Three days after Iowa and two days before New Hampshire, here is my take from the GOPs conservation corner. These observations are neither conventional nor wise, just musings from the margins.
The GOP race: Its a donnybrook. Anything could happen. All of the top-tier candidates have had problems closing the sale. The party is grouchy it has no clear successor, its retiring leader is demonstrably unpopular, and its peddling a timeworn agenda. No wonder independent voters, the key to GOP victories in years past, are manning the lifeboats.
Lets start with the guy who was nowhere to be found last week.
Rudy Giuliani: Hes sitting in Florida, out of sight and out of mind, hoping that his competitors self-destruct in the early primaries. I am reminded of a similar strategy pursued unwittingly by my hometown Seattle Seahawks, who, despite uneven play, often back into the playoffs because their division competitors are so bad. Rudy, you should ask long-suffering Seattle football fans how well thats worked out over the years.
Fred Thompson: The man spent a lot of time in Iowa, but won third place by a sneeze over a man who spent very little time in Iowa and has dissed corn ethanol subsidies to boot. Fred, this is looking like a bad script with a thin plot and poor character development. Better call your agent.
Mitt Romney: The best laid plans ... Romney approached the campaign like a marketing savant. He researched the customer base thoroughly, spent gobs of money, and pitched his product like a real pro. In reviewing Iowas results, I am reminded of the story about the dog food company that poured its product development and marketing resources into producing the best dog food that money could buy. The CEO, mystified by poor sales, asked his sales force what had gone wrong. The salesmen replied: The dogs just dont like it, sir.
Mike Huckabee: He says environmental stewardship is a moral obligation rooted in the Bible. Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and the other bilious reactionaries of the GOP old guard cant stand him. Mike, those are two powerful reasons to wish you calm seas and fair winds.
John McCain: Speaking of dissing corn ethanol subsidies, McCain has rediscovered his voice as the maverick willing to treat citizens with respect, by telling hard truths about big issues, including climate change. It wasnt so long ago that the pundits had given up his campaign for dead. Now, hes storming around New Hampshire hoping for a reprise of the 2000 magic. Somewhere in the great beyond, Barry Goldwater is urging his flinty successor to pour it on.
If McCain wins New Hampshire and follows up with another in Michigan on January 15, hell be heading to South Carolina under a full head of steam. Johnny, the pundits hardly knew ye.
Too soon to tell how all this will turn out. Too many variables, too much unpredictability. In my dreams, however, I imagine a McCain-Huckabee ticket as the first step towards a reformed Republican Party, shed of arrogance, cronyism, and special-interest pandering, and rooted once more in traditional conservative values, including stewardship.
OK, New Hampshire, its your turn.
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