Insiders evaluate McCain pulling ahead

National Journal and Chris Cilliza have come out with their rankings of Presidential candidates. Some interesting points. First the National Journal coverage:

  1. 73% of GOP insiders think that John McCain is going to win the nomination.
  2. Furthermore, 56% of GOPers think that he’s our strongest general election candidate and 71% of Dems agree.
  3. A majority of GOPers think that Romney’s religion will hurt him. Note even, from last week’s National Journal, 50% of Republicans don’t want Mitt Romney to be our nominee.

Chris Cilliza agrees with this evaluation, but does not make compelling arguments, to my mind.

Note, in contrast, that the 3/4s of Dems think that Hillary Clinton is not the best candidate for a general election, even though 69% think that she’s going to win the nomination.

Who do you not want to be your nominee in 2008?

National Journal did a CNN/Opinion Research Poll and asked this question: Who do you not want to run for President. The answers:

Republican % Democrat %
Bill Frist 51 John Kerry 51
Mitt Romney 50 Al Gore 43
Newt Gingrich 48 Barack Obama 38

This is interesting. As many people don’t want Bill Frist (why would anyone want him to run?) as don’t want Mitt Romney? I’m not surprised by Kerry.

I’m also intrigued by Obama. I still haven’t decided what I think  about Obama, but I will write something soon.

I don’t put too much stock in this because of the name ID issue. I don’t know what people know about these. Hopefully National Journal will give us more results.

The call for a “Real Conservative” continues

This morning Powerline, Captain’s Quarters, and Dick Morris chime in with basically the same opinion. It is appearing that Romney’s tack to the right is not succeeding.

There are all sorts of interesting implications here. Informally, a bunch of conservative groups and individuals like the Concerned Women and Grover Norquist appear to be lining up with Romney.

Now the scrutiny will begin for Newt. And Brownback will try to play mop-up with the religious conservatives…. Just not seeing it.

Interestingly, none of the blogs above actually disagreed with the proposition that McCain is a conservative. They just said that people don’t trust him. McCain may be finding space on the right by default as other candidates wait it out.

Who likes the favorite sons….

Favorite Sons and Daughters, 2008 from the most recent AEI Political Corner.

Q: Would make a good president . . . ?   Yes No
Arizona voters John McCain 48% 42%
Georgia voters Newt Gingrich 30 63
Illinois voters Barack Obama 64 29
Massachusetts voters Mitt Romney 31 65
Massachusetts voters John Kerry 25 71
New York voters Hillary Clinton 57 39
New York voters Rudy Giuliani 46 51

This is probably meaningless but fun. Amusing points:

  1. McCain is the highest of the GOPers in his home state, which is actually a red state, unlike the others.
  2. Obama is the highest of the Dems in his home state.
  3. Clinton beats Giuliani in NY.
  4. Romney beats Kerry in MA. Good for him. But Romney probably looses to McCain in his own state, so I wonder what that means…

Gingrich taking the right flank?

A couple of weeks ago, the Virginia Conservative Convention was supposed to pick George Allen as the conservative front-runner in their straw poll. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But something quite interesting did happen. They picked Newt Gingrich instead (results below), and Newt even doubled Mitt Romney, who, somewhat implausibly, has been trying to position himself as the conservative candidate in this nomination fight. But it appears that people didn’t buy it.

Instead, Newt’s combination of record and ideas are offering conservatives a way forward right after the election. People are thinking “Bush lost Newt’s majority, and Newt can bring it back.” Now, is Newt electable in a general? I seriously doubt it. And, in the end, I do not believe that Newt is electable in a primary. But conservative activists love him.

Now party people don’t like Newt that much. But if Newt successfully takes the crown of “movement conservative”, then Romney is in deep, deep trouble.  Romney will lose votes to Newt. If the scrum contains Newt, Romney, Giuliani, and McCain, then Romney needs to be very, very worried. And if the party people get afraid of stopping the conservative movement candidate like Newt, then Romney is not going to be a reasonable place to settle.

Very, very interesting.

Results:

Votes	Percent
Newt Gingrich	45	31%
Mitt Romney	21	14%
Sam Brownback	18	12%
John McCain	18	12%
Mike Huckabee	11	8%
Rudy Giuliani	10	7%
Duncan Hunter	6	4%
Bill Frist	4	3%
Chuck Hagel	2	1%
George Pataki	2	1%

Globe continues attack on Romney continues

The Boston Globe has been on the rampage against Mitt Romney. Recently they have attacked him (somewhat unfairly) over his closeness with the Mormon church.

Today they attack his record on the Big Dig and his management skills in general:

It’s amazing. Romney is running for president, using his response to the Big Dig crisis to showcase his management skills. Yet, part of his administration’s response was to give Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff a new $8 million contract extension. There are also questions about whether his administration told bondholders the truth when Romney officials said they were conducting ongoing safety examinations of Big Dig tunnels.

There are two significant issues here. First, the investigation may damage his 2008 chances. After all, who wants to vote for a candidate for President who is under federal investigation? Second, the Boston Globe is going to try to continue this level of attack and research. It is good business! After all, national scrutiny on Romney will drive attention to his scrutinizers-in-chief.

The staff primary: Only McCain and Romney competing?

