This week former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson threw his hat into the Republican presidential ring, showing himself to be a man of thinning hair, fattening popular support, and gentlemanly, imperturbable demeanor.
By so doing, Senator Thompson has opened a strange new possibility for the 2008 election. What weeks ago was shaping up as a race between two New Yorkers, Senator Hillary Clinton and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, might transform into a presidential choice between two Tennesseans.
Such a Tennessee waltz for power could unfold thus:
If Fred Thompson rises in the polls and becomes the prospective Republican nominee, Democrats will face a problem. They at present have only one serious candidate, Senator Clinton.
Her closest rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, is likeable and a strong candidate for future elections – but his foreign policy gaffs and other stumbles have shown him to be green, callow, and in need of more experience.
Far behind Clinton and Obama, former one term North Carolina Senator John Edwards has staked out radical positions – e.g., that he would not only impose socialized medicine but also force people to go to their doctors for examination. (This, remember, would be combined with Ms. Clinton’s scheme to computerize your private medical records, then give access to your no-longer-confidential medical secrets to any government bureaucrat or political appointee.) In any presidential debate Mr. Edwards would disintegrate in Thompson’s mere presence.
But Democratic Party leaders are terrified that Senator Clinton might also shrink to nothingness next to Thompson. (How odd that these two won their first political spurs in Watergate, Hillary as a staff lawyer prosecuting President Richard Nixon and his staffers for the Democrats, and staff lawyer Fred Thompson as a protégé of Tennessee’s Senator Howard Baker representing the Republican side.)
Clinton already, according to liberal polls, is viewed negatively by up to 48 percent of likely voters….and candidates are traditionally deemed doomed when such negatives exceed 40 percent.
The reason why 40 percent negatives doom a candidate, political analysts believe, is that those who despise a candidate are much more likely to contribute to the opponent and to go to the polls on election day than are that candidate’s supporters.
In most national elections, the typical American votes against one candidate and sees that candidate’s opponent not as desirable but as a lesser of evils.
Few potential presidential candidates in American history have had negatives as high as Hillary Clinton’s. Despite all the liberal media punditry that 2008 is almost certain to elect a Democrat as president, Democratic Party leaders tremble at their own private analyses that show Hillary as their standard bearer could easily lose.
Those Democratic leaders, moreover, know that the primaries could fragment – e.g., Edwards might eke out an Iowa caucuses win after spending the past two years as a virtual resident of the state, or Obama might pull off an upset win in South Carolina.
Anything short of a Hillary sweep would allow convention Superdelegates not chosen in the primaries to pick a 2008 Democratic nominee other than Senator Clinton.
Only one Dark Horse candidate, drafted from outside the field of Hillary’s seven dwarf rivals to resolve a deadlocked convention, would be acceptable. Only one already has the credentials, name recognition and fundraising capability to step from the shadows, accept the nomination and have a serious chance of winning.
This surprise candidate is the former Democratic presidential candidate who in 2000 won the national popular vote and – many Democrat partisans passionately believe – was cheated out of being that year’s winner and president elect.
This potential candidate is former Vice President, and former U.S. Senator from Tennessee as was his father before him, Al Gore.
It’s no coincidence that Gore’s wife Tipper made news this week by reminding Democrats that she would like her husband to be the Democratic Party 2008 nominee.
Thus Americans might have a choice between two from Tennessee, a state on the border between north and south, urban and rural, blue and red.
Three former American Presidents were shaped in Tennessee. We should keep them in mind when considering what a Commander-in-Chief from this Volunteer State might be like.
Tennessean President Andrew Jackson perfected the “spoils system,” giving government jobs and money to his political cronies and allies. He is therefore the founder of the modern Democratic Party, whose electorate is comprised almost entirely of those who get some kind of government check, either directly like welfare recipients and state college professors or indirectly as union people granted monopoly privileges and overpaid jobs on government contracts.
Tennessean President James K. Polk contrived to ignite the Mexican-American War as a way for the United States to take over what is now the Southwestern United States. That war continues with an invasion of Mexican illegal immigrants who continue to believe that states such as California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are still theirs by historic right.
(Texas had been lost by Mexico more than a decade before Polk’s war. The independent Republic of Texas, which during its ten year existence was given diplomatic recognition as its own country by several European nations, had as its greatest general and first President another man raised in Tennessee, Sam Houston.)
Tennessean President Andrew Johnson had been made Republican Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President in 1864 as a symbol of reconciliation with the South during the War Between the States. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson became President – but as a Democrat in favor of the union, he was instantly in the cross-hairs of the radical Republicans in and around Lincoln’s ruling cabinet.
Johnson soon became the first President impeached by the House of Representatives, although by a margin of one Senate vote not removed from office. Because of how Johnson became President, Bill Clinton remains the only elected President ever impeached, but likewise not removed by the Senate.
Al Gore would have become President in 2000 had he been able to carry his home state – but those who knew Gore best, voted against him. Smart folks, those Tennesseans.
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