GOP Prospects: In the 2008 presidential election

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Written By David T. Pyne

There is almost unanimous consensus among political analysts that the most important issue for voters and the primary reason the Republicans lost both houses of Congress in the last election was President George W. Bush’s failed war in Iraq. Due to Bush’s continued refusal to come up with a victory/exit strategy for Iraq, it is certain to be the most important issue facing voters in the 2008 presidential election as well, which is a very alarming realization for Republican politicians.

Over the last month or so, Republicans have been increasingly outspoken against the President’s failed and defeatist Iraq war policy. On December 7th, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) gave an emotional speech in which he stated “I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day,” He concluded by stating, “That is absurd. It may even be criminal.” Having demonstrated such political courage to speak truth to power, it is truly a shame that Smith is not running for President himself. Smith later stated that many GOP Senators commended him on his speech saying that he spoke for them. Asked to comment on it a few days later, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) publicly defended Smith’s comments and said it was long past time for “a new direction in Iraq” a phrase which was used by the Democrat’s as one of their main 2006 election campaign slogans and which is understood to be code words indicating support for a phased withdrawal from the Iraq morass.

According to longtime conservative stalwart and expert political prognosticator, Robert Novak, most Republican officeholders in Congress not only blame Bush for losing both houses of Congress in this past election, but believe that Bush must withdraw all US troops from Iraq by the end of this year if Republicans are to have any hope of stopping the Democrats from retaking the White House in 2008. Novak reports that only about a dozen of the 49-member Senate Republican Caucus support Bush’s plan, announced on January 10th, for an 18-month long surge of 20,000 troops in Iraq. Months of hearings by the new Democrat-led Congress will produce added pressure for Congressional Republicans to prod the President to get us out of Iraq well before the next election. Many self-serving Democrats undoubtedly hope that the President will keep US forces bogged down in Iraq long enough to produce another even more stunning Democrat electoral sweep come November 2008. The only hope that Republicans have to regain the Presidency short of an early withdrawal from Iraq is to nominate a well-known critic of Bush’s Iraq war policy to nullify the increasingly notable Republican weakness on this issue.

The fact that unlike past GOP presidential primary contests, four of the top five vote getters—Guliani, McCain, Rice and Romney have been either lifelong moderates or liberals is depressing to conservatives and leads one to wonder whether the GOP is still conservative at all. Interestingly, these liberal Republican presidential candidates have felt constrained to support President Bush’s Iraq war policy to the hilt, despite its unpopularity in an attempt to curry favor with pro-war conservatives and draw attention away from their left-leaning records in office. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who currently outpolls all of the other candidates, is widely believed to be too socially liberal to win the nomination as is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to a lesser extent. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who finishes among the top three in most early GOP presidential preference polls, has lost all credibility with social conservatives since his adulterous affair revealed during the Clinton impeachment trial. Indeed, it is extremely disturbing to note that of the Republicans running, three of the top four polling GOP presidential candidates—Guliani, McCain and Gingrich all are known to have engaged in adulterous affairs in their recent past, which used to be a disqualifier for presidential candidates even on the Democrat side as recently as 1987 when Gary Hart withdrew from the presidential contest in the wake of the disclosure of his affair with Donna Rice. How is it possible that anyone claiming to be remotely conservative can trust these men not to betray them and to honor their presidential oaths of office when they have betrayed their own wives and violated their marriage oaths? If one of these three men were to receive the GOP nomination for President, Democrat-supporting 527 groups would be able to tar and feather them as total hypocrites on moral and social issues while the Democrat presidential nominee distances himself/herself from these negative attack ads while ensuring their electoral victory.

Ultimately, we are likely to end up with a two-man race for the GOP presidential nomination between the man who emerges as the RINO/establishment candidate most likely either Senator John McCain (R-AZ) or former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) and the candidate who emerges with the most support from the Reagan conservative wing of the Republican Party. If the Democrats reintroduce and pass legislation aimed at providing amnesty in all but name for twenty million illegals is approved by the Democrat Congress and signed into law by President Bush, the Republican Party will split and McCain’s frontrunner status presidential candidacy will implode along with the candidacies of every other Republican presidential nominee who voted for it. Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MS) likely would then replace McCain as the front runner as given his recent rightward tack he would be likely to denounce McCain on amnesty and pledge to work to secure America’s borders.

Of the top four candidates in the polls (including Guliani, McCain and Gingrich), only Governor Romney has proven faithful to his wife to whom he has been married for over 38 years and with whom he has had ten children, which may be one of the reasons that conservatives appear to be so forgiving of his long-held liberal positions on social issues. I believe that Romney’s straight arrow Mormon family values-oriented lifestyle will actually prove an asset as he seeks the presidency. Principles aside, Romney has proven to be very capable at persuading people to support him and extremely adept in raising tens of millions of dollars for his candidacy. If amnesty is signed into law by Bush, Bush’s approval rating will fall into the twenties for the remainder of his term as his conservative base deserts him. Rumored Bush support for a deal with the Democrats which would include increasing taxes on “the rich” in exchange for social security reforms would be the last straw for many Bush supporters.

