Friday, December 30, 2005

The Republicans' 2008 nominee: depressing prospects.

If I weren’t so disgusted with the way the Republican Party’s been heading lately, I might actually feel sorry for them. They’ve got a pretty weak bench for 2008. I’ve heard a lot of Republican names tossed around as possible presidential candidates, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a strong candidate who looks like he (or she) could win an election. Consider these:

Gov. Mitt Romney (MA)—He's already abandoned his 2006 reëlection bid as well as any interest in governing his state. I get the feeling that Romney hopes to run as a conservative who’s obviously a conservative because people in his own state of Massachusetts loathe him. Considering Romney’s father George Romney, it’s obvious that sometimes the apple really does fall far from the tree.

Gov. George Pataki (NY)—Wake me up when he stops talking.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (NY)—He favors abortion rights and he favors treating gays as human beings. As if that weren’t enough to alienate him from his own party, Giuliani has had a few mistresses, guaranteeing he’ll never make it out of the primaries.

Gov. Tom Ridge (PA)—Maybe, but he didn’t really impress as Homeland Security Director, and he doesn’t seem to be interested in running, anyway. My theory is that he’s holding out to run for Sen. Arlen Specter’s seat, who’s retiring in 2010.

Sen. Rick Santorum (PA)—Santorum’s already retracted his presidential ambitions. Considering he’s the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate right now, I’d say that’s a wise move. I don’t think he’ll even keep his job this year.

Sen. George Allen (VA)—Solid conservative credentials and popular in his own state, Allen is one of the Republicans’ best candidates for 2008. But is he too conservative for mainstream America? We’ll see.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (NC)—Seems Dole was something of a dud in 2000. She went down early in the primaries, complaining that money is ruining politics. (Say, who won that primary, anyway?) Dole’s Senate seat is up for reëlection in 2008 also, which makes it seem unlikely that she’d abandon it in order to run for president.

Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA)—He talks about running for president again. I kinda don’t think he will, but all that talk will sure help him sell more books!

Sec’y of State Condoleezza Rice (AL)—She won’t even run. I honestly don’t see where anyone gets the idea that she could win—unless you count the racists and sexists who think that blacks and women would feel bound to vote for her because she’s black and a woman.

Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush (FL)—He’s said that he’s not interested in running in 2008, and I’ll bet that America will be going through Bush fatigue by then. If he runs, it would be smart to wait until 2012, but I have a feeling that by then America won’t be crying out for another Bush, either. We were dumb enough to restore the Bushes once, but I don’t think we’ll do it again.

Sen. Bill Frist (TN)—Once the darling of the right wing, Senator Frist has been bogged down in scandal, which won’t be forgotten in time for the primaries. Even without his stock scandal, Frist wasn’t that strong a candidate to begin with.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN)—Occasionally mentioned as a strong possibility, Pawlenty’s sagging poll numbers have relegated him to second-tier status. It doesn’t look good for him.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)—Gov. Huckawho? Could this largely unknown governor and native of Hope, Arkansas catapult himself to the Oval Office? It’s been done before, I understand, but I don’t know if it could be done again. If the governor can define himself in the public eye better, he might have a shot, but I can’t think of any accomplishment of his that surpasses his having lost 100 lbs. in a year. If that’s a prime qualification for the presidency, then Jerod Fogle would thump Huckabee in an election.

Sen. Sam Brownback (KS)—The state that gave us Alf Landon and Bob Dole will give us another also-ran. Don’t expect much energy from this guy. (Attention nitpickers: I know that Alf Landon was actually born in Pennsylvania, but he made his name in Kansas, so I give Kansas the credit.)

Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE)—This maverick has defied Bush and hasn’t kissed up to the Christian Right enough. He’s the kind of medicine that the Republican Party needs, for the most part, but I suspect the party won’t take it.

Vice President Dick Cheney (WY)—He never was presidential material, and now he’s even lower in the polls than George W. Bush. He’s also said he won’t run, despite the speculation of some. I don’t see it happening.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO)—Tancredo is running on an anti-immigrant platform, which is depressing to watch, and might serve to drive all the Republican primary candidates to the right, which will help none of them. The mere existence of Tancredo's campaign would be a poison pill to the Republicans' hopes of holding onto the White House in 2008.

Sen. John McCain (AZ)—His time is passed. We’ll see him raise holy heck in the Senate for years to come, but McCain could never take the helm of today’s fractious Republican Party and saunter into the White House, like he could have in 2000, had he not been savaged by the Bush campaign. Plus McCain will be 72 in 2008. Sure, they’re long-lived in the McCain family, but would the cancer-and-Karl Rove-surviving McCain be up to the ten-year marathon that would begin with an announcement in early 2007? I suspect not.

I think that covers all of them, but there might be one or two that I’m missing. If so, please fill me in. I’m always interested to learn more.

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