Casual Evangelist

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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Huckabee’

Why Thompson’s Exit is a Mistake

Posted by Andrew on January 21, 2008

It looks like Fred Thompson will exit the race for the GOP nod and likely endorse his buddy John McCain (he’s just indicated that he’s not going to participate in the debate later this week). However, the last two debates have demonstrated that he’s pulled a Hillary and found his voice: A no-nonsense communicator and a deliberate thinker with little in the way of negatives in the eyes of Republican voters.

Let’s briefly recap the negatives of the nominees according to many GOP activists and conservatives:

  • John McCain: He’s a pro-war liberal who, as a maverick Senator, aligned himself with the left wing of the Democratic party issues such as taxes, immigration, and the judicial confirmation process. Conservative radio has opened fire on McCain now that he’s achieved frontrunner status. His success is due to significant support from independents, a factor that won’t play in many upcoming contests. Having your name attached to Kennedy and Feingold on major legislation infuriates the base. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Mike Huckabee: He’s a pro-life liberal populist who raised taxes, was soft on immigration, and sounds not unlike John Edwards when talking about the economy. He scares the hell out of the Wall Street wing of the GOP on the economy and scares the hell out of the libertarian wing with his talk of bringing the constitution into line with God. Also a regular target of conservative talk radio. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Mitt Romney: All the money in the world is required to keep Mitt’s head above water in this race (good for him he’s got it to spend). He’s a late-comer on some key social issues GOP voters hold dear, particularly abortion, and many don’t totally trust him. I’d like to think that the Mormon issue isn’t a factor, but who knows? He seems to come undone when challenged and knocked off of his game, and he’s gone negative. The establishment, including talk radio, seems to like the guy. Probably doesn’t threaten the “coalition” unless evangelicals can’t deal with the Mormon issue or social conservatives don’t trust his latter-day conversions on key issues.
  • Rudy Giuliani: He may not even be a player any more as his Florida -> Super Tuesday strategy is becoming increasingly suspect. Can someone who’s posting single digit returns in multiple state contests generate excitement in later contests? He’s unacceptable to many social conservatives despite his promise to nominate “strict constructionists” to the bench. He seems solid on national security and economic issues, but is vulnerable on immigration. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Ron Paul: Many find his ideas a refreshing addition to the debate, but voters don’t think he’s electable and he’s just too far out there. He’ll likely bolt the race (and the GOP) to unleash his legions of supporters on the Unity08 online convention and become a third party candidate.
  • Fred Thompson. He doesn’t seem to “desire” the presidency enough and doesn’t like campaigning

So the worst thing conservatives can say about Thompson is that he’s lazy. They do like him though. He’s probably the first choice on the talk show circuit, although they lament the fact that he got in late and stumbled badly early on. Lately, however, he’s been much stronger on the stump and has posted a couple solid debate performances.

With the GOP race so fractured and all four frontrunners so badly flawed according to various factions of the old Reagan coalition, serious reconsideration by voters is inevitable. But they need an alternative, and Thompson could be that alternative. Just a few more weeks is needed to determine whether there is a unique opportunity to capitalize on the high negatives of the frontrunners.

His exit is premature, and a mistake.

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio program yesterday (January 21) that he may not be supporting the eventual GOP nominee. He’s presumably talking about McCain and Huckabee. The fault lines are now real.

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