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Handicapping the Republican presidential candidates

Fri, Apr 27th, 2007
Posted in Commentary

John McCain's stay the course speech about the War in Iraq on April 11 certainly sealed any hopes of his becoming the next president of the United States. For the past several months he has been soldiering on for George Bush and the Republican Party, supporting the War in Iraq and paying homage to the conservative cause. His recent prostrating to Religious Right leaders Jerry Falwell and James Dobson shows that McCain is willing to do whatever it takes to get the GOP presidential nod. The Arizona senator has moved so far to the right in the last six months trying to prove his conservative bonafides that he has lost his political identity as a maverick politician who brings some common sense to Washington.

His charade in a Bagdhad market a few weeks ago showed a desperate McCain trying to prove that he is right about Iraq. But any silly notions of that being true were put to rest with the bombing of the Iraqi Parliament cafeteria in the secure Green Zone ten days later, proving that there is no place that is safe in Iraq.

McCain is no longer seen by independents as the straight-talking politician of 1999, but as a tired, old politician whose time has come and gone.

McCain recently reshuffled his campaign staff when fundraising targets fell short. Republicans will be running away from the war in 2008, contrary to what McCain apparently believes. He is second in Republican polls behind Rudy Giuliani. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, the actor on Law and Order, who has yet to declare his candidacy, runs a close third.

The difficulty Republican candidates have in the run up to Iowa is passing the conservative values-based test - pro-life, anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, religious right platform. Every candidate must run through the ideological fire pit to get the necessary conservative support to propel their campaigns to the next level.

The main characters in this conservative psycho-drama all have problems: Rudy Giuliani (three wives), Newt Gingrich (three wives), John McCain (two wives), Fred Thompson (two wives). The only candidate who passes the conservative values-based test is Mitt Romney. But Romney, a Mormon, who would be lucky to take Utah in a general election, is running a distant fourth in the polls. His support isn't broad-based enough to make him a viable candidate in a general election.

Fred Thompson is the handicappers long shot to prevail in this political scrum. The Watergate lawyer and actor reminds conservatives of Ronald Reagan - smooth talking and patriotic with broad support within the party. Yet, Thompson is not such an ideologue that he won't appeal to independent voters.

But it will be an uphill climb for any Republican candidate, especially if America is still at war in Iraq in 2008.

George Bush was elected in 2000 because people were tired of Bill Clinton. A democrat will likely be elected in 2008 because eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney's incompetence will have worn us all out by election time.

Whoever is nominated to be the Republican candidate for president will need to be able to make people forget about George Bush. And that, my friends, is a terrible long shot.

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