Thursday, March 29, 2007

Early look at the 2008 US Presidential Race

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on March 1st 2007 in Metro Eireann
By Charles Laffiteau

So who do I like in the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes? I will dispense with the horse racing vernacular and try to explain my reasoning using what little “horse sense” some people think I possess.

For starters, I believe the upcoming 2008 Presidential election will end up being one of the nastiest and most expensive set of primary and general elections in US history. Why? Because I think the Republican Party will pull out all the stops in an attempt to regain the footing they lost in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Those mid-term elections were largely a referendum on the Bush Presidency and although it was a stinging defeat for the Republican Party, the election was much closer than it appeared, given the total reversal of the House majority which transpired between the Democratic and Republican camps. Congressional redistricting is still five years away and until then, the Democrats are going to have a tough time holding on to some of those 33 seats they won in the 2006 mid-term elections.
Some of those new Democratic seats were won in staunchly Republican districts thanks largely to ethics and corruption charges against the Republican incumbents. Other seats were won by very narrow margins of only a few hundred votes in normally Republican districts in Georgia and Ohio.

The Republican Party is painfully aware of how close they came to winning a number of those seats and will stop at nothing to win them back in the 2008 elections. Most Republican incumbents and potential candidates in newly Democratic districts are already distancing themselves from the President and his policies, in an attempt to avoid any further wrath from voters who are increasingly at odds with the President’s Iraq war strategies.

Barring some dramatic turnaround in the situation in Iraq, I don’t expect to see President Bush asked to help Republican candidates out on the campaign trail in 2008 in any battleground states or congressional districts. Most Democrats in these areas would like nothing better than to get some videos or pictures of their Republican opponents, standing beside the President. I think the Republicans are way too smart to let that happen though.

One sign of the President’s low standing is the fact that in just the first 3 days, over 10,000 Methodists in Dallas (most of whom probably voted for Bush) signed a petition opposing Southern Methodist University’s selection as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Usually, Presidential Libraries are highly sought after by cities and their universities as popular tourist attractions and prestigious academic “crown jewels.” Such rapidly escalating opposition comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

As for the Republican candidates to replace President Bush in 2008, here is my assessment of them and their respective chances at this stage early in the race. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is now out of a job in a southern state which has apparently returned to the Democratic fold. He is a darling of the Christian conservatives. Another of their fair haired boys is Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who will be out of a job in 2010 because he announced during his 2004 election campaign, that he would not run for another term because he supports term limits.

Both of them will get votes from the social conservatives of the Republican Party, but have little chance of winning the Party’s Presidential nomination. The rest of the field consisting of former New York Governor George Pataki and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge are also out of work politicians who stand little or no chance of winning the party’s nomination, much less the general election. All of the above are just angling for a new job as Vice President on the Republican ticket which will probably be headed by either Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

While I can live with any of these three at the top of the Republican ticket and tolerate one of the others in the Vice President’s slot, I would have to support Rudy Giuliani if the vote were held today. Mitt Romney was my original choice, but I question his flip flopping on abortion and several other issues. I know he’s trying to win over the Christian conservatives, but while playing to that audience will help you in some states Republican primaries; it will not help you in the general election. My concerns about John McCain are mainly about his age and his health, rather than his stance on any particular issues.

Given the mood I sensed when I was back in the states for 3 weeks last month, I think Rudy Giuliani has the best chance of winning the general election against any of his likely Democratic opponents. He has demonstrated leadership skills during his terms as Mayor of New York City and he doesn’t flip flop on the issues to please those Republicans who disagree with him.

On the Democratic side I believe that the Republicans would genuinely celebrate should Hillary Clinton win the Democratic Presidential nomination. The Clinton name at the top of the ticket would galvanize the social conservatives and when they get riled they have demonstrated time and time again the ability to get the vote out. I don’t question Hillary’s abilities or that many of her positions, but I just don’t think she is electable in the general election. I think many Democrats also question her electability and will throw their support to either 2004 Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards or Illinois Senator Barak Obama instead.

Former Senator John Edwards of South Carolina is the Democrat with the best chance of riding the current wave of anti-Bush national sentiment to victory on November 4th 2008 and I think most Republicans and many Democrats would agree with me on this. Edwards has a strong organization in Iowa and if he comes away a winner in the Iowa caucuses, then the momentum he gets there may be all he needs to make him the “winner” Democrats want at the top of their 2008 Presidential ticket.

The rest of the Democratic field is hoping for a stalemate or a major gaffe by one or more of the 3 current front runners to give them a chance. Otherwise they, like some of their Republican counterparts are just going to be angling for a spot at the bottom of the ticket. I would be very surprised to see any of them last much beyond the first month or two of the primaries.

Did I forget about Barak Obama? Not hardly. The good Senator from Illinois will be the subject of my next 2008 Presidential election column.

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