Some thoughts on Republican presidential hopefuls
By Carol Devine-Molin
With President Bush's polling numbers hitting new lows, Republicans appear to be eagerly looking beyond our beleaguered President for fresh leadership. Last Saturday, 3/11/06, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held its straw poll for the duel-purpose of introducing the party faithful to the 2008 presidential wannabees, and assessing their popularity as candidates. At this event, the following participated in the "cattle call": Senator George Allen of Virginia, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is incredibly well-liked and trusted by Americans, was a no-show. It's not even clear if he'll ever run for the White House.
Senator Frist, a favorite son of Tennessee (where the event was held), had significant organization on-the-ground and won the straw poll. Governor Romney came in second. Was I surprised by Romney's excellent showing? No. He's an articulate, handsome, telegenic individual who presents as presidential, and possesses the prerequisite executive experience as a governor of a big state. Clearly, Romney, a moderate, will continue to move to the political right in order to burnish conservative credentials with the GOP grassroots. Moreover, he's not been plagued with personal scandal, which can overwhelm a candidacy. In contrast, Newt Gingrich - who has been toying with the idea of a White House run - would make a terrific president, but the quest would be all but untenable given his personal baggage. That's really unfortunate, since the public would probably gravitate to Newt's speaking style and multiplicity of ideas to reform government. Senator George Allen came in third in the straw poll, and although he apparently does well with Christian conservatives, he really doesn't have the broad appeal necessary to win a national election, in my humble opinion. I'm truly sorry if this upsets Allen supporters. As for John McCain, he took an intriguing, yet manipulative, tact during last Saturday's event, which I'll amplify upon shortly.
One thing is for certain: In the months ahead, GOP presidential hopefuls can expect to be rammed through the mop wringer. Anyone who follows politics knows that whittling down the list of presidential prospects and ultimately choosing a nominee is a rather cold and mercenary process for any party. Tortuous for the candidates? You bet. That's precisely why politics has been referred to as "bloodsport". And Republican candidates have it especially rough and tumble, given the frequently vicious treatment they receive at the hands of the liberal mainstream media (MSM). Unless, of course, if you're Senator John McCain of Arizona, the darling of the partisan media (a.k.a. MSM).
I read the columns and listen to the gobbledygook of Big Media political pundits, and it's obvious that they adore John McCain. Chris Matthews of MSNBC is among the most smitten; For Matthews, it's all McCain, all the time, when discussing presidential politics. His program is pure Leftist spin that makes it unwatchable for most conservatives. What's behind the Left's fondness for John McCain? That crowd is very well aware that conservative Republicans have a deep distrust of John McCain, who is viewed as a stab-in-the-back "maverick" that's often sucking-up to the Democrats and the MSM, and undermining the Republicans and President Bush at key moments. Moreover, McCain is a guy who spearheads matters that are anathema to conservatives.
Simply put, many Republicans question McCain's conservative bona fides, particularly on issues such as the Bush tax cuts. The notion of tax cuts is sacrosanct among conservatives, and is integral to our ideology. Why is that so difficult for McCain to get through his thick skull, particularly when he claims to be a conservative! It's a perfect example of why McCain exasperates conservatives.
And let's not forget that McCain headed up a group of Senate RINOs that cut a deal with Senate Democrats, permitting them to engage in future filibuster of judicial nominees under "extraordinary circumstances". Say what? "Judicial filibuster" isn't even in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution! It's a bogus concept that aids Democrats in their obstructionist mode. McCain thwarted the efforts of the Senate leadership, which was considering implementation of the "nuclear option" or "Constitutional option" as it's frequently dubbed. Because of McCain's interference, "judicial filibuster" is still swinging in the breeze. McCain should have let the members of the Senate leadership address the matter, so that they could have driven a stake in the heart of "juridical filibuster" once and for all. The showdown with Democrats on "judicial filibuster" is sure to raise its ugly head at some future juncture.
Now, as to McCain's tactics at the straw poll event, his skillful use of both Yin and Yang permitted him to throw a monkey wrench into the straw poll proceedings while simultaneously reaching out to the conservative base that's comprised of true blue (true red?) Bush loyalists. I believe the Drudge Report website was spot-on when it noted: "Facing a loss at a 2008 straw poll event this weekend, Senator John McCain of Arizona told his supporters to write in President Bush as a sign of support." Reportedly, McCain averred, "For the next three years, with our country at war, he's our president and the only one who needs our support." Bravo! How sweet! It was certainly a novel way to make brownie points with GOP conservatives. But given the circumstances, people would have to think that McCain was being somewhat disingenuous. And, frankly, McCain owes an apology to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that sponsored the event.
Moreover, it's evident that McCain's newfound outreach to party stalwarts is part of a larger strategy. Dan Balz of the Washington Post noted that "with a 2008 campaign in the offing, McCain has begun an intensive courtship of Bush's financial and political networks. His recent travels included a December swing through the heart of Bush country in Texas that put him in front of many of the president's leading supporters there." Without question, McCain is required to make inroads with the party activists and big-time contributors, if he sincerely wants to occupy the oval office. However, he shouldn't be engaging in obvious stunts that are patently offensive, such as the one he pulled at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Otherwise, Republicans will think that McCain is somewhat Clintonesque in character.
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.
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