Thursday, January 31, 2008

Planning a Baseball Getaway

Sometime this spring I've got to travel to Manchester, New Hampshire for a business trip. So I was on the internet the other day looking at hotels and ran across one that seemed just perfect to me: the Hilton Garden Inn. The pictures tell the whole story:

The hotel is situated just beyond the left centerfield fence of Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the AA Eastern League affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I've been a fan of minor league baseball since going to see the Durham Bulls during my college days at UNC. Back then they were playing in the old Durham Stadium where the movie Bull Durham was filmed. In fact, I was in college and could have gone over to the ballpark to be an extra in the film. It's one of my great regrets that I didn't follow through on that opportunity. Anyway, the park was one of the more intimate ballparks I've ever visited. That's the real beauty of minor league baseball is that you're so close to the action.

If you interested in learning more about life in the minor leagues, I'd also recommend David Lamb's excellent book Stolen Season: A Journey through America and Baseball's Minor Leagues. The author took a year and drove all across the country visiting minor league ballparks. Sounds like a great summer vacation to me.

The GOP No Longer Represents Conservatives

If the Republican Party continues on its current path it will nominate either John McCain or (given a Super Tuesday miracle) Mitt Romney, who are not bona fide conservatives. In doing so, the GOP will demonstrate that it no longer represents conservatives and has placed a higher value on winning an election than standing by its principles.

The GOP didn't get to this point overnight. Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of President Bush who, in spite of his excellent nominations to the Supreme Court of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, his consistent pro-life stands, and his persistent prosecution of the war on terror has done little else to further conservative principles. Government programs have expanded dramatcially under this President's watch and spending has gone through the roof.

There's little reason to think that John McCain or Mitt Romney would govern much differently from President Bush. I think they both would stand frim on pro-life and terrorism issues and follow the President's lead. Beyond that, I don't expect that there would be much more we would see from their administration that would follow conservative principles.

However, I do not intend to sit on the sidelines come November. The stakes are far too high for conservatives to sit out this election. With the retirement of so many Republican congressmen this year it likely that both the House and Senate will not only remain in Democratic hands but their majorities in both houses will be much larger. It's safe to say that conservatives don't want to put either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House with a Democrat controlled Congress.

That's exactly why conservatives should stop whining about how McCain and Romney don't represent their values. More conservative candidates like Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo and even Mike Huckabee are being tossed aside in favor of more "electable" candidates. Conservatives have had their chance to select someone who reflects their values. Instead, they have decided to put winning above principles. Given the dynamics of this year's election that is understandable. But that's not necessarily the right thing to do.

If a Democrat wins the White House this year (and there is a good chance that will happen) perhaps Republicans will take a good hard look and see how abandoning their conservative principles led to their defeat. It's a lesson that they should have learned from the 2006 election.Until they do learn it, they shouldn't expect to win many more elections.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Six Lessons From Florida

Congratulations to Senator John McCain for his victory last night in the Florida Republican Primary. He has now emboldened his position as the front runner for the nomination. While he's not necessarily the person I would want as the nominee, I'll support him if he wins the nomination.

Looking over last night's results, I've observed six things that should be kept in mind as the process moves forward.

1. Polls are increasingly unreliable predictors of election outcomes.

First, we had the fiasco with polls in New Hampshire that predicted a victory for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Then in South Carolina, the polls correctly picked Obama as the winner but did not predict his blowout victory over Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, several polls had Mitt Romney winning the Republican primary. While polls are likely to still be around for some time it's clear they are no longer as reliable as they once were.

2. Military voters are an important part of the Republican coalition.

Military voters were a big part of Senator McCain's win in South Carolina and showed themselves to be a potent force yesterday in Florida. In a time of war, military voters are going to naturally gravitate towards the person that they believe is best equipped to lead the country. Military voters probably understand better than the average voter what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief. Because of the Republican party's position on the Global War of Terror they have developed a huge base of support among military voters. They will continue to be an important constituency for Republicans in the future.

3. Personality matters more than policy positions.

Whether we like it or not, voters tend to gravitate for who they like and who they can trust mor than for what the person stands for. I suspect that much of Senator McCain's appeal is the fact that he is perceived as a straight talker who knows what he believes and stands up for his beliefs. He doesn't seem to change his opinions on issues based on which way the political winds are blowing. In a post-Clinton political era this is a hugh asset. I also think one of the reasons that Mitt Romney has not gained as much support is because he is perceived as someone who has changed positions on issues (most notably abortion) and is willing to say anything in order to get elected.

4. Electability becomes the primary issue.

As it becomes clearer who the Democratic nominee will be (and my guess right now is Hillary Clinton will win), Republicans are beginning to think about who is most likely to win the general election. Senator McCain matches up well against both of the possible Democratic nominees and is the one candidate that Democrats fear facing the most. Many Republicans realize that it's crucial that they don't allow the Democrats to win the White House and are willing to support the person who is most likely to win even if they disagree with him on key issues.

5. Money does not guarantee victory.

If this primary had been simply a matter of who had the most money, Mitt Romney would have won hands down because he has so much more to spend than anyone else in the race. As Mike Huckabee proved in Iowa and John McCain proved in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida you can be outspent by huge margins and still win. Money is important but having the most money does not necessarily mean you'll automatically win. Winning depends more on how you campaign then how much you spend.

