Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

This is Ground Control to John McCain

Earth To John McCain: Senator, we know you are out there — way out there — in another stratosphere, but you're actually running for president on this planet, and you need to get back here fast if you want to win.

Tomorrow night at the Fox News Channel debate in South Carolina the spotlight may be on Rudy Giuliani and his abortion troubles, and Mitt Romney may see it as a crucial moment to build on his latest momentum. But the candidate with the most to lose and the most to gain from the debate is McCain. Two weeks ago at the Reagan Library McCain looked miserable, tightly-wound and nervous as a first-time high school debater. This is his umpteenth campaign and his SECOND presidential campaign — is he not ready for this?

Bye Bye, Rudy

Rudy's problem was not, as Dick Morris suggests, that he didn't have enough time during the debate — it was he had too much.

Can you imagine if he had MORE time to talk about his abortion position? More time to dig a hole the size of the Grand Canyon to bury his candidacy? Now, let's talk some more about Roe v. Wade; let's explain his support of federal funding for abortion; let's pull out more quotes about a woman's rights; let's look at who else he gave money to besides Planned Parenthood. Of course, on that last one he could just blame it all on Wife No. 2 —  Donna Hanover made me do it! Oops, maybe he might not want to pick another fight with her.

Deciphering the abortion rhetoric

As for the pesky abortion issue having finally swum its way to the surface in the ’08 sweepstakes, this week hands a thumbs-down to Rudy Giuliani, a thumbs-up to Mitt Romney and a thumbs-sideways to Sen. John McCain. OK, it’s one thing if the McCain campaign is the one leaking Planned Parenthood contributions from Mrs. Romney and the former Mr. and Mrs. Giuliani to the media. We don’t know if it is but all is fair in a presidential campaign. But it was hard to swallow McCain jumping in the very next day and saying that the pro-choice position violates one of the “fundamental principles of a conservative.” How gratuitous! Ask any passionate pro-lifer in the GOP and they will tell you that but for his supportive votes they have never felt McCain cared for their cause. Looks like he does now, I guess.

Now to Rudy — supporting abortion rights and saying the government has no place in this decision is one thing for Republican primary voters to digest, and according to those months of good poll numbers I was convinced they were willing to look past it. But contributing to the top provider of abortions is another matter entirely. Best of luck.

Why Fred Thompson May Not Run and Will Not Win

There is a reason that Fred Thompson's recent California speech was a giant dud: He does not have anything to say that would elect him to the presidency.

The Republican candidates have a possibly insurmountable problem in 2008, which is that America desperately wants to put George W. Bush into the past, while the Republicans who want to succeed him must appeal to a right-wing base far out of touch with the nation.

The single most powerful political fact is the enormous and overwhelming repudiation by political independents of George Bush, his political agenda, and his style of polarizing and divisive politics.

Fred Thompson's problem is that his opening is on the right of the party, while the right of the party is what destroys Republican appeals to political independents.

You Say Rudy Was Most Damaged By Debate

More than half (57%) of voters in our latest Quick Poll! thought Rudy Giuliani, of all the leading GOP candidates, had done most damage to his presidential chances in last week's debate. John McCain was the choice of 34% and Mitt Romney scored just 9%.

Some commentators disliked the question, seeing it as biased because of its assumption that damage had been done, and also because there was no similar poll after the Democrats' debate. The question arose, however, because of widespread dissatisfaction among Republicans with the candidates' performances. Some said McCain was too scripted, others said Giuliani gradually came to pieces. There was no similar dispute after the Democrats' debate; it was widely agreed that the worst flub that night was Barack Obama's answer to a question about what he would do in the event of 911-type terrorist attack on the US.

The choice of Giuliani as the most undermined by the debate accords the view of our pundit, Dick Morris, that the debate organizers robber the former New York Mayor of significant air time.

For Thompson, 'Ordinary' Won't Cut It (A.B. Stoddard)

As of last Friday morning, the day after the first GOP presidential debate, the breathlessness over the potential candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) continued, full steam. Would he announce in Orange County, home to the birth of the Reagan Revolution?

But Thompson reportedly didn't wow them at the Lincoln Club, as expected, according to the mixed reviews. Thompson hit the right notes, talking about bipartisanship and strong leadership, but Bob Novak weighed in with what at this critical juncture is the Kiss of Death, calling Thompson's performance there "ordinary."

Rudy Was Short Changed

Thursday's Republican debate, hosted by MSNBC and was biased against Republican front runner Rudy Giuliani. A count of the words each candidate spoke indicates that Romney was given 50% more air time and McCain 25% more than Giuliani was permitted.

Romney spoke 2300 words to McCain's 2030 and Giuliani's 1603. When the airtime is as heavily skewed in favor of the 2nd and 3rd place candidates against the front runner, one is entitled to ask why. With more than a third of Republicans backing Giuliani and interested in what he has to say, what journalistic justification is there for giving him less face time than his two leading rivals?

The Democratic Party has been concentrating its fire on Rudy for months now and this effort by two Democratic news organs to short change Giuliani is part of the process of trying to defeat the only Republican who can win in November.

Dull Debate

I admit that I didn’t watch the Republican debate live last night. I had an important engagement that was far more interesting than the series of sound bites elicited by Chris Matthews. But I did catch the rerun. And I promptly fell asleep.

It is too early for these debates. There are too many people in them. And they don’t really illuminate real issues for the American people.

Matthews loves to ask about abortion and evolution. How ’bout a coherent discussion of trade and our nation’s slipping competitiveness? How ’bout a really good discussion about tax policy? How ’bout if each candidate gives us five minutes on how he would get us out of Iraq?

What An Utter Bore

Tonight’s “debate” was an utter bore. I found myself longing for the good old days (approximately a week ago) when Mike Gravel took the stage and showed us what crazy can do to enliven a political event. (Stay tuned for Budowsky’s retort to my use of the word “crazy.”)

Look, I know Chris Matthews and the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are obsessed with the Iraq war. But Republican primary voters are kinda, sorta obsessed with taxes and smaller government. Maybe I missed it as I was rushing off to a TV studio this evening, but why wasn’t McCain forced to explain his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts? Republican stalwarts like Rick Santorum have stated publicly their opposition to McCain as the GOP nominee because he’s not a true fiscal conservative. So how ‘bout it, Matthews?