Monday, March 19, 2007

'08 analysis- the Republicans

The outlook here is much brighter than it was when I did my first analysis back in May. George Allen and Bill Frist are out. Actually just about all Republicans who were closely identified with the current President are out. This is a good thing. Now, on to the contenders:

Rudy Giuliani-I predicted that he might not run, but he's in, and now leading by a wide margin over second place John McCain. He's a bona fide superstar. Democrats are already trying to knock him down a peg by claiming that his popularity is based on 9/11 and that he was not very popular in New York prior to that. Nonsense. Rudy Giuliani turned New York around. Yes, he upset a lot of people, but his approval ratings were always consistently high and he won reelection easily in 1997. The big question hanging over his head is whether or not social conservatives will get behind him once they find out about his past and his stance on social issues.

John McCain- McCain apparently made a calculation sometime last year. He knew that his biggest obstacle to the Presidency was winning the nomination. In order to do that, he had to mend fences with the Republican base. He figured he'd lose some Reagan Democrats and independents, but considering he was leading Democratic opponents in frickin' Massachusetts as late as summer 2006, he could afford to give up some of that support. He had independent votes to give up, but was short on Republican votes. So far, that strategy is backfiring. He's lost independent support and gained little from Republicans. He's in second place and is only slightly leading Democrats in trial heat polls. He needs to recapture that 2000 magic. It failed in 2000 because he was up against an extraordinarily well financed, high name recognition candidate. Now he's the best financed candidate with the best name recognition. He needs to go back to doing what voters loved about him.

Newt Gingrich- Still hasn't declared. Better do it soon if he wants to compete. Almost a sure loser if he does win the nomination. Gingrich is the Republicans' version of Hillary Clinton. Everyone's already made up their mind about him and half of Americans have decided they don't like him.

Mitt Romney- his stock continues to rise, but he may have hit the ceiling. He's discovered conservatism VERY recently and his explanations for his sudden change of heart have not been particularly convincing.

Jim Gilmore- ex-governor of Virginia. Did a pretty good job by all accounts, but not good enough to be considered Presidential material. There's only room for one governor in a nomination contest, and Romney is it.

Sam Brownback- Still appeals to religious conservatives, but even if he was electable in a general election, he holds no appeal outside that religious base.

Chuck Hagel- I said back in May that he was the poor man's John McCain. Now that McCain is now trying to become Mr. Mainstream Republican, the maverick slot is open for Hagel. While he has no support right now, if the Iraq war continues to go badly GOP voters might find that he's the only guy with a chance to win. Also keep in mind these facts:

1) Hagel is from Nebraska and will probably do well in Iowa. Hagel is a maverick, so will probably do well in New Hampshire. He won't win either state, but he may do well enough to be the main serious opposition left to whoever the frontrunner is.

2) As of now, 19% of Republicans are anti-war. As the only anti-war candidate on the GOP side, he might be able to count on that 19% as a base. Expect that base to expand if the war continues to go poorly.

Ron Paul- For libertarians, a long-awaited entry into a GOP nominating contest. He stands at 2% right now, but has barely gotten started. His early attempts to raise money have gone well. His biggest problems? Lack of charisma, unwillingness to compromise, he's only a Representative, and a staunch libertarian won't beat a Democrat in the current climate.

Mike Huckabee- One of five ex-governors in the race. Probably the worst of the lot. He's got likeability, but he was a big spender. Like Brownback, he's made religion a big part of his run.

Tom Tancredo- He was in, then he was out, now he's in again. He's still got no chance. His only issue is immigration.

Tommy Thompson- On the merits, the best governor in the field, but so far not attracting much attention. He won four terms in Wisconsin and was the primary mover and shaker behind the 1996 welfare reform. He is to welfare reform what Giuliani was to law and order. He was also one of the few competent Bush cabinet officials when he ran HHS.

Duncan Hunter- a Representative who is not showing up in the polls much yet, but who is generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among conservative bloggers. Has a good resume( a combat veteran), and has been a leader on conservative issues in the House. While I don't think he can win the nomination, he'll do better than expected considering he's just a Representative.

Frank Thompson- a supposed wildcard entry if he runs, but I don't see it. While he has some starpower, he stakes pretty much the same positions John McCain does that got McCain in trouble with the base.

So, getting down to brass tacks:

Iowa- I have no idea. McCain won't win it. Period. Giuliani could because he's the biggest name. Thompson probably deserves to win it, and if he gets a good campaign apparatus, he just may. If Iraq is still a disaster and still in the headlines, Hagel could win it.

New Hampshire- McCain will win here. Giuliani will do well, Hagel will do well if(see Iowa). Romney will either die here or come back here. Since NH is the home of the libertarian Free State project, Paul should pull at least 10%.

South Carolina- McCain will win here as well. If any of the other candidates stay close, it's still a race heading into Super Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5. I think Giuliani will still be in it and that's about it. McCain will probably come out ahead.

So my current prediction is still the same as before: Clinton vs. McCain. McCain will win and be our 44th President. Still a-ok with a cherry on top with me.