May 4, 2005

TOUGH TO WIN ON YOUR FIRST RUN (via Daniel Merriman):

For '08 election, plant Rove seeds now (Robert Robb, May. 4, 2005, Arizone Republic)

I had a chance to discuss politics with Rove last week when he was in town for a fund-raiser for Sen. Jon Kyl's re-election bid in 2006. [...]

[H]e does not believe that the country is destined for a period of closely and bitterly divided politics, as many analysts do. Instead, he believes that Republicans are already gaining the upper hand, pointing to the unprecedented gains in Congress for a party holding the presidency in the 2002 off-elections, as well as the gains in the Senate in 2004.

In Rove's view, this is in part because the Democrats have become the party dedicated to the defense of the status quo.

That's an interesting prism through which to view, for example, the Social Security debate. It appears that the president is losing the debate pretty badly, as support for his signature personal retirement accounts slips in opinion polls and in Congress.

But, if Rove is right, the Democrats might be hurting themselves politically in the long run as well, with their all-criticism, no-solutions approach. After all, when it comes time to choose leadership for the country, voters may prefer those who are pitching solutions, even if they aren't keen on all the particulars, to those who have nothing to offer but an unsustainable status quo.

It's also a useful prism through which to view the debate over filibustering judges. The American people just don't understand why presidential picks for the bench shouldn't get an up-or-down vote.

The conventional wisdom among Republicans is that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2008. And the conventional wisdom among political handicappers is that you need a star to compete with a star, which has floated the names of Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the top of the Republican list.

Rove won't discuss 2008 presidential aspirants. But he does make an interesting observation about the trend in presidential nominating politics.

He thinks 2008 might depart from what he describes as the '80s and '90s model, in which candidates parlay national standing and status into the nomination. Reagan, Bush I and Dole were all national political figures when they began their quest for the nomination.

Instead, Rove thinks there may be a reversion back to what he describes as the '60s model, in which candidates earn support by grassroots, retail politicking.

If so, the candidates who will ultimately have the inside track aren't necessarily those on the talk shows, but those making connections with party and conservative-cause activists.

Note that no one in the history of politics ever did more grassroots networking than Ronald Reagan, who began in the '50s. But this time around it's Ruudy and John McCain who've probably done the most prep work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2005 12:33 PM

Carter certainly popped up out of no where. Presumably Clinton snuck in because the top Democrats felt Bush No.1 was a shoe in. (Paul Tsongas ! give me a break)

Carter certainly did alot of grassroot retail politics in 76.

Posted by: h-man at May 4, 2005 2:21 PM

Of course, the other end of the success spectrum is represented by John Connally and Phil Gramm (and Dick Gephardt, Bob Kerrey, and even Bill Bradley).

Regarding the GOP - if either Rudy or McCain does not run, the other will be the prohibitive favorite, unless Ms. Rice decides to run and/or has become V-P. Everyone believes HRC will be the Democratic nominee, but it will be a tougher road than people think, and she will have opponents who are going to really attack her (unlike last year's Democratic primaries, with very few confrontations). And she will have Clinton fatigue to deal with, as well.

Of course, the candidates who ran in the 60s (Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Goldwater, Rockefeller, Humphrey, Kennedy 2, Romney, etc.) all had national standing one way or the other. Carter and Clinton are the only ones who seemed to come out of nowhere, and each was elected due to crippling problems in the GOP.

Even George McGovern had national standing (in 1972) as the most prominent left-wing Democrat. Since Teddy couldn't run, where else was the anti-war crowd going to go? Had Wallace not been shot, the Democrats would have had a very interesting year.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 4, 2005 2:52 PM

As of now, I see Rudy and McCain as a either/or vs. more conservative Republican candidate X after the first couple of primaries, but I'm not sure who candidate X is right now.

In terms of political stances on the social issues, McCain's probably a little to the right of Giuliani, but Rudy has never sandbagged Republicans at critical moments the way McCain has, which is worth a few negative points in a head-to-head matchup between the two. But I'm pretty sure there will be at least one candidate coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire who will be running on the basis that neither candidate is conservative enough for the GOP, and will get enough votes to remain in the race at least through Super Tuesday.

Posted by: John at May 4, 2005 3:54 PM

There are no signs of life for McCain in the Southeast (TN, Carolinas, Georgia, Florida.)

Posted by: Dan at May 4, 2005 4:07 PM

Rudy, then Mitt. I believe McCain has little chance. Whether that is wishful thinking or not I can't tell. He irritates me constantly. If the Hildebeast is nominated, I will of course fall in line behind the Republicans.

The true legacy of Karl Rove will not be the (re)election of GWB, though that is a monumental accomplishment. Rather, it is the hard work over the last few years at the grassroots level that will pay dividends for a generation. Who would have thought that Republicans could out-organize the Democrates?

Now if we can just get the Senate Republicans to act like the Senate Democrats....

Posted by: Rick T. at May 4, 2005 4:40 PM

Only Mitt could possibly beat McCain in NH

Posted by: oj at May 4, 2005 5:45 PM

OJ - Good point. It will be interesting to see if the other contenders just skip NH to try to rob McCain of any glory. IA should be pretty much wide open for any of the Republicans, and then they skip NH and go to SC. The Granite state Republicans might not like it, but NH voted blue in 2004, after all.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 4, 2005 6:09 PM

I'm looking forward to seeing Rudy campaigning in NH wearing his Yankee cap.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 4, 2005 6:53 PM


X = George Allen

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at May 4, 2005 7:00 PM

McCain ducks IA because of Ethanol.

Posted by: oj at May 4, 2005 7:27 PM

If the SC primary is determinative again, perhaps Dr. Frist may yet carry the day. And I'll bet McCain must be peeved that independents cannot vote in the PA primary (although the race may be over by then).

And just imagine the MI primary with Condi running, and the Rev. Butler on the ballot.

Posted by: ratbert at May 4, 2005 8:00 PM