I’ve heard that the Dems are excited because they believe that the fractious Republicans are falling apart at the seams as they fight over the different candidates heading to the primaries. Funnily enough, I don’t see what’s happening as a self-destructive battle to the death. Rather, I think the Republicans are dealing with an embarrassment of riches, and the Democrats are jealous.
Let me start with the Dems. They’ve got Hillary, whom everyone fears but no one likes; Obama, who has a thin resume and a voting record that is too liberal for most Americans; John “Barbie Doll” Edwards, the prettiest and probably most amoral candidate in the bunch; Al Bore — ’nuff said; Joe Biden, who took his foot out of his mouth long enough to mumble the phrase “White House”; Dennis Kucinich, who surprisingly showed more cajones than anyone else in the field by denouncing the decision to yield to MoveOn instigation and blackball Fox . . . and those are just the front runners. I’m sorry, but even in my Dem days, I wouldn’t have liked the list of possible Democratic nominee options.
Just to make them less exciting, none of them has had any real world management experience, which is kind of useful if you’re signing on to be your country’s CEO. True, Hillary and Al were in the White House, but he was holding down the bucket of spit front, while she, after the healthcare debacle, spent her time doing the usual touchy-feely Mrs. President outreach.
I find the Republican list of front runners much, much more interesting (and that’s despite the high divorce count among them). Let’s take ’em one at a time:
Rudy Giuliani — Resume-wise, he’s an incredibly successful government attorney who broke the back of the New York mob; one of the most effective (if not the most effective) mayors New York has ever had; and someone who showed, on 9/11, that he can handle a crisis of epic proportions. With regard to the mayor part, his mayoral experience would be less interesting if he had merely been mayor of my little suburban town with its 8,000 people. Mayor of New York, however, saw him as executive of a political entity larger than some foreign countries. Personality-wise, he’s a can-do kind of guy, who seems to know right from wrong, and who is willing to let people dislike him if that’s what it takes to get the job done. He’s somewhat abrasive, but I never asked for a saint in the White House. I know that many conservatives are troubled by his views on abortion, but he’s said (and I believe) that he will appoint strict constructionist jurists to the Supreme Court, which will return the matter to the States, where it belongs. (And where his state would probably keep abortion legal.) He’s also extremely popular, which improves his chance of actually getting elected.
Mitt Romney — He’s also got a great resume. He was a successful businessman who was able to transfer his skills to the public sector, both in terms of fixing the broken Salt Lake City Olympics, and in terms of being a surprisingly effective Massachusetts governor. He clearly can both get things done and, considering his success in blue state Mass., get along. I don’t seem him as quite the straight shooter Giuliani is, but he’s effective, intelligent, personable, and has a pretty good spectrum of conservative credentials. I could certainly live with him in the White House. As for his Mormon-ness, I simply don’t see that as a problem. He’s never given any indication that he believes political office gives him a bully pulpit for proselytizing his religion and, as long as he doesn’t interfere with my faith or yours, it would be the worst type of prejudice to use his religion against him. And, even if you have a hard time stomaching Mormonism, I still bet that, if you’re conservative, you’d rather have him than either Hillary or Obama, despite their more traditional affiliations.
Newt Gingrich — he’s only been a Representative, which I see as troublesome, but he is damn good at getting the job done and incredibly smart. I’m not sure how electable he is. He was so reviled on the Left during the 1990s that many uninformed members of the public may have developed a visceral dislike towards him without knowing precisely why. Also, it was incredibly stupid to have an affair during the Clinton/Lewinsky debacle. Still, if he can get past the electorate, he’d be a good president.
Fred Thompson — In include him in this list, because more and more people are talking about him. As it happens, I know little about him, but I sure liked this speech.
John McCain — I’ve never liked him, but I would vote for him if he won the primaries.
The thing conservatives need to remember is that the fight is now: During the primaries, back a candidate whose politics you can live with and who you think can appeal to the broader American electorate. Remember, because American voters are split almost exactly 50/50, to win the Republican candidate needs to be more like-able than the Democratic candidate. And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that, once the primaries end, leaving one candidate standing, that candidate, no matter who it is, is going to better than Hillary or Obama or Gore or Edwards. So even if you’re not thrilled with the last Republican candidate standing, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face by refusing to vote for him in 2008.