I arrived at the island as an uncommitted voter. I left even more of an undecided voter, although if Newt Gingrich declared at the island, I'd probably sign up for his campaign. Newt really stole the show there.
Tancredo, Brownback and unfortunately Huckabee backed out. I wanted to hear Huckabee speak considering his strong performance at the debates. I never heard him in person yet. I missed the speeches from Rudy, McCain, Duncan Hunter, and Fred Thompson. Right Michigan, Bill Nowling, E.M. Zanotti, and Redstate have some posts on Mackinac including the speeches that I missed. I did catch McCain who spoke briefly at a different event Friday night. Earlier that day, McCain was at an NRA event. Code Pink jokers came in there and disrupted the event, and McCain told them that they were defeated before and would be defeated again. One thing that did impress me with McCain there is that he talked to a lot of people after his speech - and not just those who paid the extra $60 it costs for the dinners on the conference. I don't see that a lot with candidates anymore.
I did see Ron Paul and Mitt Romney's speeches. Ron Paul did a good job and had some good support there - enough to make some of the establishment more than a little nervous. Much of his attacks are on the size of government. He's also no fan of globalization, and there is a strong anti-globalist view still in the GOP, particulary on trade issues among Michiganders. I'm no fan of the WTO myself, although I did think Ron Paul should have added one thing on his WTO attack - that they are unelected bureaucrats with control over Michigan and American trade with other countries. I don't agree with everything he says, but after eight years of a moderate southern democrat (at least in practice) masquerading as a republican in Bush, small government is a good message.
Romney's speech was a disapointment. I look at his business background, his work with budgets in Massachusetts, and work with the olympics, and would have liked to hear much more on that. "It's the economy, stupid." I really don't give a rat's rear end about gay marriage right now (That fight's over in Michigan), and I don't like amending the constitution. There was some good in his speech, mostly about ethics and issues like that. We can't put with the Don Sherwoods, Mark Foleys, and Duke Cunninghams of the world. Romney can deliver that message and needs to keep that. He needs to run on his strength and stop pandering to a suspicious right. To the "religious right", it's the records that matter most, and they will always doubt him because of his Massachusetts record. They will also respect him less for pandering. I'm not a "religious right" voter outside of the life issue (which is the BIGGEST issue among the RR), but I do know many conservative Catholics and evangelicals, and they are sophisticated voters who do not like pandering or hypocracy among candidates. Romney has a shot to win those voters with his personal background, judicial stance, and fiscal plans. He has no shot to win them by talking about "In God we Trust" on the side of coins, or by running on gay marriage. "I'm conservative too" isn't good enough. Right now, fiscal trumps all in Michigan. I have not shut the door on Romney, but I'd like to heat a lot more about his fiscal plans and it will be harder for him to get my vote after Mackinac.
The blogs section was interesting and a good introduction to those thinking about blogging or commenting on blogs. The pollsters and pundits section was good as always, and a lot of the talk was about rebuilding the majority and restablishing our brand - that gets to the star of the convention - Newt Gingrich.
Then there was Newt Gingrich. Gingrich stole the show. If he announced a presidential run, I would have been on board. It was a standing room only speech. The Grand Hotel had a whole bunch of extra chairs them moved for the event. It was still standing room only. Unfortunately, I didn't have a video camera with me, since this posting here does not do the speech justice.
The sad part is that most of what Newt said was no more than plain old common sense. 2008 is a change election. "Real change requires real change" is what was repeated to us. Most of the public is sick and tired of "red state" vs "blue state". The system is broke. Our levees and bridges shouldn't fail, and neglect from both parties in Congress, 16 years of Bush/Clinton, and the rest. If the infastructure isn't working right, it's gotta be fixed.
One other mistake is the GOP writing off historicaly democrat voters. Newt only briefed on this, but it is important. It's a mistake for the GOP to ignore the leftist media. It's a mistake to write off black voters and Mexican voters. That's one problem. It's going to be 93-7 and 70-30 democrat voting as long as that's done. Another problem the GOP has when courting those voters is pandering. After time in Mackinac, we all know what horse manure is when we see it. They do too. At the same time, you don't alienate your base voters when you campaign. That's when you get the immigration debacle which you have now. You deal with it in two parts. Border Security first, then immigration. I also haven't heard anything from the politicians about Hezbollah terrorists crossing our border at Nogales. That can change the focus from Mexicans to others.
The issues mentioned were 80-10 issues. Border security, tax and spend, big bloated government and education. Let's remember than while tons of people talk the talk on budgets, it was Newt who balanced the last federal budget, even getting that joker Clinton to follow kicking and screaming. Newt's other point is just as important as the issues, is the way it is communicated. It has to be communicated in a non-political way. The tax increase here in Michigan is a jobs killing tax increase.
Lastly, he spoke of a clean break from the present. The comparison of the current GOP situation was made of the center-right government in France. The incumbent, Jacques Chirac was leaving and it looked like the socialist party would take over. Sarkozy was of Chirac's party and ran on real change. He won. It can be done here as well after Bush is gone, but there has to be real change. Luckily for us, all three major democrats running (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) are Washington jokers who are promising the same ole song and dance. There's the opening. Who will take it?
The straw poll was not a real surprise. A lot of camps brought their people up - Romney, McCain, and Ron Paul especially.
M. Romney 383 39.12%
J. McCain 260 26.56%
R. Paul 106 10.83%
Rudy Giuliani 104 10.62%
F. Thompson 70 7.15%
M. Huckabee 25 2.55%
Uncomm 16 1.63%
D. Hunter 12 1.23%
S. Brownback 3 .31%
T. Tancredo 0 0%