It’s a frequent refrain I hear: “We don’t have a candidate.”
Republicans of the Reagan mold still don’t feel comfortable with any of the leading GOP presidential hopefuls. Some had hoped Mitt Romney might catch fire, but for months his national poll numbers have stagnated below 15 percent. Apparently, his campaign strategy is a frontloaded effort in the two earliest contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Victories there could propel him to the front of the pack.
Romney’s poll numbers in these states are fantastic. He is the front-runner in both states, with a 13-point lead in Iowa and 10-point lead in New Hampshire.
Dick Morris tells me to ignore the state polls, however. He says, in the end, the state numbers converge with the overarching national numbers. He points to 2004 when Howard Dean was leading for months in Iowa and New Hampshire, only to be tossed to the wayside by John Kerry, who was leading in the national polls.
Indeed, Democrats seem to be clever voters. They look to the issue of “electability,” not simply who ideologically fits their views. Kerry, considered more electable, trumped Dean on that score.
On the other hand, Republicans like a winner who is also a true believer. We want to have our cake and eat it too.
While there is no presumptive GOP nominee, Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner due to several factors. McCain’s campaign has collapsed. Giuliani appears a strong leader during this time of the war on terror. And the former New York City mayor is better known and better funded than almost all of his rivals.
Still, Giuliani has not won enough GOP converts to clinch the nomination.
I recently watched Giuliani’s speech in New Hampshire. He was superb. His style was relaxed and witty. He talked about the “problem of government” — a theme that marked almost every one of Reagan’s speeches for decades. It was refreshing because President Bush has discarded Reagan’s worry about government and has fully embraced big government with the slogan of "compassionate conservatism."
In his speech, Giuliani explained the difference between “us” and “them.” He believes the people — that’s “us” — should solve our own problems. “Them” — the liberals — believe government knows better than average folks. Giuliani explained that his “you”-based approach to governing means people empowered with private healthcare, school vouchers, tax cuts, and individual freedom.
I was cheering.
But Giuliani has not crossed the bridge on social issues, especially abortion, to appease the Republican base, especially in the South. Giuliani’s more liberal stands on these social issues simply won’t resonate with the evangelical Christians who are said to comprise one-third of the party’s vote. Last November, NewsMax Magazine featured a cover story headlined “Yes, Rudy Can Win.” It was not an endorsement. It simply revealed that Giuliani and his people believe the “X” factor will ultimately propel him to the White House.
What is the mysterious X factor? The X factor is simply the next big terror event. If another 9/11 event or bigger were to take place, Giuliani’s circle believes the GOP faithful will have nowhere else to flock but to Giuliani. So the thinking goes.
Hillary Clinton apparently sees the X factor coming too. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire this summer, she expressed her worry: "It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, ‘What if? What if?’ But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world. So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that as well."
The Democratic theory behind this is that Osama bin Laden is well informed about U.S. politics and will act to influence the elections, if he needs to. The Democrats think bin Laden really wants another president like George Bush to succeed him, one who continues an aggressive war on terror, continues the Iraq occupation, and remains confrontational with states like Iran to sway world opinion.
This same Democratic theory says bin Laden and company believe they have been winning the war of world opinion as America spends hundreds of billions fighting a conventional war against an enemy, the terrorists, who fight asymmetrically using simple and inexpensive tactics. In the end, such a war bankrupts the United States at home while leaving us without allies abroad.
It’s nice theory. But I am not sure al-Qaida is happy about the destruction the U.S. military has rained on them in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they appear incapable of launching a major strike in the U.S. after many years since Sept. 11.
Nevertheless, terror can be a big factor in the coming election.
In August a NewsMax/Zogby poll found that only 14 percent of Iowa Republicans supported Giuliani. But that number skyrocketed when we asked which candidate would best handle the next major terror attack. Giuliani held a decisive lead with 34 percent. It seems his X factor could propel him to the head of the pack.
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