As it stands now, the race for president will be between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. But that could change.
I hope it does.
First, Rudy Giuliani cannot unite the Republican Party in the general election, giving the White House to the Democrat, possibly Hillary.
Giuliani has done well in polls because the perception is that he can beat Hillary. Hillary so frightens the GOP base — they will come out in droves for him on election day, so the theory goes.
Let’s peel away this onion of misperceptions.
Ardent Giuliani supporters forget that the former mayor ran against Hillary before, in the 2000 U.S Senate race. Giuliani decided to abort his run midway through, as Hillary’s political machine ramped up attacks on him. And remember this was in New York state, where Giuliani could have made a strong case in wooing over blue state voters to the GOP column.
Nationally, the Republican Party is animated by social conservatives and religious voters. While not the majority of the GOP vote, they are a powerful force. Even if a small percentage decide to sit out the election, the Democrat wins. A percentage of the GOP vote will sit at home if Giuliani is the nominee, even if Hillary is his opponent.
Today, Hillary does not generate the same animus she did during the 1990s. She’s modified her positions and image. Running one of the leading Web sites for GOP readers in the nation, I know that Hillary does not evoke the anger she once did.
The GOP should not rely on a candidate like Giuliani who is basing his hopes on the dislike of Hillary.
Since leaving the mayoralty, Giuliani has been a loyal Republican and has worked hard for the party and the country. I applaud him for that. My belief is that he simply cannot unite the party and will bring the GOP to defeat next year.
A Republican candidate who can unite the party does have a serious chance of winning next year. GOP chances of keeping the White House have improved markedly because of two people: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
The Democrats who swept to power in 2006 promised reform. Instead they have spent their political capital trying to score cheap political points against the president, coddling with rogue states (Recall Pelosi’s visit to Syria) and playing up to the MoveOn bloggers (think of Reid’s attacks on Rush Limbaugh).
For sure, sensible middle voters will not be inclined to give the Democrats all three branches next year. A reasonable Republican will look like a smart choice to check the power of the Pelosi-Reid Democrats.
But the ideal Republican candidate will be one who can keep the party united while offering a different approach from George Bush. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent success in France should be emulated. Though he was the candidate of former President Jacques Chirac’s party, Sarkozy ran on a platform different from Chirac’s policies.
Indeed, the GOP candidate must be willing to jettison, for example, Bush’s desire for a long-term occupation of Iraq. Any candidate who argues for a long-term engagement in Iraq will most assuredly be rejected by voters next year.
And while Giuliani wins high points for a terror fighter, he is also strongly supporting Bush’s Iraq policy.
Support for creating an Islamic democracy in Iraq — which was outside the original mission of removing Saddam and stopping his weapons of mass destruction — has little support among Democratic and independent swing voters, and increasingly less support from the GOP voters.
Indeed, everyone wants a leader who wants to be tough on the war on terror. But with the costs of the war in Iraq careening toward $1 trillion, Americans will be looking for a leader who wants to fight this war in a clever and effective way.
As for Hillary, she will be a tough opponent next year, but I am not so sure she will be easily crowned with the nomination.
Barack Obama is being underestimated. It is incredible what he has done without having completed one term in the Senate. He has put together a tremendous organization and campaign war chest — against front-runner Hillary who many thought had a birthright to the nomination.
The fact is that the Democratic Party today is animated by the bloggers who despise the Iraq war and hate Bush. Obama is in sync with them. But Hillary appears among the more hawkish of the Democratic field. This might be good positioning for the general election, but awful for winning the Democratic primaries.
Obama is in a much stronger position than say John Kerry was at the same time in the run-up to the 2004 election. He is trailing Hillary but not by an insurmountable amount. He has resources, star qualities, and despite his nice guy image, has a history of playing hardball politics, Chicago-style.
If history is any indication, the idea of a Giuliani vs. Hillary race may just be wishful thinking.
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