republican.

The other key talking point I got into was the GOP Presidential field. It’s hard to believe that for 20 years we have dealt with a legacy on our side, the sometimes larger-than-life presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan. Truly they broke the mold with him, and we may never again see a Republican president carry 49 states, including Maryland. It was impossible to steal or create enough votes in Baltimore to overcome the love and respect people in this state and throughout the nation expressed at the ballot box for this man in 1984. (And yes, having an opponent who vowed to raise taxes didn’t hurt either.)

It got me to thinking after the show was over, hence this extended post. When John Kennedy was elected in 1960, it was in the same timeframe to Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932 that we in 2008 have to Reagan’s initial 1980 election. But in Kennedy the nation saw his youth and optimism, plus he had the attitude that while things in America certainly were good, they could be even better. He didn’t really go back to reflecting on the impact that a well-liked, multi-term President of his party had on the nation when he took office in troubled times; rather JFK looked at what could be.

Of course, I wasn’t yet born when Kennedy was shot so I have no point of reference to him. But I do have a point of reference in Ronald Reagan, who was the first President I ever voted for. None of this year’s GOP field is truly comparable to Reagan, nor could they be since we’re now going on memories of his life and term of office and we tend to forget the bad things. In ideological terms, perhaps the two candidates closest to Reagan in the 2008 race were Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter, but they’re both early casualties.

In the two decades since Reagan left office, we’ve gone through two Bushes and a Clinton, with the possibility of another Clinton waiting in the wings. While the ideals of smaller government enjoyed a brief reprise in the mid-1990’s, we saw that slowly erode over time much as a jagged rock becomes rounded with exposure to the elements. So it is with Reaganism until we get what we have today.

It’s why I call myself a “reinventionist” Republican. Ronald Reagan left us a tremendous legacy, but in the end it appears that Foggy Bottom has triumphed yet again. In remaking the movement toward smaller, more Constitutionally-based government, the time is right for new leaders to step up. It appears the best we can hope for in 2008 is to tread water, but I see an opportunity in the making for a new leader to step up. The trick is figuring out who that leader will be. 

Kucinich packs it in, and other political oddities

January 24, 2008 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - President, National politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Kucinich packs it in, and other political oddities 

It’s been a tough week for the Presidential field. In the wake of a primary election in South Carolina and caucuses in Nevada, both Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson departed from the GOP field, leaving movement conservatives heartbroken.

So I’m sure the radical peaceniks haven’t even the heart to sing “Kumbaya” now that Dennis Kucinich announced his withdrawal as part of an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Yes, the man who brought you the idea for the “Department of Peace” has decided to focus his energy on maintaining his Congressional seat in Ohio against four opponents.

His wife, though, will be the one sadly missed from the national limelight. (Thanks to Bob McCarty for that link.)

*****

This is a sure way to tell a conservative from a liberal, at least as far as fiscal responsibility goes.

I’m still on the e-mail list for a number of departed candidates of both parties. So yesterday I was checking my political mailbox and got this appeal:

There’s one last issue I still need your help on before I can officially end my presidential bid. Right now we still have an outstanding debt.

We spent that money in those last few frenzied weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire trying to capitalize on the fluid poll numbers. Given how high the stakes were, I’m sure we would do the same thing given the same situation again.

Will you please make one final contribution to my campaign so we can officially “zero out” that debt?

I recognize that it’s a hard thing to do with the nomination no longer on the line. But I believe it is essential that the final act of our campaign is to meet every outstanding obligation.

That came from the campaign of Bill Richardson, whose “fluid” poll numbers never even made it to double digits. I’ll give him credit though – unlike the poster child for campaign overspending, John Glenn, he seems to want to make amends. Plus Richardson still has that governor gig in New Mexico.

But apparently there’s another candidate who remained fiscally prudent. In looking up a couple items for my post yesterday about Duncan Hunter, links that formerly worked on his website provided me with this message:

Congressman Hunter has dropped out of the race. Please do not send contributions.

Perhaps the timing of his announcement was pegged to the moment he would arrive back in his hometown of San Diego as his campaign assets zeroed out. I do believe that as a retiring Congressman with some seniority he is entitled to maintain his remaining campaign war chest; however, after the 2006 campaign that only amounted to a little over $50,000.

We’ll soon be able to find out just where these candidates really stand moneywise as FEC year-end reports are due at the end of the month.

*****

Talking about Duncan Hunter and finances provides me a nice segue into a story I came across about the man Duncan endorsed for the GOP Presidential nod, Mike Huckabee. The man who is not above asking contributors for “a buck for Huck” is apparently running low on funds himself. According to Eric Fiegel at CNN’s Political Ticker, Huckabee won’t be shepherding the dwindling corps of press following him from stop to stop anymore. (Come to think of it, that’s not a bad way to control your message.) While the press paid for the seats, there’s still overhead to consider and certainly the price was figured on having a fully loaded plane.

I suppose for the press it could be worse though – they could be on Air Hillary.

