You can toss out the rest of the candidates, the race for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination is going to come down to Giuliani vs. Thompson. Giuliani with his pro-Choice, pro-Gay rights and Anti-Gun center-right tack will make an interesting contrast with Pro-Life, Anti-Gay and darling of the NRA Thompson. The reason the other candidates don’t matter is that no one embodies either of the two factions of the Republican Party better than Giuliani and Thompson. The conservative right have no better champion in the announced (or should we say “pre-announced?” Can anyone articulate what Thompson’s status is now since he said several weeks ago that he “will announce around July 4th”. Doesn’t that mean you HAVE announced and you ARE a candidate?) candidates than Thompson. Duncan Hunter might be just as conservative, but personality-wise there is no ‘there’ there. The center-right who are not interested in the social agenda of the far-right and instead care only about a pro-business, anti-regulation and low tax candidate will tend to support Giuliani. That doesn’t leave anything of a base of a support for anyone else.
McCain and Romney have to be frustrated. Thompson’s “Pre-Announcement” means that he isn’t enough of a candidate to really attack or probe policy proposals, but he is enough to start gathering support and show up strongly in the polls. In fact, in many polls Thompson has passed both McCain and Romney before he has even started his official candidacy. Whoever thought of that “Pre-Announcement” strategy is a genius. Giuliani and the Democrats if Thompson gets that far should beware that there are some smart people running that campaign. Regardless, the campaigns of McCain, Romney and the rest are dead men walking. I wonder if they or their campaigns know that yet? By the way, if you doubt that Giuliani doesn’t have a chance with the conservative base, check this thread in Free Republic http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1856776/posts where Jim Robinson, owner and administrator of the site, tells Giuliani “Up Yours”. Free Republic is an excellent place with which to get the pulse of the far Right of the Republican Party.
What Happens with the nomination After It Gets Down to Those Two?
Giuliani vs. Thompson is going to be hard fought, ugly and bloody. Thompson has to be the favorite. I don’t know how any GOP candidate can win the nomination without the conservative base and with the NRA in direct opposition. Giuliani will be attempting to chart new territory in that regard. In Giuliani’s favor will be that a lot of those policies are identified as being Bush policies and there is a general fatigue with anything Bush related. Giuliani could attempt to make the case to Republicans that all but 28% of the country have rejected the far right agenda and that a new kind of Republican leader is needed. As Spongebob Squarepants would say, “Good Luck With That!” Giuliani’s other hope is that the two first nomination states, Iowa and particularly New Hampshire, will give him a good fighting chance to win and hopefully grab some momentum into what would be a lot of more difficult if not completely hostile territory afterwards. In my opinion, there is a 67% chance that Thompson wins the nomination assuming no major missteps by anyone. That is a big assumption. Thompson is absolutely untested on the national scene and Giuliani has had one catastrophe after another in the last few weeks not the least of which is drug charges against his South Carolina campaign chair.
How does Thompson fare against the Democrats
One of the nice things about this for the Democrats is that since Rudy will be facing Thompson from Thompson’s left, the Democratic nominee will get an interesting perspective from the GOP race on how strong Thompson is against someone running with a more liberal social record and perhaps even some tips where his conservatism makes him vulnerable from the left. The GOP debates from July 4th onward will give Democrats a good idea of what they are up against. Either Thompson will be up to the task and will do well, or he won’t and we will find that out very early.
I used to fear Thompson as some sort of Reagan-esque juggernaut. Reagan-esque to me means that he would be a Republican who overcomes the public’s typical aversion to conservative policies by being grandfather-like and cuddly-seeming. Republicans have to overcome that policy-aversion somehow. The current Bush did it by claiming he was a “Compassionate Conservative”. Thompson seems like he could possibly do it the same way Reagan did, but Reagan didn’t face 9+ Republican challengers including one big front runner all of whom were looking to trip him up and then kick him when he was down. Giuliani seems scrappy, like he knows how to fight and fight hard. Conversely, in the race for the 1980 Republican nomination, Reagan faced George H. W. Bush who never really pressed anyone particularly hard in a debate. If Thompson does particularly well in the GOP nomination debates, Democrats will know that they will have a challenge beating him. I am just not sure that is going to happen. Thompson is going to probably come out of the GOP debates and nomination process with some deep scars. His ability to stay in it and maintain a high energy level will be tested. I think he will win the nomination, but right now I doubt that he is going to emerge from it the formidable candidate I once feared.
Whatever happens in the general election, the Republican nomination race is going to be very interesting and fun to watch. As a Democrat, I always enjoy two prominent Republicans taking very public swipes at each other. This race promises to deliver that and plenty of it.