Jewish World Review August 30, 2004 / 13 Elul, 5764
John H. Fund
Tryout Time: The 2008 presidential campaign gets under way in New York.
Party conventions no longer determine presidential nominees, but they still serve two major purposes: pep rallies for the party's themes and a chance for political reporters to have a giant reunion. There's another item of business at this year's GOP conclave. Like actors on Broadway, a raft of candidates are quietly auditioning for the 2008 nomination, when the fight for the GOP nomination is guaranteed to be wide open.
The editors of National Review have gone so far as to schedule time for one-on-one interviews with potential 2008 candidates. None of them would openly acknowledge they are running, but when they heard who had already accepted, they quickly made known their availability. Here is a quick field guide to the possible 2008 GOP field, arranged in alphabetical order:
Jeb Bush, Florida governor. There is general agreement among Republicans that Mr. Bush has the brains and the record of accomplishment to make a great president. But he is burdened by his last name and the fear that the Republican Party would be creating a dynasty if he were nominated in 2008. "The GOP is prone to sticking with too few brand names," says conservative activist Brian Berry. "Since 1948, the party has had a Nixon, a Bush or a Dole on every national ticket save for the Goldwater race. A lot of people want new blood even if they love Jeb."
Gov. Bush seems to be signaling he isn't likely to be a candidate. He is skipping this year's convention to focus on recovery efforts from Hurricane Charlie. But political winds change quickly, and should his brother lose this year or have a successful second term, the party may want to turn to a successful governor with a record of attracting Hispanic votes who hails from the ultimate battleground state.
Bill Frist, Tennessee senator and majority leader. Mr. Frist has had a rough time trying to manage a Senate that his party only nominally controls. But he has easily the most compelling story of any senator likely to run in 2008: a heart-transplant surgeon who annually flies to Africa to treat refugees. Mr. Frist was well received at the conservative Council for National Policy meeting in New York last week and is clearly bidding for the support of social conservatives.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor. Mr. Giuliani will be burnishing his own political credentials in his prime-time speech tonight at the same time he touts President Bush's war-fighting record. Look for Mr. Giuliani, as an acknowledged hero of Sept. 11, to try to subtly convince delegates that his record in support of gay rights and liberal abortion laws shouldn't be central to the party's electoral calculations.
Chuck Hagel, Nebraska senator. Mr. Hagel is in the same position as George Pataki: A better-known candidate with similar views to his threatens to steal his base. In Mr. Hagel's case it's John McCain, who has often been his best friend and closest ally in the Senate.
Nonetheless, Mr. Hagel tells reporters: "I will consider a race for the presidency." He is stopping by meetings of the Iowa and New Hampshire delegations this week. His major weakness is a perception that a Bush White House might like him even less than Mr. McCain as a successor. His major strength is that he is best positioned to pick up the votes of Republicans who are skeptical about the war in Iraq.
John McCain, Arizona senator. Although he will be 72 in 2008, Mr. McCain seems to have recovered from a bout with skin cancer. He has scored points with delegates by assiduously stumping for President Bush's re-election, and even conservative commentator Bruce Bartlett thinks "he may be the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton in 2008." His major political problem remains a contrarian streak that makes many delegates wonder how conservatively he would actually govern as president.
Bill Owens, Colorado governor. A successful two-term governor, Mr. Owens seems to have recovered from a recent separation from his wife and is actively talking up delegates here. He clearly sees himself as filling the role Ronald Reagan played when he sought the 1980 Republican nomination: a reform Western governor with a proven track record. His liabilities are a state budget crisis that threatens to undo the state's tough spending restraints and the fact that Colorado isn't a large political base from which to operate.
George Pataki, New York governor. Mr. Pataki's aides are tamping down talk he is running, claiming that his high profile at the convention is to be expected from the host governor. But he is hosting a series of private meetings with key delegates, including one on Saturday on a boat in New York harbor, to sell his story. It is one of steadfastness in the aftermath of Sept. 11, winning three terms in overwhelmingly Democratic New York, and raising $9.5 million for President Bush this year alone. His major liabilities are potential competition from Mr. Giuliani and, until recently, a weak record on budget restraint and rent control. His liberal positions on gay rights and abortion will play well with some delegates while turning off others.
Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota governor. A dark-horse candidate, Mr. Pawlenty has nonetheless demonstrated formidable political skills in governing the only state that hasn't voted Republican for president since 1972. Conservative strategist Paul Weyrich raves about the governor's ability to unite the conservative coalition in his state. A major drawback for his staff is finding a way for him to get national attention. "Right now, people think a Pawlenty is a specialty candy," says one delegate.
Mitt Romney, Massachusetts governor. Scheduled to address the convention the night before President Bush makes his address, Mr. Romney is clearly eyeing the White House. Jody Dow, a delegate from Massachusetts, says his leadership in running the 2002 Winter Olympics and his ability to govern a liberal state with conservative principles make him a natural candidate. But Mr. Romney is under pressure to show he can expand GOP strength in the Massachusetts Legislature in this year's elections. Otherwise, he may find his vetoes increasingly overridden by a Democratic Legislature determined to cut him down to size.
Certainly other candidates could emerge beyond the above nine, but for now many delegates at the New York convention are looking at those names as the most likely to chart a post-George W. Bush future for the party. Among the endless convention speeches and dozens of parties, reporters and party political professionals will be making some cold-eyed observations about which of the candidates is making the best impression on party activists. After all, the Iowa caucuses may be over four years away but you can bet any potential candidate for 2008 is already mastering the airline schedules into Des Moines.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on JWR contributor John H. Fund's column by clicking here.
08/23/04: Why we're refighting Vietnam: Blame McCain-Feingold
08/18/04: Silence of the Lamb: C-SPAN cancels 'Booknotes'
08/16/04: Louisiana North: Why New Jersey is a pit of corruption
08/02/04: Patriotic liberalism
07/28/04: Caught in the Web: How Democrats mobilized online and other campaign tales
06/28/04: Bad ACTors: If Dems want honest elections, why did a Soros-backed group hire criminals to get out the vote?
06/21/04: This Time, Get It Right: Instead of "lawyering up," both parties should be working to prevent another Florida
06/14/04: Don't Pardon Their French: "Good government" Californians embrace the system that produced David Duke
06/07/04: Freedom's Team: How Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II won the Cold War
05/25/04: Don't Touch That Dial?
Radio hosts worry about the FCC's indecency regulations. What about political speech?
05/18/04: Anger Management: Dems start to realize that a campaign of hate won't beat President Bush
05/11/04: Will Sen. Kennedy turn out to be a political liability for John Kerry?
05/04/04: Buyer's Remorse: Dems start to worry that Kerry can't win
04/27/04: Arlen Specter's personality helps make him vulnerable in today's primary
04/20/04: Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks making laws should be a part-time job. He's right
03/23/04: Bragging of foreign support doesn't win many votes in America
03/16/04: The Vanishing Center: In both political parties, the defense of moderation is no virtue
03/09/04: A JFK-NBC Ticket? If Kerry wants to make things interesting, he'll consider Tom Brokaw for veep
03/02/04: As Virginia mulls a tax hike, all Americans should guard their wallets
02/24/04: Marriage of Inconvenience: Why same-sex nuptials make Democrats nervous
02/10/04: Republican Rot: Is Congress's GOP majority becoming as corrupt as the Democrats were?
02/03/04: Moore Trouble: Alabama's former chief justice may challenge Bush for the Religious Right vote
01/13/04: Rage of a Relic: Paul O'Neill is angry that the world has passed him by
01/06/04: Unintended Consequence: How Terry McAuliffe and James Carville created Howard Dean
09/03/03: The Anti-Dean: Why Hillary opposes the Democratic front-runner
06/27/03: The California jurist who may replace Justice O'Connor
06/02/03: Clinton the Hoover: Bill, Hillary and the Dems' political vacuum
05/27/03: Nerd Nirvana: Students are to the right of the faculty even at the U of Chicago
05/16/03: GOPers gain in the land of Humphrey and Mondale
04/28/03: With the war won, it's time for Bush to master the Senate
04/04/03: Is "diversity" on campus even a goal worth pursuing?
