May 4, 2005


A Date With 2008 (Charlie Cook, 5/03/05, National Journal)

On the Republican side, virtually every national poll shows former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading the pack, with 25 to 30 percent of the vote. Sen. John McCain of Arizona tends to run second, with 20 to 25 percent, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee score in the mid-to-high single digits. [...]

Although Giuliani leads the field in every survey of Republican voters, the smart money discounts his popularity -- few trained observers think that a "pro-choice," pro-gun-control, and pro-gay-rights candidate has much of a chance of winning the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Giuliani drew large and enthusiastic crowds everywhere he went last year as he campaigned for President Bush and other GOP candidates, yet it is difficult to imagine that the social, cultural, and religious conservatives who play such an important role in the GOP's presidential-selection process will find Giuliani acceptable.

What about McCain? Many observers have a hard time believing that McCain, who will turn 72 in August 2008, will run for president again. But he certainly acts like someone who wants to run. And although it seems unlikely that the "theo-cons" would support McCain, they might not react to his nomination by deserting the party en masse, as they probably would if Giuliani became the standard-bearer.

Many party regulars don't appreciate McCain's trademark independence, but their desire to keep the White House in Republican hands could potentially trump such reservations. So, McCain's position looks infinitely stronger than Giuliani's. Still, McCain faces questions about how he would get enough primary-season votes to clinch his party's nomination.

Giuliani and McCain together are drawing between 45 and 55 percent of Republicans' support, meaning that about half of the GOP is open to nominating a liberal or a maverick in 2008. If Giuliani doesn't run or doesn't get traction, much of his support will likely shift to McCain.

It was imperative that George W. Bush be the nominee in 2000, because the Party and the nation needed the infusion of ideas he was advocating, even though John McCain would have won the general much more easily. But the next presidential term will be about little more than consolidating Mr. Bush's achievements and perhaps passing a few remaining items. Mr. McCain can ably fill that role and, since he'd win the election so easily, would likely expand the Party's already significant congressional majorities. If he tabs Jeb Bush as his running mate and natural successor, in 2012, it will quiet a lot of the quibbles on the religious Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2005 11:25 PM

Just what I was thinking. Keeping Hillary out in '08 is so important that social conservatives won't desert the party if it is widely understood that McCain will serve one term and if he picks a social conservative as his running mate.

I think McCain is as close as we've got to a sure thing against Hillary. Stopping her should be the paramount objective. Four years of McCain doesn't seem like too high a price to pay.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 5, 2005 12:28 AM

I'd actually prefer Frist over Jeb as the VP on the ticket because his strength -- his medical background -- plays to Hillary's political policy weakness. She may be making all the right votes on the War on Terror to negate that as a GOP issue, but Hillarycare is still lying in wait to come back and get her, if the Republicans play it right and make it a major issue of the '08 campaign. Frist would have the credentials to make the case.

Of course, the senator seems ready to make a run for the top job himself in three years, assuming he can show he can finally get things done in the Senate. How the primary race goes in terms of Frist vs. McCain would determine if either one could live with each other during the campaign (and all the differences between Kerry and Edwards that were locked in a closet by the media during the '04 campaign would be gleefully brought out in '08 if it involved former GOP presidential rivals, no matter who they are).

Posted by: John at May 5, 2005 1:13 AM

McCain would be the end of the GOP for several election cycles. Evangelicals are just part of the problem. He is not trusted by grass roots activists. Many vets despise him. He joined with Bill Kristol time and time again to stab elected Republicans in the back.

I do voter registration, work the phones, seal envelops and all the rest. Rudy is fine with those I work with. So he is pro-choice and for some of the gay agenda. But he is up front about it and a President doesn't have much power to do anything about either. Rudy would not nominate activist judges to the bench. He had his fill of ACLU types when he was cleaning up NYC.

McCain wants the media to love him so he would never pick a Janice Brown, Priscilla Owens or Miguel Estrada.

Think more Souters and Kennedys are needed in the Federal judiciary? John McCain is your candidate.

Don't count on the same numbers of GOP local activists Bush had in 2004 to help you.

The Republicans, like myself, who are not single issue voters and will crawl over broken grass to keep a Democrat out of office do have limits.

Posted by: David at May 5, 2005 2:10 AM

McCain's two attractions to the Republican base are the (perceived) ability to beat the likely Democratic nominee (Her Highness) and being a one-termer. He needs Jeb as a V-P nominee not simply for the brand name, but for the state-by-state grassroots rolodex Florida Governor and Bush-scion Jeb would bring to the party. Frist is a stiff who would add nothing as a V-P candidate. Nonetheless, 72 is awfully old. And I'm with David about McCain's reliability. Giuliani can skate around the guns and gays hurdles, but I really don't know how he finesses his abortion stance (though Pat Robertson's recent flattering comments make me wonder whether that could be doable as well). If Giuliani, who is essentially a political mechanic, can convince Republican primary voters that he will keep Bush 43's policies humming, he could snag the nomination (will have to leak his preference for a rock-hard right-wing V-P during the primaries, though).

