August 21, 2007

Woolly Thinking on The Presidential Race

Carroll Andrew Morse

Peter Woolley, political science professor from Fairleigh Dickinson University, began his op-ed on the 2008 Presidential race published in Monday’s Projo with this sentence…

Don’t assume that 2008 will represent an easy Democratic win over the Republicans.
The article is mostly about how a third party candidate might change the dynamics of the Presidential race, upsetting the presumed Democratic victory. But presumed by whom? The opening sentence raises the question of why anyone should expect an easy Democratic victory in 2008, when a recent national poll has shown the current Republican frontrunner 7 points ahead of the current Democratic frontrunner.

A number of academics and journalists seem to be wandering dangerously close towards the ground occupied famously (and possibly apocryphally) by theater critic Pauline Kael in 1972…

Nixon can't have won; no one I know voted for him.

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SHHH! It was this same flawed thinking that brought us Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom were seen as the heir apparent.

Posted by: Greg at August 21, 2007 2:54 PM

Well, let's be honest. On the face of things, one needn't be biased to predict that a Democrat would win the White House in 2008.

The President has a very low approval rating.

If you look at the history, I think that 1988 was the only time in recent history when a party has retained the presidency after two full terms served by the same person.

On paper, it seems pretty likely that a Dem. would win . . .

But, as the saying goes, the game is not played on paper . . .

Posted by: brassband at August 21, 2007 9:51 PM

Nobody's taking a thing for granted here. The GOP has to worry about a conservative third party challenge if Guiliani gets the nomination. In a Hillary-Thompson race, a Bloomberg candidacy could hurt her. I have the feeling there could be a significant third party candidate that we all haven't even considered yet.

Posted by: Rhody at August 21, 2007 11:17 PM

(Perhaps fortunately for us) President Bush is not running for re-election.

Never, ever underestimate the ability of the Democratic Party's presidential candidate to shoot himself or herself in the political foot. Complacency or the perception of inevitable victory has a way of smacking one back in the face when they least expect it.

I also agree with prior commenter that a strong 3rd party race (i.e., Bloomberg or Nader) could have a big negative effect on any Democrat candidate's chances. Go Nader!

Posted by: Will at August 22, 2007 12:46 AM

I don't see any indications of a conservative third-party challenge.

I very much see the possibility of disillusioned conservatives like me deciding to "sit out" the Presidential contest should the "Republican" candidate be a RINO such as Guiliani / Romney.

I'm sure that many of us are weary and resentful of being pressured to vote for RINO's simply because they are the (somewhat) lesser of two evils vis-a-vis Supreme Court justices and the War on Terror.

Posted by: Tom W at August 22, 2007 9:53 AM


I agree that the Republicans should consider themselves to be lucky to be in it at this point, but the numbers say that they are. And because the two frontrunners are so well known, those numbers are somewhat meaningful. It would be different if the frontrunners were say Obama and Thompson, which would leave lots of room for big changes in perception from a large number of voters.

That’s also why I think Giuliani opening a bit of lead over Thompson in the various head-to-heads is significant. Those aren’t people just saying “give me any Republican over Clinton”; they’re saying they prefer a specific candidate to Clinton.


I agree with Tom W; there are no perceptible stirrings about a conservative third-party candidate at this point. And I think it’s still a toss-up on who a Bloomberg candidacy would take more votes from.

Here’s one more plausible scenario for you: Barack Obama’s earlier than expected collapse in the race (already fully underway) opens the door for Al Gore to enter on the Democratic side.

Tom W,

Although I thought that RI’s former junior Senator fully deserved the RINO label, I wouldn’t have a problem voting for Giuliani or Romney in a general election, especially over anyone in the current Democratic field. There really was very little policy difference on any important issue between Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse. The same can’t be said of Giuliani/Romney and the leading Dems.

