It’s way too early to think about 2008, especially on the Republican side where things seem so wide-open. Nonetheless, we’re already being blitzed with articles about Mitt Romney’s prospects. The latest is from Robert Novak via Real Clear Politics.
As much as I hate to admit it, my sense is that the country, and probably even the Republican party, will have a serious case of Bush fatigue as 2008 approaches. It is normal for such fatigue to set in towards the end of a president’s second term. Moreover, President Bush’s policies — a war, daring legislative initiatives — and his bruising battles with Senate Democrats are especially likely to tire the country.
If I am right about this, the nominee will not be either a member of the Bush administration or family, nor will it likely be a Republican Senator closely associated with the administration. But since the party will still be conservative, the nominee is unlikely to be a liberal or moderate Republican Senator, particularly one who has played ball with the Senate Democrats.
This means that the most likely nominee is a Republican governor or Rudy Giuliani. Within this group, the prize most likely will go to the candidate who appeals to conservatives without scaring moderates. Like the George Bush of 2000. Romney may fit that description.
By the way, I haven’t told the story of my encounter with George Romney, Mitt’s father, since Power Line became widely-read. It appears in the second paragraph of this post.
JOHN adds: I agree that Bush fatigue will probably be a dominant theme of the 2008 campaign. It’s sad, but President Bush’s success will be the main reason why most people will be yearning for a change. I read somewhere that at the end of a meeting just after the September 11 attacks, Bush turned to Attorney General John Ashcroft and said: “John, don’t let it happen again.” To their eternal credit, Ashcroft, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest carried out that mandate. But if we get through the next two or three years without a major attack, most Americans will be more than ready to “move on.” To move back, really, to the days when everything seemed to be fine.
2008 is a long way off, of course, and don’t forget that I’m the guy who predicted a year before the 2004 election that whoever the Democrats nominated would defeat President Bush. I hope I’m wrong again, and large events are likely to intervene. But for what it’s worth, that’s how it looks now. It is infuriating that the Democrats should be rewarded for their reprehensible tactics, but rewarded, I think, they are likely to be.
As Deacon says, maybe that’s a context in which Mitt Romney could emerge as the Repuublican nominee. But, frankly, I have a hard time taking him seriously as a Presidential contender. He is completely unknown to most Americans, and he’s a Mormon–even worse, to liberals, than a garden-variety evangelical Christian. If he were the nominee, I think that we would see an outpouring of religious bigotry unprecedented in American history. The Democrats would make the anti-Catholic whispering campaigns of the 19th century look like child’s play. I doubt that Romney could survive the assault they would launch.
Rudy Giuliani is an entirely different case. Like Romney, he is somewhat anachronistic in coming from the now solidly liberal northeast. Some pundits think his views on the social issues will bar him from getting the nomination. I disagree, if he postures those views correctly. There is a national, largely bipartisan consensus that issues like gay marriage and abortion should be decided democratically, and not by the courts. If Giuliani emphasizes the process issue, and says that while he himself may favor more liberal abortion rights, for example, the key question is whether such issues are to be decided democratically by legislatures or autocratically by judges, he could forge a solid Republican majority.
On the whole, I can’t help thinking that prospects for ’08 are dim unless the Republicans do something bold, like nominating Giuliani.
DEACON responds: I agree that ’08 is likely to be a tough year for us. I’ve also recently come around to the view that Giuliani can be nominated despite his views on social issues. However, it would be premature to conclude even tentatively that we can only win with Giuliani or someone further to the left. And I tend to think Romney could survive a religion-based assault, although I don’t yet have a clear sense of this. If Romney can’t, there are other potentially attractive governors out there.
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