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at May 5, 2005 4:02 AM

I refuse to vote for John McCain for President. The man was, and still is, corrupt, believes everyone suffers with his fatal flaw, and sacrificed our First Amendment free speech rights to atone for his sins.

Posted by: jd watson at May 5, 2005 5:12 AM

I don't like either. If Rudy runs than what's the diff between him and Hillary? And I can't exactly reconcile my mind around a Catholic who supports abortion rights. It makes me pretty suspicious of their character. McCain always came off as a little too tightly wound up, sort of reminds me of that other nutcase, Ross Perot. I'd love to see the crack up if a hard hitting reporter got to McCain with some tough questions instead of the "wet kisses" he usually gets. I'm hoping for Jeb or another governor to step up.

Posted by: Buttercup at May 5, 2005 6:55 AM


Were you in New York City when Rudy was mayor and either before or after his tenure? The difference between him and the Hildebeest is staggering. As far as social conservatism goes, by NYC standards he was a Savanarola, cleaning up Times Square and fighting the Brooklyn Museum over the Virgin Mary in cow dung. Rudy is no gun-grabber, but is far more interested in punishing offenders than in disarming citizens.

I will agree that the more I watch McCain the more likely I think his campaign will melt down at the first serious challenge.

Posted by: bart at May 5, 2005 7:36 AM


He's also a genuine war hero, has a great national reputation, is pre-insulated from press and Democratic attacks and has a solid history of passing legislation.

Posted by: oj at May 5, 2005 8:42 AM

is pre-insulated from press and Democratic attacks

You think Keating 5 stuff won't be brought up? Sure it was 15 years ago, but as we saw in the the 04 campaign, 30 years doesn't seem to be enough.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at May 5, 2005 8:52 AM


No one outside the Beltway cares about fund-raising.

Posted by: oj at May 5, 2005 9:01 AM

If Jeb does not run, then Rudy beats McCain for the nomination. But either wins the general. I commented weeks ago that adding Jeb to McCain's ticket keeps sufficent evangelicals on board. I still think that to be the case. However, even if they stay home in approximately the numbers they did in 2000, would Hillary win the South? Clearly not. So, any impact would be limited. McCain stil wins.

Frist is a stiff. Not presidential material. A GOP John Kerry. I would of course vote for him over any Democrat but he adds nothing to a national campaign.

Posted by: Bob at May 5, 2005 9:52 AM

What David said, above, is precisely in line with what I hear from dozens of activists around the Southeast. People who have worked their fingers to the bonde for GOP candidates at all levels for years are telling me McCain would be a disaster.

Posted by: Dan at May 5, 2005 10:10 AM

The Keating 5 stuff may not hurt McCain this time, but the whole pattern of grubbiness will.

However, the whole equation is changed if HRC cannot run for President (the Rosen indictment and the civil suit from Peter Paul). My guess is that Al Gore will swoop on the scene and try to claim his prize. Kerry's attempt to run again will be a joke, Edwards will have to carry the 'lightweight' tag even heavier next time, and Dean said he won't run. Who remains for the Democrats? Why, the man who 'beat' George Bush the first time!

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 5, 2005 10:14 AM

It will be interesting to see how the race is shaped by open primaries. After his big win in NH in 2000, I recall McCain only won or did well in states where large numbers of non-Republicans could vote in the primaries. If the Dem race is really just a HRC coronation, lots of independents and Dems will vote in the Republican primary, which could alter things big time. Even so, I'm doubtful that McCain could beat Rudy.

Posted by: b at May 5, 2005 12:26 PM

No one cares about war heroes from that era, Orrin. And the fact that he's insulated from the press is not a plus. We need a president who can handle the press as deftly as Bush. How the hell's McCain going to know what he's made of if he only gets softballs from the press?

Posted by: Slider at May 5, 2005 7:15 PM

It doesn't matter that he doesn't know, it matters that voters don't.

Posted by: oj at May 5, 2005 8:34 PM

I consider McCAin untrustworthy, voted for him in the NH primary, and Frist and Jeb as "liteweights". Cheney's the only sure bet in my eyes and the wacko left would go beserk, further destroying the Democrats as a party. Guiliani would be a sensible VP for Cheney's one time run.

Posted by: at May 6, 2005 8:59 AM
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