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Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dick Morris blistered Fred Thompson in his column today, calling the great GOP hope from Tennessee "ill-informed, inarticulate, badly briefed and downright lazy."

Not quite sure what Morris really thinks of Thompson? Consider this line: "Thompson seems to lack the interest, energy, will, ability and stamina to compete at this level."

I am always ambivalent about, and skeptical of, Dick Morris. He is unquestionably a brilliant political operator. However, it strikes me that Morris is often right about today but wrong about tomorrow. That is, no one is better at sensing and explaining the politics of the moment, but he is often way off in terms of long-term strategy and future predictions (and by long term I mean next week, next month or next year).

My other reservation concerning Morris is his petulance and vindictiveness. Although he was an insider, I am reluctant to accept much of his analysis or history of the Clintons, as it is filtered through his palpable hatred for Bill and Hill. Whenever I read scathing analysis from him like this, I always wonder if the target of the essay might have insulted Morris at some point and this is payback.

Having said all that, much of what Morris asserts rings true to me, especially this graph:

"Hillary is probably the next president anyway. But there is only one way to defeat her -- to nominate a candidate whose anti-terrorism credentials are so deep that if Americans return to their senses and grasp the nature of the dire and continuing threat we face, he can prevail in November. There are two candidates who fill that bill: Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Neither Thompson nor Romney approach it."

Read in full here via RCP.

I remain open-minded and cautiously optimistic about Fred; nevertheless, clearly, he needs to kick things into gear over there at "Thompson 2008."
This week, Newt Gingrich asserted with some fanfare that the Democrats were 80-20 favorites for winning the presidency in 2008. His prediction existed in the midst of a wave of analyses with similarly gloomy prognostications.

Welcome to the party. With all humility, I can say that I postulated that scenario on my very first week online (March 2006)--and I have consistently warned my fellow Republicans that this presidential election cycle presents a battery of difficult obstacles, which we are unlikely to fully overcome.

Republicans, previously comforted by the image of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, are now realizing that only about 30-35 percent of the electorate view her as a hideous monster so evil that she is automatically disqualified for the presidency. While the high negatives make for a promising start, the next 15.1 to 20.1 percent required to win remains a very tough nut to crack.

For a number of reasons stated previously ad nauseam, this is a Democratic year.

However, if we had any doubts before Appalachian State, we understand fully now: on any give Saturday (or Tuesday) any kid with a slingshot can take down a prohibitive favorite. So strap on your pads boys and girls, and let's go out there and win one for the Gipper.

What can we do to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

1. Hang tough in Iraq. In addition to a cataclysmic mistake in terms of American foreign policy, surrendering Iraq is bad politics. If we break ranks now and allow the "defeat America caucus" to win, we will also flee the political battlefield in complete disarray, and our opponents will turn retreat into rout. We may find ourselves unable to regroup for a generation.

On the other hand, standing firm is thoroughly American, manly, and appealing. Will things get better in Iraq if we stay? There are no guarantees, although it is hard to imagine things getting much worse. But, even if they do deteriorate, we have lost nothing politically.

For all the GOP congressman and senators facing close races for re-election, I have this advice: you cannot change the course of your next canvass by changing your stance on the war at this late date. If you are a Republican who has supported the war thus far, you are committed to the war and your fortunes are pinned to the war. Recanting will only expose you as spineless and shamelessly unprincipled. You have one option: do everything in your power to help us win in Iraq. Everything looks completely different in November of 2008, if we can point to real gains on the war front. Trust me. This is your only chance.

Most important, we must make a decision to do all we can to save Iraq--and let the political chips fall where they may. Eventually winning in Iraq is much more important than winning in 2008.

2. Repent and Remind America we are them. We screwed up once. Give us another chance. The repudiation in 2006 was more about corruption, arrogance, and incompetence than it was about Iraq.

Red-state America trusted us, and we let them down. They voted for us believing that we shared their values. We dishonored them and exposed them to ridicule. We created a scenario in which the axis of American liberalism (Hollywood, academia and the mainstream media) can gleefully assert that fast-talking GOP hucksters flimflammed "fly-over country" like they were so many dopey rubes at the County Fair.

We need to admit our mistakes and go to back our constituency on our knees and ask forgiveness. Can we please have one more chance? We will do better next time, and we will never make the same mistakes again. And here is our plan...

And we should mean it. Groveling is the very least we owe our former loyalists.

3. Be Republicans. Be the party with whom America fell in love. Be strong, certain, patriotic, God-fearing and common-sense oriented. Pick the most Republican candidate available.

I love Rudy (seriously--I would vote for him in a New York-minute), but his pro-choice position and apostate Catholicism does too much damage to the Republican coalition. I am warming to Mitt Romney, but his erstwhile Massachusetts-style Rockefeller Republicanism makes him a problematic standard bearer. I have advocated for John McCain for two years, but his inability to win over core conservatives continues to plague his candidacy.

Fred Thompson? Perhaps Fred will work. He has some baggage--but it is of the more regular variety.

Mike Huckabee? Who? Huckabee is actually the candidate best-suited to beat Hillary Clinton next November. He is solidly conservative, quick-witted, telegenic, and most likely to make heartland voters feel comfortable about giving Republicans another chance. Regardless, the former governor of Arkansas remains a long shot. If he cannot work his way into the top tier on guts and logic by January, he is irrelevant.

Newt? Mr. Republican. If the GOP decided to throw caution to the wind, put forward an intrepid champion, and fight out the Election of 2008 purely on the strength of ideas—then clearly Newt Gingrich would be the best choice. Pundits have already wondered if losing with Newt might sow the seeds of a more permanent victory a la the 1964 Goldwater campaign. This possibility keeps emerging as an intriguing option. Moreover, I am not certain that Newt is an automatic loser. Anybody remember the 1972 Robert Redford movie, The Candidate ? Perhaps fearless sincerity might work.

The bottom line: Let us win or lose being genuine Republicans.
Ed Morrissey's Captain's Quarters reports that Mike Huckabee has challenged Fred Thompson to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate. This week Thompson made clear his disdain for the superficial format currently in use, and Huckabee moved quickly to become the first candidate to challenge Fred to put his money where his mouth is. Good move on the part of the Huckabee campaign. The former governor of Arkansas is funny, a good debater, and he does well on TV; nevertheless, he has not penetrated the consciousness of GOP voters. For Huckabee, a debate with Thompson would be a ticket to the big leagues.

On the other hand, Thompson has nothing to gain from facing Huckabee, who may be the most charming and quickest of all the Republican candidates, even as he is virtually unknown.

What could happen in a head-to-head encounter between Thompson and Huckabee? Thompson could very possibly lose, which would likely kill the long-awaited campaign in its cradle. At the very least, a first-tier player gives an opening to a nobody, who, if given a chance, might turn out to be the somebody who wins the whole ballgame.

Fred is a nice guy. Mike is a worthy fellow. But Fred is playing for keeps, and he is not stupid. I will be shocked if this debate comes off. The advantages are too sparse--and the downsides are potentially devastating.

Fred needs to be debating Rudy head-to-head Lincoln-Douglas style--not Huckabee. A more substantive debate (or series of debates) is probably in the offing with several combinations of candidates--but a Thompson-Huckabee face-off, if it comes, will not be before Thompson squares off against Giuliani or Romney.