03/05/03: Sunday morning with the BBC
02/28/03: Shut Up, They Explained: If you can censor this, thank a teacher
02/21/03: Unmitigated Gaul:
Saddam isn't the only dictator with
whom Jacques Chirac is cozy
02/18/03: Growing number of black officials breaking ranks by calling for a more honest approach to race relations
01/31/03: Half and Half: Republicans have achieved parity among American voters
11/11/02: Sobering Thoughts: The GOP's cup runneth over? No, it's half empty
10/31/02: Blue Gray: California's governor answers a Nobel Prize winner with obscenities
10/14/02: Bad Hair Day: Did Montana Dems exploit antigay prejudice?
10/11/02: The kill-everything senate
09/30/02: Schroeder did what it took to win--but at what cost to Germany?
08/22/02: Buh-Bye Bob, So Long Cynthia : No amount of shouting could've saved Barr or McKinney
07/29/02: GOP: Get Over Panic --- Dems are vulnerable on corporate scandals, too
07/17/02: Not Just an Average Joe: A black GOPer may give Rep. Eliot Engel a run for his money
07/15/02: The McCain Mutiny-II
07/01/02: Opening the Schoolhouse Door: The politicians can't stop school choice now
06/20/02: The Body' Bows Out --- American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura
06/06/02: It's time for President Bush to stand up to California's senators
05/16/02: A Court Intrigue: Procedural funny business in a racial-preference case
05/14/02: Thin moral ice: New revelations from a skater's Stasi files recall an oppressive era
05/09/02: Newark, Zimbabwe!?
05/02/02: Will Terror Leave Us No Choice? Teachers unions try to use Sept. 11 as an excuse for bad schools
04/23/02: The New Nixon? Al Gore plots his comeback
04/16/02: 'I, Uh, I Have No Comment': A union plays dirty in opposing an antitax initiative
03/31/02: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Filibusters can help the Senate GOP get things done
03/14/02: Red-Light District: It's time to draw the line on gerrymandering
02/21/02: Slippery Slope: Can Dick Riordan beat California's Democratic governor?
02/14/02: Reform School: The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act
02/07/02: Arizona Highway Robbery: Politicians make a grab for campaign cash
01/31/02: Disfranchise Lassie: Even dogs can register to vote. We need election reform with teeth
01/17/02: Dr. King's Greedy Relations: Cashing in on a national hero's legacy
01/10/02: Oil of Vitriol
01/04/02: The little engine that couldn't--and the senators who don't want it to
12/24/01: E-mail and low-cost computers could be conduits for a learning revolution
12/13/01: How Gore could have really won
12/07/01: Let our students keep their cell phones
12/04/01: Why the White House gave the RNC chairman the boot
11/12/01: A Winsome Politician: She won an election in a majority-black district--and she's a Republican
11/01/01: Bush Avoids Politics at His Peril
10/30/01: Cocked Pit: Armed pilots would mean polite skies
10/24/01: Chicken Pox: Hardly anyone has anthrax, but almost everyone has anthrax anxiety
10/11/01: Will Rush Hear Again? New technology may make it possible
10/04/01: Three Kinds of pols
08/24/01: Lauch Out: Who'll replace Jesse Helms?
08/08/01: Tome Alone: Clinton's book will probably end up on the remainder table
08/03/01: Of grubbing and grabbing: Corporation$ and local government$ perfect "public use"
07/31/01: Affairs of State: The Condit case isn't just about adultery. It's about public trust and national security
07/14/01: The First Amendment survives, and everyone has someone to blame for the failure of campaign reform
07/12/01: He's Still Bread: Despite what you've heard, Gary Condit isn't toast --- yet
07/12/01: Passing Lane: Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences
06/25/01: Man vs. Machine: New Jersey's GOP establishment is doing everything it can to stop Bret Schundler
06/15/01: A Schundler Surprise? Don't count out "the Jack Kemp of New Jersey"
06/06/01: Memo to conservatives: Ignore McCain and maybe he'll go away
05/29/01: Integrity in Politics? Hardly. Jim Jeffords is no Wayne Morse
05/22/01: Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men
05/07/01: Prematurely declaring a winner wasn't the networks' worst sin in Florida
04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet
©2001, John H. Fund