“Breaking from Bush”

Bill Sammon has a good report in the Washington Times about how Republican hopefuls for 2008 are “breaking from Bush.” He cites Bill Frist (stem cell research), George Allen (misguided disagreement with the president’s decision not to meet Cindy Sheehan), and Chuck Hagel (Iraq is Vietnam).
Sammon notes the dilemma for Republican presidential hopefuls — Bush’s popularity appears to be declining, but he’s still quite popular with a critical mass of those who will determine the 2008 nominee. If the Frists and the Allens move away from Bush, this creates an opening for a conservative who does not appear to doing so. Senator Sam Brownbeck maybe?
Sammon speculates that the real niche may be to President Bush’s “right” on the immigration issue. Rep. Tom Tancredo is trying to occupy that ground. He does not appear to be a serious contender, but Sammon suggests that he could pull the field to the right on this issue.
A final note. Rudy Giuliani seems well situated because he doesn’t need to criticize Bush in order to avoid being closely associated with him. The same is true of McCain but, unlike Giuliani, his lack of association stems from a past adversarial relationship.
JOHN adds: This whole story is overblown, in my opinion. No one would expect the Republican contenders in 2008 to present themselves as clones of President Bush. (Remember how the first President Bush tried to differentiate himself from Ronald Reagan, and how Al Gore wouldn’t touch Bill Clinton with a stick? And they were vice-presidents!) But none of the serious contenders will break with Bush on the big issues–vigorous prosecution of the war on terror, seeing Iraq through to victory, tax cuts, appointing strict constructionist judges. (Hagel is not a serious candidate.) Stem cells are a mostly bogus issue, in my opinion, and one that may be mooted by recent technical developments. And Paul is right–immigration is the one major issue where a serious break with Bush’s policies may make sense, both politically and as a matter of policy. But unless I’m forgetting someone, we’re still waiting for the first serious candidate in either party who will make immigration policy a cornerstone of his campaign.

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