Our sense has been that there are three serious candidates right now — Giuliani, McCain, and Romney — and a couple more who hope to go somewhere — Huckabee, Gingrich, and others. However, right now, only McCain and Romney seem to be actively competing in this. In The Fix’s recent announcement of a big hire in IA for McCain, Cilizza makes this point:

As we’ve written previously on The Fix, New York Gov. George Pataki has impressed operatives in Iowa (and even signed on a few), but his team at the moment is no match for those of McCain and Romney.

Remember that the major fight right now among aspiring presidential candidates is for staff talent — specifically in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The more talent McCain and Romney are able to scoop up before the midterm elections, the more difficult it will be for any other Republican candidate to seriously compete with the two frontrunners in Iowa and beyond.

This is probably what Chuck Grassley meant when he said that Giuliani was not yet in campaign mode in IA. Now, GiulianiBlog has responded quite strongly to this whole line of argumentation. He argues, in essence, that all you need is issues, bio, and personality and organization doesn’t matter.

I think that’s a little strong. Operatives matter. Building a turnout operation matters. And having people vouch for you matters. That’s very clear.

Dionne’s 2006 realignment, a correction, and thoughts on 2008

EJ Dionne writes in today’s WaPo about the historical implications of big Democrat wave in 2006:

and Republicans have a few opportunities of their own for Northern pickups. But winning the bulk of these Lincoln-state seats would be the linchpin of any Democratic victory.

Then he talks about the rise of the South,

The changing regional contours of American politics have been visible in the Southernization of the GOP leadership — from President Bush of Texas and Gingrich of Georgia to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and, earlier, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, both Texans. The rise of the Dixiepublicans and their brand of conservatism has pushed moderates in the North in the Democrats’ direction.

He fails to point out that in the House — the more conservative of the bodies — the leadership is IL (Hastert), OH (Boehner), MO (Blunt), Pryce (OH),  and NY (Reynolds). Amusingly, those are the 4 states that seriously contested for the Presidential nomination in 1860, the year that Lincoln won the nomination.

Furthermore, Consider the 3 leading candidates for GOP nomination in 2008:

  • John McCain (AZ). He is currently beating Hillary Clinton in polls all over the country, including the North.
  • Mitt Romney (MA). He’s a Michigan transplant from Massachusetts.
  • Rudy Giuliani (NY). He’s an ethnic from NYC.

And, if you consider that 2 of the 3 leading Dem candidates for President, John Edwards and Mark Warner (recall that I believe that Hillary won’t run), are southerners, it seems that, perhaps, you are dealing with a short-term blip.

This will be an important election. Just not in these ways.

Hillary, high name id and familiarity, and running for President with a record

Today the Blogosphere is buzzing with the news that people are advising Hillary Clinton not to run for President. Some discuss her future as the Democrat’s Senate Leader. I have written earlier about some of this here and here. Why is she considering this? There are several theories:

  • She is too divisive. Her candidacy would energize the right like almost no one else. Note that this is a question about her electability. The Times of London article recasts this a little as a positive:

    “I would not be surprised if she were to decide that the best contribution she can make to her country is to forget about being president and become a consensus-maker in the Senate,” said a leading Democratic party insider. “She believes there is no trust between the two political sides and that we can’t function as a democracy without it.”

  • She misunderstood where the Democrats would be on the war. This has opened a gaping wound on her left flank. The Washington Times has an excellent story on the subject:
  • “She has to move to the left on the war,” said John Zogby, president of an international polling firm. She “risks losing a chunk” of the liberal vote if she doesn’t.”

    “The anti-war crowd is going to have no choice than to bang on her record — to go after her,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed. “They’ve all been emboldened by this Lamont exercise.”

    When asked Friday about the war, Mrs. Clinton said, “I’ve been a constant and consistent critic. I’ve also tried to work within the fact that this president has made decisions and a series of strategic blunders. … I have a situation that I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to deal with.”

    Leaning against a pickup truck on display at the fair, the anti-war Mr. Tasini said, “People are furious about the war. It’s the precise reason she doesn’t want to debate me. She’s obfuscating where she stands on the war.”

  • Finally, Democrats don’t really seem to like her after all. (and the schedule has been given, in essence, to John Edwards)

It is interest to note that there are 3 or 4 other high name ID candidates in this race right now: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and John Edwards (who has to be considered the Democrat’s frontrunner now). A brief comparison of the GOP candidates with Hillary:

  • Newt Gingrich. He has the same electability problem. It is unclear how much the base actually likes him because familiarity with him has faded over time. And enough people have forgotten some of his apostasies and he has been able to flip on those issues (like immigration).
  • Rudy Giuliani. Clearly no electability problem. In the current set of candidates, the base seems to like him. But it is clear that the base has not been fully informed about his positions, especially with regard to red meat issues like abortion, gay rights, and gun control. Will he be able to build enough of a relationship with the base before they find out about these apostasies? Or will he be able to change the subject in a way that they approve of, that this can be overcome? (this is the “security more important than moral issues” theory)
  • John McCain. Clearly no electability problem either. The base seems to be somewhat torn by him. And in many ways they are misinformed by him. In his case, the question will be whether he can overcome perceptions of him. In some ways, the time for McCain to stop embracing the President and start criticizing him from the right may be approaching, but he can’t do it until after the election. He has the advantage that the press will cover anything that he says.