Jennifer Rubin makes a good case that the 2008 election will be about competence.
JOHN demurs: There was a specific reason why Dukakis ran on “competence,” and why it made sense for him to do so. Ronald Reagan was finishing the most successful Presidency of the 20th century, and his heir, George Bush, was the Republican nominee. Four years earlier, Walter Mondale had run a “liberals’ last stand” campaign, and was absolutely crushed. “Competence” was Dukakis’s way of trying to give himself a chance by distancing his campaign from liberalism.
I don’t agree, of course, with the suggestion that the Bush administration has been incompetent. But, in any event, that perception, born of relentlessly bad news coverage by Democrats in the press, will have little to do with 2008. Voters start with the presumption that candidates are competent; they are looking for more than that.
Perhaps the only candidate of modern times who literally was seen as incompetent when he was running for President was Jimmy Carter when he sought re-election in 1980. But that was based on his record. A fresh face is extremely unlikely to be seen as incompetent. Does anyone seriously think that Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney or John McCain will be considered “incompetent”? Of course not. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Not a chance.
Like most Presidential elections, election 2008 will be decided mainly on character and ideology. I don’t see anyone among the chief contenders in either party who is at serious risk of being considered incompetent.
PAUL responds: Some will be viewed as significantly more competent than others. Recall how hard Mitt Romney pushed the competence theme — almost as hard his fellow ex-Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis did — until Romney came under pressure to shore up his conservative credentials. This suggests that the issue polls well. So does the fact that Giuliani is doing so well in the polls.
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