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National Security and 2008: The GOP’s Big Three

Tuesday, December 19, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The estimable Hawkins will have none (or at least not much) of the proposition that national security will dominate the GOP primaries.  Specifically, the RightWingNews’ always-worth-reading editor is skeptical that Mitt Romney can even present himself as a national security candidate when John McCain and Duncan Hunter (and yes, even Chuck Hagel) are in the field.  John’s sweeping generalization:

Here’s the thing: today, we have a President who has been steadfast on national security issues and not so hot on the domestic side. His combined approval rating at RealClearPolitics is 36.5% and not once this year has his approval rating gone north of 50% in any poll. So, long story short, not only are the Democrats and Independents unhappy with Bush, a significant chunk of the Republican base doesn’t approve of the job he’s doing either. So, if the litmus test is nothing more than a fresh face who’s tough like Bush on national security, then that seems like a recipe for failure in 2008.

This morning the WaPo is peddling that Rudy cannot win either –social issues etc.  Handy conservative activist/preacher quote:

“If the Republican Party wants to send the social conservatives home for good, all they have to do is nominate Rudy Giuliani,” said Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptist minister and president of Vision America. “It’s an insult to the pro-Christian agenda. . . . He’s going to spend a lot of money finding he can’t get out of the Republican primaries.

There is an advantage in doing scores of events for radio audiences and Republican activists over the past two years: At each of them I get to conduct my straw poll.  In early 2005, I offered audiences the right to vote for one of five possible nominees –Senators Allen, Frist or McCain, Mayor Giuliani, or Governor Romney.

Two years ago, Senator Allen usually won, but Mayor Giuliani was occasionally on top of the poll  –the older the audience, the better he did– though usually he came in second.

By the dismal end of the 2006 campaign season –and I have only done one large event since the election– Rudy always wins and Romney is always second, and it is usually close.  Before he dropped out Senator Frist had close to zero support, and Senator McCain usually gets about 2%.

John points to the low poll ratings of President Bush, but of course some of that low number comes from the disappointment wing of the GOP who thought the Bush Doctrine was exactly why we should have given Iran an ultimatum on nukes a year ago, and Syria a similar short note last summer.  Some of that low number is also immigration driven, though not as much as a lot of the anti-immigration folks think.

But there is a near certainty that the 36% (or 40% or 45% or whatever it really is) who are still supporting Bush are not doing so because of No Child Left Behind or the prescription drug bill.  No, they like his and the Vice President’s commitment to waging the war, their commitment to low taxes, and their judges.

They also admire his character.

John McCain is in trouble with the base because he is not credible on judges, and not reliable on party issues that come and go.  His viability is only because of his reputation as a hawk on Iraq.

Rudy has a problem with the judges issue, but it is one the primary electorate will be willing to be persuaded about.  He’s a hawk and a leader, so he’s viable. 

Romney is right on all of the big three issues, and more conservative on most of the other issues than the other two, plus he’s got money and charisma, so he’s viable.

Nobody else registers with the base because nobody else has the talent or the money to compete.  Good men, of course, and they will get to appear on the debate platforms because of the Kucinich-Keyes Rule:  No one, no matter how low their poll numbers, gets denied airtime in MSM debates if they have ever published an op-ed in any major newspaper and might possibly incite a gaffe.

Newt Gingrich understands the basic dynamic, and thus his front-porch campaign, and his telling analysis for Tim Russert:

When we were young, I think you were younger than me, but when we were young, John F. Kennedy announced on January 2nd, 1960, the year of the election. In 1975 and again in 1979, Ronald Reagan announced in November, OK? My view’s this. If

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