Over recent months more and more Republicans have become depressed at the party’s chances in the 2008 elections: there’s the remaining stink of the corruption scandals and free-spending ways that cost them so heavily in 2006 (though the Democratic majority is trying hard to out-stink them); an unpopular war pushed by an unpopular president (though things have so turned around in Iraq that even the press has had to notice); a perception of economic troubles (though the economy by any rational measure is going great guns); and an aura of invincibility and inevitability that’s grown around the likely Democratic nominee, Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton (D –
SEC Violations NY).
That last is particularly odd, since it seems to be a spillover from the Democratic nomination race: the press has anointed Hillary the nominee before any votes have been cast. Their propaganda on her behalf encourages people to back her and donors to give money, leading to great poll numbers and fabulous fundraising figures, which the press then declares to be proof of her frontrunner status, thus completing the circle. (And if you buy into the inevitability argument, I have two words for you: Howard Dean.)
The Hillary chorus has become so loud that it’s affected the Republican race, with many Republicans thinking they have no chance against the Clinton machine. No matter whom they nominate, Hillary can’t be beat.
Not so fast, writes Charles Krauthammer. Compared to the Democratic frontrunners, the Republicans have some pretty impressive candidates:
The point is … to argue that in 2007 we have, by any reasonable historical standard, a fine Republican field: One of the great big-city mayors of the last century; a former governor of extraordinary executive talent; a war hero, highly principled and deeply schooled in national security; and a former senator with impeccable conservative credentials.
So why all the angst? If you’d like to share just a bit of my serenity, have a look at last Sunday’s Republican debate in Orlando. It was a feisty affair, the candidates lustily bashing each other’s ideological deficiencies — Mike Huckabee called it a "demolition derby" — and yet strangely enough, the entire field did well.
McCain won the night by acclamation with a brilliant attack on Hillary that not so subtly highlighted his own unique qualification for the presidency. Citing his record on controlling spending, he ridiculed Hillary’s proposed $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum. He didn’t make it to Woodstock, McCain explained. He was "tied up at the time."
How do you beat that? McCain’s message is plain: Sure, I’m old, worn and broke. But we’re at war. Who has more experience in, fewer illusions about, and greater understanding of war — and an unyielding commitment to win the one we are fighting right now?
Giuliani was his usual energetic, tough-guy self. He fended off attacks on his social liberalism with a few good volleys of his own — at Thompson, for example, for being a tort-loving accessory to the trial lawyers — and by making the fair point that he delivers a conservatism of results. His message? I drove the varmints out of New York City — with their pornography, their crime and their hookers (well, a fair number, at least). Turn me loose on the world.
Romney’s debate performance was as steady and solid and stolid as ever, becoming particularly enthusiastic when talking about the things he’s done — build a business, rescue the Winter Olympics, govern the most liberal state in the Union. He got especially animated talking about his Massachusetts health care reform, achieved by working with an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature. His message? I’m a doer, a problem solver, a uniter.
As for Thompson, he is a paradox, too. He’s been around forever — since Watergate — and yet is mostly a blank slate. Can anybody remember anything of significance he achieved in his eight years in the Senate? Nonetheless, he helped himself in Orlando, showing that while he can be appealingly amiable and affable — a Reaganesque quality that should not be underestimated when people decide who they want in their living rooms for the next four years — he can be tough, as demonstrated by his opening salvo at Giuliani’s social liberalism.
Compare that to the Democrats: Hillary is a one-term senator of little accomplishment and a record of abrasive ineffectualness when she was First Lady; Obama is a half-term senator and ex-state legislator with little record to speak of; Edwards spent most of his one term in the Senate running for president or vice-president; and Richardson, with arguably the best resume, is little more than a Clinton apparatchik who had the bad sense to take the execrable Joe Wilson on as a foreign policy advisor.
That isn’t to replace pessimism with irrational exuberance and say the Republicans are destined to win the presidential race. Far from it. Aside from keeping their own party together, which could be quite difficult if Rudy is the nominee, the Republicans have to show independent voters and conservative Democrats that they are worthy to govern again, that they have the best approach to the problems facing America. It’s a tough sell, but they have four excellent candidates to make the pitch.
(hat tip: Blue Crab Boulevard)
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, 2008 election