*****

Probably most odd of all is the fact that I’ll be on the AM Salisbury radio program with Bill Reddish tomorrow morning at 7:40 a.m. As one might expect, we’ll talk politics and I’m making my list of topics to go over as I write this post. (I sometimes have a hard time with the proverbial walking and chewing gum at the same time as anyone who’s ever watched me bowl can attest; however, I can multitask mentally.) Luckily, none of what I wrote about tonight will be on that list so enjoy the originality.

Gilchrest sides with Pelosi again

This afternoon, the Democrats tried but failed again to override President Bush’s veto of their larded-up and onerous version of the SCHIP reauthorization. And guess who voted for the override?

Yep, you’re right, Wayne Gilchrest. Sad thing is he had 41 other GOP partners (including Delaware’s Mike Castle), but fellow Free Stater Roscoe Bartlett wasn’t one of them.

Something tells me that there’s two First District GOP opponents very interested in that vote, not to mention an upcoming candidate forum where it just might be mentioned if a certain blogger gets to ask the question. You think?

Hat tip: the lovely and talented Marylander Michelle Malkin.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Hunter shocks with Huckabee endorsement

I was doing my daily read of Michelle Malkin’s site and came across the surprising news that Duncan Hunter has endorsed Mike Huckabee for President. According to CNN, who probably is as floored as anyone that Duncan Hunter endorsed one of their few favorite Republicans, this is what Hunter had to say:

“I got to know Governor Huckabee well on the campaign trail,” Huckabee (sic) said in a statement. “Of the remaining candidates I feel that he is strongly committed to strengthening national defense, constructing the border fence and meeting the challenge of China’s emergence as a military superpower that is taking large portions of America’s industrial base.

“Along with these issues of national security, border enforcement and protecting the U.S. industrial base, I see another quality of Mike Huckabee’s candidacy that compels my endorsement,” he added. “Mike Huckabee is a man of outstanding character and integrity. I saw that character over the last year of campaigning and was greatly impressed. The other Republican candidates have many strengths and I wish them all well.”

I’m not certain I agree with Duncan’s assessment, but I can see some logic in this. With that in mind though I’d love to know whether this would have changed had Fred Thompson stayed in the race. Huckabee may have been the least of all evils.

Let’s start with John McCain. While Hunter shared a military background with McCain, they part ways on the whole issue of immigration and border security, along with the area of taxation, since McCain wasn’t in favor of the Bush tax cuts initially.

Rudy Giuliani wouldn’t have fit well with Hunter since Giuliani is much more liberal on social issues than Hunter. Duncan was one candidate who advocated a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution, which incidentally is also part of Huckabee’s agenda.

With Hunter’s idea of projecting military power against a number of foes from without as part of a strong national defense, the isolationism of Ron Paul wouldn’t have appealed to Hunter, particularly Paul’s stance on Iraq.

That leaves Mitt Romney, who seemed to be the consensus endorsement choice of those commenting on Malkin’s site. But a business deal precludes any chance of an endorsement here. This press release was issued from Hunter’s campaign back on November 30:

Presidential candidate and U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) again called on Bain Capital, a company founded by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to drop its strategic partnership with Chinese defense contractor Huawei Technologies in a bid to buy U.S. defense contractor 3Com.  Hunter also called on Romney to use his continued influence with Bain to terminate the proposed merger between Huawei and 3Com, which, according to a report in today’s Washington Times, would threaten U.S. national security.

“As the founder of Bain Capital, Governor Romney has an obligation to utilize his influence within the company to terminate the proposed merger between 3Com and Chinese defense contractor Huawei,” said Hunter. “In light of China’s refusal to port several American naval vessels last week, it is increasingly more important that American military technology be protected from foreign companies, such as Huawei, that are closely aligned with the Chinese government.”

The Washington Times reported today that U.S. intelligence agencies informed the CFIUS review committee, responsible for examining proposed foreign investment transactions, that a merger between 3Com and Huawei would threaten America’s national security. 3Com presently performs vital cyber-security work for the Department of Defense.

“This proposed deal, which Governor Romney can work to terminate should he choose to do so, is unpatriotic and damaging to national security,” continued Hunter. As further detailed in a resolution introduced in the House of Representatives, Huawei has close ties to the military of Communist China and allegedly aided Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.

Having eliminated the other four choices it turns out that Hunter and Huckabee have quite a bit in common, especially on the social issues. That may have been included in the reference to “character” that Duncan made.

It’s obvious that this move disappointed a lot of those who were previously in Hunter’s corner. But I think a lot of heads turned as well when former candidate Tom Tancredo endorsed Mitt Romney. On the other hand, Sam Brownback was expected to endorse John McCain and it wasn’t much of a stretch for Tommy Thompson to back Rudy Giuliani. So it’s not totally uncommon to see defeated candidates go against type.

This leaves only Fred Thompson to endorse a successor candidate, although many have speculated he’ll back John McCain as he did in the 2000 election. If that endorsement comes to pass, it may turn the heads (and stomachs) of a few Fredheads.

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