Monday, December 05, 2005

Meanwhile, on the right ...

I may not be one of the best connected Washington listening posts, but interesting things do come across my desk from time to time ...

Last week WR paid a good deal of attention to questions facing the Democrats. But the Republicans also have their own baggage to deal with going into the 2006 and more importantly the 2008 elections.

For the first time in living U.S. political memory, the sitting vice-president is not the presumptive nominee of his party for the presidency. At the same time, the sitting president has eroding approval ratings and popular support.

The dilemma that Republicans face is what to do about the Bush legacy. Run on it, run against it, or "modify" it.

The president retains the allegiance of a hard core of supporters for whom the posturing and positioning of some of the Republican Senators skirts close to treasonous, backstabbing behavior. The first challenge is how to retain the core but be able to reach out, first to disaffected Republicans and then to centrist voters--to put together a majority that can first win the primaries and then the general election.

A number of social conservatives, for their part, are getting fed up with the perceived "bait and switch" tactics of the national Republicans--and the failed Harriet Miers nomination brought many of these resentments out into the open.

A major bellweather is going to be what Senator Brownback (R-KS) does. He has been described to me as the "Howard Dean" of the Republicans--someone capable of unleashing a great deal of enthusiasm and to bring a large number of grass-roots supporters into the process--in his case, tapping into the megachurches around the country. Brownback could run on the theme of "completing" what Bush started or argue that the president betrayed (or more likely, those around the president betrayed) the agenda.

Someone like Senator Hagel (R-NE) might run on a restorationist platform--a need for Republicans to return to the guiding principles of Eisenhower and Reagan (balance and moderation).

Senator McCain (R-AZ) is still poised to capture the "maverick" label, with his odd amalgamation of hard-core conservative views with his reputation for bipartisanship and independence creating for him the impression of someone who rises above narrow party lines to pursue the national interest--and it is interesting that some posit a "post-party" McCain/Lieberman ticket for 2008. (Others talk about a McCain/Condoleezza Rice pairing).

I was told by a Republican source that the outcome of the 2006 elections will set the tenor for 2008. If the Republicans face major losses, the question will be asked: are voters angry with the Bush platform, or with its execution (vision versus compentence)--and that prospective 2008 candidates will adjust accordingly.

Interestingly, the Republicans may turn to the same strategy that I think Democrats absolutely need to embrace if they are to be a viable force--the outside-the-Beltway governor, someone who doesn't have his fingerprints all over Iraq strategy. (But someone other than Jeb Bush, whose star in Florida has begun to flicker in recent years.) Romney of Massachussetts has already been profiled, but you have others--Owens in Colorado, Taft in Ohio--who can run as "compassionate conservatives."

Senators start out with a lot of advantages--name recognition, position, easy access to the national media, fundraising base, and usually a good political organization--that makes them early favorites in handicapping presidential races. But the culture of the Senate handicaps them on the campaign trail and the voting record has so many pitfalls ...

Plus candidates attractive to the inside the beltway crowd don't always stir the blood of the rest of the country.

I think that "dream" candidates--it used to be Powell, now I guess people tout McCain--play better for t.v. storylines than real politics. It's the candidates who are able to build the local machines that will survive, and I think that candidates who can tap into the same marketing network that made Passion of the Christ into a hit movie will be the ones who come out on top. I think this rules out not only McCain but Hagel as well.
It's a bit premature to be deciding the 2008 elections, because the critical factor is yet to be decided--the Bush legacy. If by 2007 most troops have returned from Iraq and the economy has rebounded, the president is strengthened and he is in a stronger position to nominate his heir.

Senatorial mavericks never end up being good presidential candidates. I don't know about governors at this point, but the Republicans have a long term advantage over Democrats in a rising number of young executives gaining experience.
Statistical research has already demonstrated that the public responds more favorably to outsider executive types--that is, governors with good state track records--than to senators or strategy types. And this is not just because senator are more connected to the beltway. It seems that the public responds well to the big-picture leadership style that characterizes effective state governorship. The nuanced, strategic, compromisatory stances most senators are forced to take by the legislative institution in which they serve isn't condusive to building a confident, pro-active leadership image.

In this election I'd definitely look to the governors, at least on the GOP side.
again i agree that state governors are the probable ticket
Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter
but which repubs

Owens in Colorado -?- the right hates him because he abandoned them on taxes
Taft in Ohio -?- he is under indictment ??? the Ohio machinme is more corrupt than the national level republicans if that is possible

as an aside
i have recently heard the lumping of reagan with eisenhower which you have re-stated; ????; please explain; from my point of view, there is virtually no connection at all - certainly not in domestric affairs; were it not for the fact that he faced a democrat controlled congress, he would have been very similar to the current WH occupant
As it has been explained to me, the invocation of Eisenhower and Reagan has been in iconic rather than in a sense of following or advocating specific policies; the idea that both softened the harder edged conservatism and were supposedly willing to allow ideology to be bounded by pragamtism and moderation.

What I also find interesting is how the Reagan legacy is up for grabs--was he a precursor to GWB in foreign policy or his opponent. The neocons have argued that Reagan was a neocon who would have done what GWB is doing today given the opportunity; other conservatives argue completely differently. Robert Tucker made that very clear in his piece in the fall 2005 TNI.

The invocation of Reagan is also as someone who could appeal across party lines as well as balance together different conservative factions; again, this tends to be more of an iconic view of Reagan than reality.

He couldn't win a GOP primary for dogcatcher in Columbus.

For him, it's the Big House, not the White House.
I stnad corrected on Taft--again, the perils of inside the Beltway myopia.
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