The Presidential Field

In sizing up the presidential fields for both parties — now that those fields are finally complete with the entry of Fred Thompson — all things considered, things don’t look too bad for the Republicans.

I know that some will think that I am whistling past the graveyard, and perhaps I am a bit delusional, but I think the Republican field is better poised to capture the middle-ground voter than the Democratic field. 

The leading Republicans (Giuliani, Romney, McCain and now Fred Thompson) all appeal to certain parts of the Republican base, as they turn off certain other portions of the Republican base. In fact, it has often been written that Republicans are not all satisfied with their choices in the race thus far, hence the build-up and deification of Fred Thompson.

But Republicans are united in their strong opposition to Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. Nothing motivates the base like Mrs. Clinton.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are reported to be very satisfied with their choices, especially the hard left of the Democratic base. And why wouldn’t they be?

Clinton, Obama, Edwards, etc. all appeal, in their temperament, their history and their policies to the very core of the Democratic left. Almost everyone understands that Hillary, whose efforts to look moderate are impressive, is making the move to the middle solely to put herself in a better position to win the general. Nobody believes that she will follow her husband and try to triangulate the left. Nope, she is the embodiment of the left.

While Democratic voters are happy with their candidates, it is really too early to tell how their eventual nominee (does anyone doubt it will be Hillary?) will fare with independent voters. Each leading Republican candidate has a story that will sell with those critical independent voters:  Giuliani’s more moderate social positions and clear competence as an executive, Romney’s business experience and ability as a manager, McCain’s reputation for candor and his status as a real war hero, even Thompson’s laconic disdain for all those people inside Washington.

Republican unease with their leading presidential candidates does not necessarily translate into electoral disaster come November of ’08. A little indigestion may help provide a candidate who can swing independents towards Republicans in the face of a Clinton, Obama or Edwards campaign that promises to take the country in a sharply different, more left-wing direction.

Right now, the Republican brand is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Bush, the war in Iraq, and an assortment of others missteps and ethical lapses. But as the general election campaign gears up, with a different Republican standard-bearer, that brand will change rapidly. Will it change enough to get the Republicans over the top? It is too early to tell, but it is not beyond the realm of the possible. At least, that’s my view.

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