The writing is on the wall for the Republican presidential hopefuls, and it isn’t good. McCain, Romney and Giuliani aren’t very popular with social conservatives, and since they’ve been an essential part of the GOP’s strategy since Nixon, conservative pundits are getting anxious about the current crop.
McCain is courting social and economic conservatives this year, but still faces grave doubts because of his past attacks on conservative religious leaders and his frequent willingness to make common cause with Democrats. Romney, who is positioning himself as the true conservative alternative, faces charges of opportunism because of his recent past as a social moderate. Giuliani’s potential candidacy would test whether a leader with liberal views on abortion and gay rights could prosper in a party whose activists are steadfastly opposed to both.
Some activists see all three men failing the test. “The party is headed for the wilderness,” complained conservative publicist Craig Shirley, author of a book on Ronald Reagan’s insurgent 1976 campaign. “In some ways it’s a victim of its own successes, but it’s also been co-opted by folks from the inside with less than pure intentions: People who’ve come to party for power, money, access, celebrity.”
I’m sorry, we are talking about politics here, right? Power, money, access and celebrity are part of the game, and always have been. Reagan was no different, so to suggest otherwise is silly.
And to that point, let’s not forget that Ronald seduced the religious right during his first campaign, but promptly dropped them after his 8 year stint began. Remember his lack of support to reassert religious prayer into schools and his appointment of O’Connor to the SCOTUS? I mean, why do you think Pat Roberston was so big in the ’88 primaries? The evangelicals were pissed off, and they were trying to field their own candidate.
Fortunately for the elder Bush, a bunch of TV evangelist scandals popped up and Robertson told enough fibs to hang himself. But what was poppy’s wild card? Why his son, George W. Bush, a born again who criss-crossed the country and brought the faithful back into the Republican fold. Is it any wonder that he was the heir apparent after Clinton’s sexual embarasment? I think not.
And as far as the candidate who seems to excite the base the most? Well, surprise, surprise…
The one candidate who does seem to be generating excitement among activists is also one who by all evidence will not run: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In separate interviews, two prominent Republican strategists in Washington used almost identical language to lament that the incumbent president’s brother will spend 2008 on the sidelines.
“If his last name was ‘Smith’ instead of ‘Bush,’ Jeb would be the front-runner,” said one. “If he were ‘Jeb Smith’ instead of ‘Jeb Bush’ he’d probably be at the top of the pack right now,” said the other.
Ahh yes…the dynasty. Please, let’s have another Bush in the Oval Office. That’s exactly what we need. I mean, one HUGE reason why I’m not too keen on Hillary is when I imagine that this country could be run by a Clinton or a Bush for 28 years if HRC wins in 08 and serves two terms? Seems almost unAmerican, no?
Ultimately, I have to think that this confusion will be good for the GOP, and especially if they’re defeated in 2008. They’ve been floating by on a social conservative agenda for too long, and it’s time to regroup, rethink their values and engage voters in a different way.