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LOVE BOAT! The ground moved under Saint McCain’s feet when Matthews came out for Saint Rudy: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2006

LOVE BOAT: We thought Chris Matthews made a major move concerning Campaign 08 last week. Has the ground begun to shift under John McCain’s feet? On Wednesday, Matthews came just this close to “endorsing” Rudy Giuliani. First, Matthews praised Ed Rogers’ vast wealth. Then, he made a prediction:
MATTHEWS (7/12/06): I’m back with Democratic strategist Jenny Backus and former adviser to the president Ed Rogers. Ed Rogers, you have rank here. You had a much bigger job than Jenny ever had.

ROGERS: I’m older, I’m a lot older.

BACKUS: I’m trying to get there.

MATTHEWS: Well, you also have a bigger house, probably. Let me ask you about Rudy Giuliani. We just had a little joust off-camera—I’m always told don’t waste it off-camera. I believe he’s not only running, I think he’s going to win the whole thing come around the next election, the way things look right now.

Backus expressed the standard objections; Giuliani’s too liberal on social issues to capture the GOP nomination. But Matthews, reasoning like Socrates of old, explained why Rudy will get to the White House:
MATTHEWS: Here’s my thought. I want to throw it out again, I’m not going to argue again. I’ve got a position, I think he`s going to win the next presidential election, but let me tell you something. I think the No. 1 issue, check me on this, both of you, you first: Is security the No. 1 issue in the country right now?

BACKUS: Absolutely, not even a question.

MATTHEWS: Security on the streets, walking at home tonight with your kids, being safe in your apartment or your home, is the No. 1 issue in the country?

BACKUS: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Who`s tougher than him on security out there, Democrat or Republican?

BACKUS: I think the question’s out there.

MATTHEWS: Who`s tougher than him on security?

ROGERS: He is the toughest and the most credible.

Semi-haplessly, Backus said that John Kerry is “pretty tough” on security, too. After saying that Kerry lacked “street cred,” Matthews extended his theory:
MATTHEWS: We`ve got a murder problem in Washington, D.C., in Baltimore, in Philly. There`s something going on, it’s not the economy. We’ve got a street problem and isn’t Rudy the toughest cop in the country?

BACKUS: I’m not sure though.

ROGERS: He’s the most credible, that`s for sure.

MATTHEWS: You could walk around New York when he was mayor and wander around late at night and you felt safe as hell.

This strikes us as utterly childish. But later, speaking with a panel, Matthews pushed his theoretic again. My God, how that man could fight crime!
CHRIS CILLIZZA: The reality is, if you ask people about Rudy Giuliani, they say September 11, New York City mayor. Most people don’t know that Rudy Giuliani favors abortion rights. Most people don`t know that he favors gay marriage, and when they find out about it—

MATTHEWS: You know what they know? You know what they know? You can walk through the streets when he was mayor, and come home alive. They know that, so don’t say they don`t know a lot about him!

CILLIZZA: I agree, but I don`t know that Iowa caucus-goers vote on walking through the streets of New York City and coming home alive. I think they vote on things like abortion.

MATTHEWS: Des Moines then.

Matthews also cited a new poll. In it, Giuliani leads (again) among Republicans in the race for the nomination. (Giuliani 29 percent; McCain 24.)

Matthews has always loved (and fawned to) the great crime-fighting Giuliani. But as we watched him make his prediction, we though we saw the earth move a bit beneath the feet of McCain. In various ways, politics has been shifting a bit for McCain as he’s made his recent moves to the right. But last Wednesday’s effusive display by Matthews represents a defection by one of Washington’s major press players. We don’t know what this statement might mean. But we’ll guess that McCain’s camp took note.

Why has Matthews broken for “America’s Mayor?” (Fawning scribes know to call him that when he deigns to grant them an audience.) We don’t have the slightest idea. This defection may reflect a simple fact—it’s hard to maintain a silly story-line over a period of nine years. (By 2008, it will have been that long since the fawning press corps really began to build its “Saint McCain” story-line.) Or it may reflect a type of tribal bonding among northeastern urban ethnics. (Random question: Who does Jack Welch favor?) But we were struck by Matthews’ enthusiastic prediction—and yes, we think it’s worth noting. It may turn out to be a blip on the screen. Or have the feckless poobahs of the multimillionaire press corps begun to tire of Saint McCain, the greatest known modern-day human?

A FAMILY AFFAIR: As noted, Matthews has long swooned over Rudy (ditto Arnold; ditto McCain). To appearances, he “came out” last Wednesday in part because of something his brother had told him:

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, now that you`re all revved up there, Lynn Sweet. My brother—and I always like to remind people of this, although I am not involved at all—is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican. He is a Republican.

And he spent the day—I just talked to him on the phone a couple of hours ago. He spent the day with Rudy Giuliani, and his son and—both, they say this guy is so hot, so revved up, so juiced up right now politically that he is running, they think he is running for president. What do you think, Lynn?

“I believe he`s running, and he`s going all the way,” the excited host said a few moments later. Just a guess: Observers at the Saint McCain Camp saw this as a worrying move.

STRANGE BOATS: Regarding the shape of Campaign 08: Whether the GOP nomimates Rudy or John, the press corps is plainly pre-set for a swoon. How will Campaign 08 be spun? Campaign 04 involved a swift-boating. But Dems and liberals must understand: This next time, we’ll be in the Love Boat.