McCain Rising, Romney Fading in New Hampshire

The editorial board of the Manchester Union Leader believe that Romney has faded in New Hampshire, despite favorite son status and all the advantages, for a simple reason: “He has not been able to convince the people of this state that he’s the conservative he says he is.” And they’re circling back to an old reliable.

And after a year of comparing Romney to McCain, of sizing up the two in person and in the media, Granite Staters are turning back to McCain. The former Navy pilot, once written off by the national media establishment, is now in a statistical dead heat with Romney here.

How could that be? Romney has all the advantages: money, organization, geographic proximity, statesman-like hair, etc.

But he lacks something John McCain has in spades: conviction.

Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth. John McCain has done that day in and day out, never wavering, never faltering, never pandering.

Mitt Romney has not. He has spoken his lines well, but the people can sense that the words are memorized, not heartfelt.


In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes. That is why Granite Staters who have listened attentively are now returning to John McCain. They might not agree with McCain on everything, as we don’t, but like us, they judge him to be a man of integrity and conviction, a man who won’t sell them out, who won’t break his promises, and who won’t lie to get elected.

Romney would have been far better off, as is the case with most candidates, simply being true to himself. He’s a proven leader with a substantial record of executive success. Had he simply run as a moderate who could attract non-partisans in a general election, he might well be doing much better.

It’s going too far to say that McCain hasn’t pandered; no politician with a real chance of winning can make that claim. He has, though, been more willing than most to continue to tout unpopular convictions in the face of strong polling data. Also, having suffered the humiliation of going from a frontrunner with money to burn to an insurgent riding cheap tour buses and flying commercial, he’s gained the freedom to simply do it his way.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Uncategorized, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Don says:

    Picking a leader from this pack is like having to buy all your Christmas presents from the local Mom and Pop knick-knack store: everything looks cheap and unworkable.
    That being said, I surely wish Thompson would make a strong move.

  2. Jen says:

    You think open borders and Amnesty for Illegals McCain is the kind of conviction we need? McCain’s convictions? LOL. You mean opposing Bush’s tax cuts before being forced to support them NOW to be acceptable to GOP voters?

    You mean McCain voting against same sex marriage in 1996 but opposing the ban NOW to pander to independents?

    You mean VOTING TO GIVE ILLEGAL ALIENS OUR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS until recently deciding that that might be a little issue with voters?

    ****Gay Marriage:
    McCain Told Iowa State Students: “I think Gay Marriage should be allowed . . . I don’t have any problem with that” . . . after his aide got ahold of him during the commercial break he said “I do not believe that Gay Marriages should be legal”

    McCain was anti-ethanol when he was skipping Iowa in 1999. In 2006 he was pro-ethanol while campaigning in Iowa . Now he’s pretty anti-ethanol again that he’s decided to bypass Iowa. (THIS ONE IS A TRUE FLIP FLOP . . . Been on both sides of the issue multiple times)

    ****Confederate flag:
    Was both for and against state promotion of the flag in SC during the 1999 race. Said it was “a symbol of racism and slavery” . . . 3 days later he recanted (AKA “pandered”) saying “Personally, I see the flag as a symbol of heritage”

    ****Law of Sea Convention:
    Long-time vocal supporter of the Law, now (just this last month) he’s against it.

    ****Immigration Reform:
    He now opposes the DREAM Act to legalize illegal alien students (though that was previously for it).
    Also, he’s violently backed off his McCain-Kennedy Immigration bill and is supporting the “Secure the Border First” bill. Riiiiiiigt. Shamnesty King sees the light? And you guys buy it? PUHleeez.

    It’s comical how many flip flops McCain has managed and the MSM just looks the other way.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    The commenter above exemplifies the hostility towards McCain I’ve seen in substantial portions of the Republican base. Unfortunately for them other than McCain the choice is either Romney or Huckabee. In either case Republicans will be likely to lose the White House.

  4. Not the senator says:

    He’s a proven leader with a substantial record of executive success.

    Actually, after his one lackluster term as Massachusetts Governor, all polls showed that he would not win re-election and voter dislike of Romney condemned his Lt. Governor Kerry Healey to a humiliating and crushing defeat in 2006. His poor performance ended 16 consecutive years of GOP control of the Governors office.

    The voters in NH are just following the same learning curve as Mass voters regarding Romney – Familiarity breeds contempt.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    But Dave,
    The joy of this primary season is that each and every first tier candidate has a slice of the base that hates their guts with a passion (I do not count Thompson here as first tier, maybe he’ll surprise me in Iowa, but I suspect he’s fading away to irrelevance).

    Many Socons *hate* Giuliani.
    Many Fiscons *hate* Huckabee.
    People with an aversion to plastic *hate* Romney.

    It’s quite the spectacle, given how sedate and predetermined most GOP primaries are.

  6. Anderson says:

    The Left’s Hillary-hatred pales in comparison to the Right’s McCainophobia.

    What both parties need to be doing is going back to the drawing board and revising or abandoning the party-primary system.