However, in just a few months, I am fully expecting to hear the “moderate” wing of the Republican party begin saying that “look, it’s obvious we’re going to lose in 2008, because we’re too conservative. So we need to start being more like the Democrats right now, so we can be competitive in 2012”. That’s why I think it’s important to point out that the Republican party is competitive in the Presidential election, just as it is, conservative-leanings and all, despite GWB’s personal unpopularity.

Posted by: Andrew at August 22, 2007 10:57 AM

Andrew --

I don't doubt that the Republican nominee has a real shot in 2008 . . . the purpose of my comment was to point out that, in light of history, one should not be accused of bias for simply assuming that the Dems have an advantage.

Having said that, my thinking is that in a head-to-head, a hypothetical Dem would beat almost any of the current crop of Republicans.

The problem is -- the Dems can't nominate Sen. (or Gov.) Hypothetical . . . and all of their actual candidates have such vaulting flaws that I think the Republicans have a strong chance to retain the White House.

Another key difference is that because there is no sitting VP running (as there has been in almost every other "post eight year" open race), then the nominee of the incumbent party is much freer to criticize the current Pres. than Nixon was in '60, Humphrey was in '68, Gore was in 2000, etc., etc. This is one factor that could help Republicans buck the general historical trend.

Posted by: brassband at August 22, 2007 12:29 PM

>>Although I thought that RI’s former junior Senator fully deserved the RINO label, I wouldn’t have a problem voting for Giuliani or Romney in a general election, especially over anyone in the current Democratic field. There really was very little policy difference on any important issue between Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse. The same can’t be said of Giuliani/Romney and the leading Dems.

True, but only to a point, IMHO.

To be sure, on a net basis either Guiliani or Romney would be preferable to any of the Democrats. But I suppose on a net basis Chafee would have been better than Whitehouse (hence his "Republican control of the Senate" spin).

But Giuliani's record, for example, has SEVERAL positions that are anathemas to conservatives: pro-gun control; pro-illegal immigrant; pro-abortion; pro-gay marriage (or at least not particularly opposed to). I submit that the foregoing earns him the "RINO" moniker.

Though I haven't studied Romney's record in great detail, he appears to be only slightly better than Giuliani on these issues.

As to both, I place much more stock in their prior track records than their recent pandering to the "base" as they seek the nomination.

While they would be preferable to their Democrat rivals, there remains the question of short- and long-term damage to the Republican Party. Just how far are we willing to sell-out our principles in order to support a "lesser of two evils" candidate ... or just to elect an "R" after the name instead of a "D"?

I don't insist on conservative perfection, but neither am I inclined to support a liberal as the standard-bearer for the Republican party, simply because their liberalism is more "moderate" than that of their Democrat opponents.

After all, such reasoning underlines why the RIGOP is a hollow shell - "me to Democratism" is hardly a foundation upon which to build a viable party. The record of the Chafee formula has proven its flawed rationale, while the Reagan / Gingrich formula has demonstrated its success.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and conservatives in a principled manner sitting on their hands, rather than in an unprincipled manner supporting a liberal candidate is, arguably, the best way to support the REPUBLICAN Party in the long run.

Posted by: Tom W at August 22, 2007 1:42 PM

Any of you considering not attending the '08 Illusion of Choice Ball?

Posted by: PDM at August 22, 2007 5:52 PM

While I am leaning toward running as a Giuliani delegate candidate I also want to look at Fred Thompson and possibly others.I did not attend the Giuliani meeting at Avedesian Headquarters last night.
I helped out with the Giuliani campaign when he ran for Mayor for a few days.I like Rudy.In Rhode Island Steve Laffey is supporting the former NYC Mayor as well as Avedeseian.I assume former Sen. Chafee is supporting McCain?
While I have not mentioned her name in awhile the fact Patricia Morgan former RI GOP State Chair is actively involved in the Giuliani Campaign locally does not warm my heart.
What is possibly sad for RI is the primary is in March,2008; and the momentum gained by wins in caucuses and primaries in both parties may be decided for all purposes by then.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at August 23, 2007 5:15 PM
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