Tod Lindberg at The Washington Times wrote a piece with a look towards the 2008 Presidential election, specifically focusing on the possible Republican nominee. It’s a good article, and worth reading, but it strikes me as short-sighted, missing a few lessons from History. And so I find myself taking a shot at the crystal ball of party leader decision.
Lindberg looked basically at who is popular now, more than 2 years out from the election. That is not really an accurate look. While he quickly became the front-runner, George W. Bush did not announce his candidacy until 1999. And does the name Paul Tsongas ring a bell? After G.H.W. Bush hit 90%+ approval ratings after the first Gulf war, only Tsongas declared he would run against him. Bill Clinton did not join the race until October of 1991. In fact, many successful campaigners come into the fray late, and for good reason; a campaign is expensive and a long exposure gives opponents, both in your own and in the other party, a long time to dig up anything about you they can attack. So, to be blunt, anyone who is a front-runner right now probably won’t be around when the real race begins.
Here’s my take on Lindberg’s pack:
John McCain has no chance to become President of the United States. None. First off, anyone experienced in election politics knows that Senators do not do well in Presidential contests, especially when running against non-Senators. Kerry, Dole, Dukakis, Mondale, and so on all broadcast the same message in the way they act and speak, and it shows up in the voting. And McCain has already blown out in primaries before, and not just because he was running against Dubya. But there’s more. Any national contest means you need connections and alliances. That’s another reason why newbies do well in their POTUS run, because they haven’t burned their bridges yet. McCain has put knives in the backs of lots of people, and so he won’t get their help when he needs it. McCain can win in the East and in Arizona, but he’s far too divisive to build the kind of momentum he needs to hope for the party nod.
Rudy? Hey, I love Giuliani, even if he is pro-Choice and a N’Yawker. But like McCain, he’s been on the shelf long enough to make lots of friends, but also shove a few folks away. Yes, he can win New York, but probably does not have the staying power for a long campaign on the national scale. Call him a ‘maybe’, but not my idea of a front-runner. Too many questions on how he’d handle Foreign Policy, Taxes, Immigration, the things we already know will be on a lot of voters minds in 2008.
What about Romney? It’s wrong to think that folks are all that worried about a Mormon becoming President – I don’t see that it will matter if he can get past his real anchor – he’s from Massachusetts, but is a Republican. He’s everything the Democrats hate, so he may not even carry his home state, normally the kiss of death for a national contender, and Republicans are not all that excited by Romney, mostly because he has not been around the ‘Red Meat’ Republicans that usually do well in elections. I’d lock Romney in a room with a bunch of Reagan speeches, along with the ones which Dubs did well. I’d even throw in a few of the G.H.W. Bush speeches from his 1980 and 1988 campaigns – if “Poppy” Bush can sound manly by studying ‘Red Meat’ speechifying, then Romney could do well to learn it. As it is, he stands out kind of like Kerry at a NASCAR event. And it just makes sense to be as un-Kerry-like as possible.
So, if it’s not the present gaggle of wannabe’s, who will get the GOP nod? I can’t say for sure right now, since it comes down to three keys, but I can tell you what those keys are and where to look for them:
 Talk the Talk. I just noted that there’s a ‘Core Republican’ way of making speeches and explaining your policies. The Democrats never figured it out, and a lot of Republicans are clueless, too. It showed up in Reagan’s ‘Shining City on a Hill’ speech, and again when Bush extemporized on the rubble at Ground Zero. It’s when a Republican shows real emotion, the kind of ideal shining through that most of us want in a leader, with a zeal for Justice and a love of America that is a lot deeper than the veneer politicos usually paint on for show. It’s what we all are, only more so. Make bold promises, and dare to cheer for the Right.
 Be national. The race to the White House means claiming at least 270 Electoral Votes. Polarized or regional candidates won’t make it in the marathon of the Primaries, and as Howard “Scream” Dean found out, a loud name and a big warchest can’t overcome fundamental flaws. The ideal candidate will either be a Governor, preferably from the South or West, or the candidate will be someone widely respected at the national level.
 Act Like You Already Are The President. You’d be amazed how often perception is framed by the image most often projected by the candidate. A small ego in the package of a clearly confident competitor is a big plus.