6. It's time for Mike Huckabee to withdraw.

It's hard for me to write this as Governor Huckabee is the person that I probably am most likely to vote for even though he doesn't stand a chance of winning the nomination. In many ways, I believe he's the best candidate and that the media have done such a hatchet job on his record and his positions that most voters don't realize what a sound conservative he is. But Huckabee has nothing to gain at this point and would only embarass himself further by staying in the race. I thiink he would be better off to withdraw now and save himself for another run at the presidency in the future. It would also demonstrate to voters that he's more willing to put party unity over personal gain.

There's still a long way to go in this race for the nomination. But the time is coming soon when Republicans have to come to grips with the fact that the man who will be their nominee may not be their first choice but he is going to be their choice and that they need to rally around him to help get him elected.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Picture of the Week

Feel free to insert your own caption for this one:

Actual roadsign in South Carolina.


Hat tip: Anne Schroeder

Stealing the Democratic Nomination?

Could Senator Hillary Clinton try to steal the Democratic Presidential nomination?
Sure, it may seem like a stretch but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sudden call from the Clinton camp to have delegates from Florida and Michigan seated at the convention particularly if she wins big in today's Sunshine State primary.

But it's not beyond the realm of possibility at all to consider that Senator Clinton could win the nomination without receiving a majority of the delegates selected through the party's primaries and caucuses. That's because of a quirk in the Democratic Party known as the Superdelegate, who is an elected official or party member and is not tied to any particular state primary or caucus.

Though it is not widely reported in the media, Senator Clinton holds the lead for the nomination due to the advantage she has over Senator Barack Obama in the Superdelegate category. As of this writing, Mrs. Clinton leads 201-116 according to the Real Clear Politics delegate scoreboard with 114 left uncommitted. Senator Obama has won more delegates through the primaries and caucuses held to date by a margin of 63-46.

It would be ironic if Senator Clinton managed to secure the nomination without winning a majority of the delegates up for grabs during the primary season. Given how close the race for the Democratic nomination has been so far, it's also not beyond the realm of possibility. But we will hear anything about voter disenfranchisement like we have the last two election cycles from Democrats? Don't bet on it.

North or South?

I usually don't put a whole lot of stock in online quizzes but this one caught my attention: Yankee or Dixie?

For the record, I scored 97% Dixie. Not bad for a city boy....

Hat tip: Lorie Byrd

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ernie Harwell on Attitude

The Detroit Free Press marked legendary baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell's 90th birthday (January 25th) with a great profile of the living legend. At one point, he's asked about attitude and he responded this way:

The greatest thing is my trust in God. I know that whatever happens is for the best, and I try not to worry about anything, because worrying is a sin and He's going to take care of me.

Hat tip: Tim Ellsworth

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Importance of the VP nod

Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson surprised no one by withdrawing from the presidential race today. His third place finish in South Carolina last Saturday sealed his fate.

Now comes word via Fox News' Carl Cameron that Thompson's plan all along was to put himself in a position to be the Republican nominee's choice for vice-president. (Hat tip: My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy)

Thompson would make a terrific vice-president and would immediately shore up the Republican ticket and appeal to the base. The most logical person to pick him would be John McCain who needs the most help getting the conservative base behind his candidacy.

As Joe Carter pointed out in his post-SC primary analysis, Mike Huckabee would also make a great VP nominee also. Hopefully he'll also be smart enough to decline and make another run for the presidency in 2012.

Even Mitt Romney, who has yet to win a primary in a prominent, solidly Republican state, could benefit from having Thompson as his running mate to bolster his appeal among conservatives.
On the Democratic side, the VP sweepstakes will also be important but for much different reasons. Given the bitter divide between Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns it would make sense for the winner to offer the VP slot to the runner-up in order to heal divisions within the party. If they don't, the could end up resembling Republicans of 1976 and losing the White House again.

In most years, the VP nomination is almost an afterthought. This year, the person occupying the number two slot may be as important as who is number one.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Choosing a Leader

It's election season and in our household we're watching the news almost daily trying to decide where candidates stand and which person we will ultimately end up supporting. Not surprisingly, our kids have picked up on some of the things we've seen and heard and have been asking us tough questions about the candidates and the issues. In many ways, we're glad they are interested as it's important for them to understand the tremendous responsibility those of us who are able to vote have to choose carefully those who will lead us.

Rather than focus on the silly and superficial aspects of the campaigns (crying games, who's most charismatic, who's most "electable") we've been discussing issues: what we believe and how we both agree and disagree with each of the candidates.

Ultimately, our choices are not based on who is most likely to win or who seems most appealing to us. It's all about the deep convinctions that we hold and who most closely mirrors our beliefs. But there is more to it than that. Who holds the strongest convictions? Who is most likely to stand by their principles? Who is willing to do what is right even when it is unpopular?

Our children need to understand that we have a great freedom as Americans to elect our leaders. Our system works because we choose to allow it to work. But each one of us has a responsibility to carefully make choices when we step in the voting booth. When we fail to carefully choose who will lead us we get the incompetent leadership that we deserve.

When we go to vote in our state's primary in a couple of weeks, our children will step into the voting booth with us. They will get to witness our choices firsthand. We will discuss at length with them why we are choosing to vote for a particular candidate. We want them to understand that we take our responsibility as citizens and as voters seriously.

Before our children have the right and responsibilty of voting thrust upon them we will show them through our example how we decide who we will vote for and wrestle with the issues of the day. Our children need to understand what is at stake not just in the election of 2008 but in every election. Our investment in them today will make them far more responsible citizens as adults.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why I Don't Play More Golf

It's because my golf game is a lot like Bertie Wooster's (Hugh Laurie in the clip below):

You can buy Jeeves and Wooster at the A&E shop.