With conservative support divided between many candidates sadly including some of the liberal RINO ones, I believe that it is imperative for social and fiscal conservative Republicans to unite behind a single candidate early on in the nominating process if we are to have any real hope of getting a Reagan conservative nominated as our presidential nominee and defeating Hillary Clinton in the general election. Sen. Brownback’s social conservative credentials have improved in recent years, but his calls to implement the Baker-Hamilton Report which much like the President’s “troop surge” plan would leave our troops in Iraq for up to a decade to come while providing Americans no hope for victory places him somewhere between anti-Iraq war conservatives and neocon war supporters. This position is useful in enabling him to receive support from both sides of the issue, but does not really serve to inspire Republicans on either side of the issue. Furthermore, Brownback’s support for the McCain-Kennedy amnesty plan is likely to remove him from serious consideration. Rep. Tom Tancredo has long been a strong conservative voice in Congress particularly on the issue of illegal immigration where he has been the foremost champion of securing our borders, but his stubborn support for Bush’s deeply flawed war policy in Iraq would prove a serious liability in a general election contest. Rep. Duncan Hunter, while not quite as conservative as Tancredo has also been a strong supporter of security our borders and opponent of amnesty, but like Tancredo his blind support for Bush’s failed Iraq policy means that he would probably be unelectable in any general election against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) or whoever ends up being the Democrat presidential nominee. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would likely prove an attractive candidate for conservatives due to his longtime record as a staunch fiscal and social conservative, his opposition to the war inIraq on principled national interest grounds as well as his record as a Vietnam war hero and his broad media support which would prove invaluable in a general election campaign. But his record of siding with Bush and McCain in supporting amnesty would likely prove too much for conservatives to stomach and in any case he does not appear to be running. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a relative dark horse candidate, has attempted to stake a claim to the conservative vote, but does not stand out among those running as conservatives and his record of accomplishments as governor is not well-known.

The best possible Republican presidential candidate for conservatives to unite behind would clearly be longtime conservative champion Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). Paul has been rated as the most conservative member of Congress by at least one notable conservative publication and is certainly the most conservative GOP presidential candidate in the running. Congressman Paul, probably more than anyone else in Congress today, exemplifies the old NFRA motto of “principle over party.” He is the only candidate on the Republican side who can say that he was right about the Iraq war from the beginning. His warnings and misgivings with regards to going to war in Iraq dating back to 2002 seem near-prescient in retrospect and President Bush heeded his counsel, the GOP would still be in firm control of both houses of Congress with a majority of state governorships today.

Congressman Paul is widely known as a staunch opponent of the Bush-McCain-Kennedy plan to amnesty twenty million illegal immigrants which is likely to emerge as the key issue of the GOP presidential primary contest. During his more than eighteen years in Congress, Ron Paul has tirelessly championed both the right to life for the unborn and our Second Amendment rights. In addition, Congressman Paul served as the original sponsor of the American Sovereignty Restoration Act which would mandate our country’s withdrawal from the godless, anti-American United Nations. It is a given that Paul will run rhetorical circles around his more liberal opponents in the GOP presidential primary debates, the first of which is scheduled to take place in New Hampshire in early April. The debates will provide him an excellent opportunity to boost his standing in the polls as conservatives rally to his candidacy due to his principled conservative stands on the issues.

The other wild-card in the 2008 election race is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who is rumored to be considering running a strong third-party run for President. Bloomberg who is Democrat in all but name is as socially liberal as the most leftwing Democrats and so would be most likely to take votes away from the Democratic presidential nominee which will most likely be either be Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). A Bloomberg run which takes up to 20% of the vote would be the only way that a pro-Iraq troop surge candidate like John McCain could be elected President in my opinion. Bloomberg could also enable Romney who might otherwise lose the general election, albeit by a smaller margin than McCain, to win. For this reason, Republicans have a lot of reason to hope Bloomberg runs.

A more remote but interesting possibility would be whether a Bloomberg run was so strong as to deprive either major party candidate from obtaining a majority of the electoral vote in the general election. If that were to happen, the House of Representatives led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi would choose the President and the US Senate would choose the Vice President. Since both are Democrat controlled, the outcome of this vote would not be in doubt unless the Democrat presidential nominee came in far behind the Republican in the vote total in which case Democrats who are always crying about disenfranchisement and honoring the wishes of the voters would have trouble getting away with putting the second or third-place finisher in the White House.

One thing is certain. Given the poisonous political environment created for the Republicans by George W. Bush by his disastrous, no-win war in Iraq that resulted in the stunning loss of both houses of Congress by the GOP in the last election as well as historical trends in which one major political party almost never wins three straight consecutive presidential elections, the Democrats are clearly favored to take back the White House in 2008. Unless Bush pulls our troops out of Iraq or Bloomberg runs for President, most likely the next President will be Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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