by Scott Shields, Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 05:39:21 AM EST
Earlier, I'd said I was really looking forward to finding out the results of the 2008 straw poll being held at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this weekend in Memphis. I take it back. It seems that Republican infighting has likely rendered the results largely useless. Taegan Goddard of Breaking Blue fame (who also writes for a little site called Political Wire) uncovered two interesting and related stories out of the SRLC.
First, John McCain, one of the clear front-runners for the 2008 nomination, decided to throw a monkey wrench into the whole process by telling conference-goers not to vote for him, but rather to write-in President Bush's name instead. "For the next three years," McCain said, "with the country at war, he's our President, and the only one who must have our support today." It's an eye-roller to be sure, but if you're thinking this is McCain once again sucking up to Bush, it's not that simple. I'll come back to this in a bit.
"Frist is bussing people in," Lott said, referring to Senate Majority Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), whose political organization is working to ensure he wins this unscientific early test of election viability. "These are not real delegates. These are people being bussed in to produce the results. It is a rigged deal. It doesn't matter."
That possibility -- that Frist might bus supporters to Memphis for the event -- is one that I raised in my first post about the SRLC. And if it turned out to be true, then Lott's suspicions might have been correct. But crying to CNN about a rigged election before the election's even held is pretty unfair, as it prejudges the outcome and calls the validity of the whole process into question.
What's so interesting to me about these stories is the fact that the only two people openly trying to wreck the straw poll are McCain and one of his supporters. In urging attendees not to vote for him and instead write in Bush, McCain set himself up in a position where he can't lose. It's a total cop out in that, if he performs poorly, he can point to the fact that he wasn't trying to win anyway, going so far as to endorse someone else. And Lott calling the whole process "rigged" by Frist is the icing on that cake, stripping what remained of the poll's credibility. This is nothing but scorched earth. McCain obviously didn't feel he was strong enough to win the poll, so he had to tear it apart instead.