A 2007 New Year’s Resolution About 2008
One of my New Year’s resolutions is not to talk about the 2008 Presidential election until at least next June. But since the New Year hasn’t quite arrived, allow me a few observations…
1. If Barack Obama wants to run, it has to be now. If he waits, he will marginalize himself when he tries to position himself as a “moderate” or a centrist four-to-eight years from now, in spite of the heavily-liberal voting record that he will almost certainly have accrued.
Bear in mind that the last sitting Senator to win the Presidency (John F. Kennedy) was considered “inexperienced”, in Senate terms, when he decided to run. And consider the inverse formulation — do you really believe that four/eight more years of the experience that has made Joe Biden the man he is today will somehow make Senator Obama a more attractive candidate?
2. During the initial stages of the campaign, it will be fascinating to watch most of the Democrats claim that they are really moderates (John Edwards has already started), while most of the Republicans will be stressing how they are either acceptable to conservatives, or are the “true” conservatives.
Republicans, at the national level, need to examine why they aren’t able to make more political hay in an environment like this. Is it poor organization? Or is the problem that (perhaps because of the liberal worldview that places politics before all else?) liberals can be counted on to energetically strongly support Democrats, no matter what positions they espouse (creating, by the way, the structural advantage that Democrats have in places that allow straight-ticket voting), while conservative-leaning voters are not energized unless they hear coherent ideas from the candidates they support?
3. John McCain has an uphill battle in front of him. 1) McCain-Feingold makes him unpopular with the new media. 2) His sudden enthusiasm for amnesty for illegal aliens is going to hurt him with the populist elements of the electorate. And make no mistake about it, populists are an important Republican constituency. Ross Perot’s peeling away of populists from the Republican party, for example, was what opened the way for Bill Clinton. 3) If McCain does assume frontrunner status for an extended period of time, his free ride with the MSM will be over. The relationship between Republican underdogs, which McCain traditionally has been, and the MSM is like the relationship between backup quarterbacks and sports fans. The #2 guy can be the most popular guy in town, until he has to start a few games…
4. Like many Republicans, I’m waiting to see what substance Rudolph Guiliani brings to the table. However, Guiliani’s “moderateness” is not necessarily a deal-breaker, if it turns out he really is a moderate (ala Gerald Ford) and not a liberal (ala Lincoln Chafee). In recent years, liberal Republicans have re-defined moderate bi-partisanship to mean “doing what the most liberal of Democrats want on every important issue”. This has opened a vacuum in the middle that could create a dynamic that someone like Guiliani (or McCain, if not for his other problems) could take advantage of. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing, just that it is.