Tuesday, July 17, 2007

None of the Above for the GOP

The fortunes of the GOP are off to a slow start this Presidential season. Surprisingly, the Democrats are winning the money chase (an accomplishment for a party that historically has difficulties raising money, compared to the Republicans). Worse, for the Republicans, that is, there is little to no enthusiasm amongst the base for the current crop of White House contenders.

So un-enthused, the average GOP voter currently prefers “none of the above” to the top candidates. This is something for the party to worry about, as it means the potential demobilization of the base that helped re-elect George Bush in 2004.

All of this could be a temporary and reversible trend, of course. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine any of the candidates being embraced by the conservative base of the party. Giuliani is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-gun control. Mitt Romney is telegenic enough, but he also suffers from John Kerry disease (a Northeastern ex-liberal with evolving views on hot button issues). John McCain currently has all of $250,000 in his coffers, is a hate figure on the right because of his 2000 campaign and recent support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. Fred Thompson is an unannounced candidate, seemingly a hero of the right, but has a track record of being a moderate (on abortion and past support for McCain when he ran for President in 2000). Newt Gingrich, do I need to restate his baggage?

From appearances, Thompson and Romney are probably the most viable candidates at this point, but Romneny’s negatives are high with religious conservatives (who tend to value ideological fidelity more than the average voter). In addition, Romney is a Mormon, which is probably not an issue to most voters, but it may be with many Evangelical Christians, who consider Mormonism a heresy (indeed, it was their forebears after the Second Great Awakening [the real birth of Evangelicalism in America] who were responsible for expelling the first Mormons from the Mid-West and killing Joseph Smith). This is not to say that religious conservatives will refuse to bury the hatchet to make common cause over the issues important to them, but ideologues are usually not as accommodating. If there remains any doubt, just read this column from Evangelical Christian Frank Pastore on voting for any Mormon in public office (it is hard to believe this is the same Frank Pastore who once pitched for my beloved Reds). Say what you will about these voters, but it has to undermine Romney's chances (once the issue of his recently-held positions on abortion and gay rights is considered).

Thompson will also have to answer for his past views on abortion. He is a former political protégé of Senator Lamar Alexander (a former “moderate” [his recent voting record is much more conservative] Republican who replaced Thompson in the Senate in 2002). Like Thompson, Alexander has previously claimed to be both for and against abortion (earning the ire of religious conservatives during Alexander's Presidential campaigns 1996 and 2000). His position? On those occasions when he was forced to express it, he claimed it was morally wrong, but that the federal government should only overturn Roe v. Wade, and thereby return the issue to the states (alas, Ron Paul and many of his friends in the Libertarian Party). Thompson followed suit during his time in the Senate.

Threatening Thompson even more is the recent revelation that he lobbied on the behalf of a pro-choice group during his days as a lobbyist in the early 1990s. This may sound minor to people not motivated by such issues, but it is of supreme importance to anyone running to obtain the Republican nomination for the Presidency. This story may also explain in part Thompson's reluctance to announce his candidacy (and this reluctance to run is a reoccurring theme in Thompson's political career as an office holder or seeker).

So, with that, the potential claimants to the ideological throne of Ronald Reagan are looking less attractive with every passing week and month--explaining the problem Republican candidates are having in fundraising and manufacturing any passion for the current group of candidates. None of the above is never a title to envy, but maybe if it so popular someone should try renaming himself NoA. There is a precedent for this. There have been several campaigns in which desperate candidates legally renamed themselves for electoral purposes (I recall a fellow who once changed his name to Almighty God). And who can forget the career of Byron “Low Tax” Looper?

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