Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rudderless Republicans?

I have never seen the GOP so adrift. Over the years, there have been battles between conservatives and centrists: Goldwater vs. Nixon, Ford vs. Reagan; and George W. Bush was a bit of a smoke-filled-room candidate in the first place, as the party establishment looked for someone to forestall a too right-wing candidate (a strategy that proves ironic). But unlike the Democrats, the Republicans always seemed to be a well-defined group. Certainly a great part of Republican political strength over the past 30 years has been a sense that there was at least a well-defined philosophy of government, something the Democrats have lacked since the final collapse of the old FDR coalition and the rise of conservativism in the late 1970s. Today Fred Thompson is getting bad reviews for his performance on the stump. He has George Allen's problem: he was touted as Reaganesque. When they compare you to Ronald Reagan, run for the door. You've nowhere to go but down. The enthusiasm for Thompson in the party is itself a reflection of the absence of any clear hero for the party to take to the people. Giuliani is today the front runner, with this great carom shot: he thrived in the earliest part of the season on the basis of Bush 2004 national security demagoguery: some of the hardest right-wingers bouyed him up then. Now, the national polls are showing evidence that the centrist rank and file think he is the best hope for confronting Hillary Clinton, on the basis of his relatively liberal views on domestic policy. But I doubt the voters will go for imitation Hillary when they can get the real thing. There are still some vitals signs coming from John McCain (story of his life), about whom nothing is unacceptable except that he's unacceptable. Mitt Romney is barely more noticable than McCain in the national media, the last news story I saw the commentary was that everyone would be shocked if they knew how much of the campaign money was actually his own money. Meanwhile Ron Paul is showing up at the bottom of the graphs, a presence with, maybe, 5 points. Welcome to Babylon.

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