In the Arena

McCain’s Victory

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There’s all sort of good news wrapped up in John McCain’s Florida victory:

1. The right-wing talkosphere got hammered. I listened to Rush Limbaugh as I chased Clintons around South Carolina last Friday and it was non-stop–I mean, wall-to-wall–McCain bashing. It’s always wonderful to listen to El Rushbo when he’s desperate (you just want to blow lunch when he’s riding high). My favorite bit came when Limbaugh expressed deep mystification as to why McCain was using “liberal talking points” on the subject of torture. Could it be–hmmm–that McCain was tortured? El Rushbo somehow forgot about that part (at least, he didn’t mention it while I was listening).

2. Money got hammered. There’s a wonderful little stat in today’s Washington Post account of the election:

In Florida, as he did in other early states, Romney blanketed the airwaves with ads financed partly by his own fortune. According to Nielsen Co., Romney ran nearly 4,500 ads in Florida by Monday, compared with 470 by McCain.

One of the truly invigorating things about this year’s presidential campaign on both sides is the inefficacy of television ads. I mean, Mitt Romney’s garbage barge got him where in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida? Nowhere. Things have been more gentle on the Democratic side–Obama’s had the more effective uplift stuff (the new Caroline Kennedy ad is very good), but I’ve seen zero sign that ads made any difference in this campaign, as opposed to Obama’s heavy investment in field organization.

3. Rudy got hammered. He was running a national security fear campaign even more over-the-top than McCain’s. I take the Florida results as a clear-cut referendum on Norman Podhoretz as foreign policy advisor…well, maybe not. But it would be nice to think so.

On the other hand…

4. McCain’s successful super-hawkery on the war may be giving George Bush some ideas. I’m not sure where Petraeus stands on this now but, in his September testimony, he told Carl Levin that he would continue cutting troops after the five surge brigades returned home, and that he would announce the new timetable when he returns to brief this Congress this Spring. So the question: Are things going worse than expected? Is the surge not succeeding as well as McCain says it is? Or–my guess–is the task of training an Iraqi Army with loyalties beyond tribe and militia ties proving far more difficult than anticipated?

Finally, with your indulgence, I can’t bypass the Most Important News of the Week: the New York Mets have landed one of the best pitchers in baseball, Johan Santana, in return for four minor league prospects. All this happened within days of the Mets’ General Manager, Omar Minaya, returning from a visit to the middle east…Maybe we should have Omar negotiate that one, too. Only two weeks till pitchers and catchers…