Monday, February 21, 2005

The Moderate Mirage

Speaking of Republicans and polls, I guess it's time to comment on the early raft of opinion surveys about the identity of George W. Bush's successor as GOP presidential nominee in 2008.

As the latest Gallup Poll illustrates, every poll of Republican voters and leaners shows Rudy Guiliani and John McCain stomping the field (Gallup has Rudy at 33% and McCain at 30%, with Jeb Bush being the only other name that attracts double-digit support at 12%).

Let me be among the first to say: it ain't going to happen. The Republican Party is not going to nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay rights candidate like Rudy, and it's not going to nominate a Scourge of the Conservative Movement like McCain, a man who has so consistently defied the Norquistian gospel that tax cuts trump every other national priority. If either of these gents runs for president and gains steam, the Right will unite behind someone else, either a safe ideological bet like Frist or Allen or Brownback (I don't think Santorum is going to be in the Senate after 2006), or someone a bit less conventional like Hagel or Pawlenty or even Condi Rice, if she's willing to take all sorts of oaths on cultural issues and taxes. Why? Because candidates like Guiliani and McCain would unravel the whole coalition of the cultural Right and the Mammon-worshippers on which today's GOP has been so painstakingly constructed. And that coalition certainly has enough power to take down anyone it chooses in a Republican nominating contest.

There's another poll out there (reported via Jerome at Mydd) that's a bit closer to the underlying reality of where the GOP will go in 2008: a "straw poll" taken at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee conference, which asked respondents who they thought would become the eventual nominee (NOT which candidate they personally favored). In this one Guiliani is basically tied with Rice in the high teens, and McCain's down there tied with Frist and Allen at 11%.

And that's nearly four years out, before the Right has had the chance to mull over its options and road-test a new champion.

Sure, GOPers are more than happy to let Guiliani and McCain get a lot of early attention, using them to give the party a more moderate image. But when the deal goes down, these guys will be discarded like an old Lincoln Day speech, and we'll find out for real where the Right wants to take its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.
-- Posted at 1:27 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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