Ronald Reagan towered above any of these Republican candidates doing various imitations of Bush 43.5, Bush 43.6, Bush 43.7 and so forth.

Lets start with Rudy, the candidate who will implode, the only question being when.

Rudy is the guy imitating Karl Rove with the kind of attack fear politics on terror that led Bush to 35 percent popularity and led Republicans in Congress back to minority status.

Rudy, you may remember, was the genius who ignored all advice and put his emergency command center in the World Trade Center that was previously attacked. Another common denominator with Bush: not listening to advice from those who know far more about certain matters than he.

Rudy masterminded the poorly functioning system of communications that proved disastrous on 9-11.

He won't inherit Reagan's position on family values, either. What can one say about a guy who announces his divorce from his second wife in a press conference on television without telling his wife? Real class and respect for women, right?

John McCain ain't exactly Reagan either.

Ronald Reagan was a conviction politician.

John McCain in 2000 was a conviction politician, and John McCain in 2007 is a conviction politician too. The problem is, he flip-flopped on his convictions and the real debate of 2008 will be McCain then versus McCain now.

McCain, having abandoned the straight talk independent of 2000, and having failed as Bush 43.5 this time around, is now planning yet another new McCain.

To sum up Mitt Romney on conviction, his big choice is whether he is pro-choice, anti-choice, or multiple-choice, as Ted Kennedy said when Mitt ran against Kennedy for the Senate. Hard to be a new Reaganite when he was claiming to be more liberal than Ted Kennedy.

OK, so he hunts bunny rabbits using his semi-automatic weapon, no doubt the manly thing that will win him support from the NRA, but Reaganesque? Yeah, right.

There is a far more profound difference with Reagan.

Ronald Reagan believed in building up military strength to negotiate major arms control. He believed in negotiations with enemies as well as friends and tried to negotiate not only with Gorbachev, but with Brezhnev.

Ronald Reagan did not believe in sending large American forces to fight major wars. He did not look for countries to invade, did not believe in major American occupations, avoided these unwise ventures like the plague, and when he saw danger of being trapped in Lebanon, he pulled out.

When the Bush 10 discuss Iraq tonight, they are criticizing the standard Reagan set, and endorsing the ventures Reagan avoided.

The more legitimate heir to Reagan is Chuck Hagel, a principled conservative who knows the dangers, as Reagan did, of large unwise commitments of American troops in wars better avoided.

The most interesting candidate who won't be there is Fred Thompson. Thompson could be a major 2008 event, as I suggested on this site in my post some time ago about "The Fred Thompson Surge."

However, beware. Fred Thompson in person won't look nearly as commanding as the make-up wearing actor, who can do 10 takes for his few lines on "Law & Order."

Even more, Thompson may be falling into the Bush 43.9 trap. Listen carefully to what he is saying on Iraq and Scooter Libby and other matters, and he's using the neoconservative talking points.

Fred Thompson has presidential potential and it would be good for America if he elevates the campaign. However, he has one foot in the Bush 43.9 trap, and for those who want to know how that works, ask John McCain.