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Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
It is opening day for the Republican primary debate season.

Technically, the Washington Post calls today's war of words between Republican hopefuls the "sixth major debate" of the campaign. However, in my mind, it seems to me like this group of candidates has debated many more times than that--but, at the same time, none of those events merit the adjective "major."

For all the bad press, speculation by pundits, and premature political obituaries for Fred Thompson, today kicks off the GOP canvass for 2008. And Fred is back to receive. If he fair catches, his game is over. If his opponents are able to meet him with such violent ferocity that Fred's helmet goes one way and the ball goes the other, his game is over. But, if Fred takes the ball and runs with it, GAME ON. And Fred doesn't need to take it all the way. He needs to run aggressively up the heart of the defense and take the ball up to about mid-field.

Okay. For all non-football fans, my apologies.

Bottom Line:

For the first time this political season, I plan to watch a Republican debate. That is significant. Fred is under intense pressure, for what he does today will set the tone for the rest of the scramble for nomination.

The Good News for Fred and his Fans:

1. None of his so-called disadvantages mean anything once the cameras start rolling. Fred is in total control of his destiny.

2. Fred is actually entering this debate with reduced expectations. For all the hype--most people are expecting the Darrell Hammond skit from over the weekend.

3. Fred is going to be much better than Darrell Hammond (who by the way seemed unable to move past his Dick Cheney persona to really grasp Fred; judge for yourself via YouTube here).

4. Fred is not debating Ronald Reagan or, even more intimidating, Newt Gingrich. He is debating Rudy, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Ron Paul. If he can keep Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter off camera--Thompson ought to look pretty good by comparison.

The headline tomorrow may very well read: THOMPSON CRACKS RACE!
Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Laugh:

Although I continue to think Hillary will be Clinton-44, I am not unaware of the absolutely, ridiculously unappealing public persona she presents.

From a year ago:

"If elected president of the United States in 2008, Hillary Clinton will make the least attractive and least affable chief executive of the modern media age. From the piercing laugh (oftentimes when nothing is funny) to the menacing scowl when the TV cameras catch her in unguarded moments, Mrs. Clinton tends to come across unnervingly manufactured, even soulless at times.

"A sensitive person winces at the potential for insult and imitation, if professional comedians ever draw their bead on the Senator from New York. Essentially humorless, Mrs. Clinton projects a deep cynicism that seems unbecoming as the leader of the free world. Up to this point, her most memorable public utterance remains, "the vast right-wing conspiracy," when she famously identified a mysterious cabal engaged in a plot to bring down her and her husband.

"Having said all that, if she is elected (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper."

Full post here.

Obama and Race:

The issue of race seems to be coming to a head. As I said back in July, race is a major problem of perception for Democrats more than a genuine electoral disadvantage:

"One other thing going against Obama: Race. I am not convinced that race would hurt Obama in the general election. In fact, I think race for Obama is, at worst, a wash. My hunch is that race would actually play to his advantage. Undoubtedly, there are still some Americans who would not vote for him because he is an African American. But most of those folks live in states that are not likely to go Democrat anyway. Maybe he will lose Alabama by a few more votes than a white Democratic candidate would have, but nothing from nothing leaves nothing. No net loss. On the other hand, I think there will be some voters of all races who will vote for Obama because he is black, and my hunch is that many of those voters may be in swing states where every converted vote counts.

"So, why does race play to Obama's disadvantage? Democrats do not buy the scenario I just laid out. In their heart of hearts, according to their world view, fly-over America is racist and will not vote for a black candidate. I hear Democrats (especially African American Democrats) say this all the time. So, in calculating a candidate who can beat the Republicans in 2008, Obama and race nag at their optimism. He becomes an increasingly risky choice for more and more Democratic primary voters.

"Add in Bill, organization and battle-tested hired guns, and Hill looks more like a winner every day."

Full post here.

One more updated wrinkle: The Democrats are likely to opt out on Obama for the reasons stated above--and then blame it on Red-State America. "We couldn't nominate a black man because of the prejudice of non-Democrats."
Does the GOP have a chance in 2008?

Anything is possible. But as I have written repeatedly over the last eighteen months, this is a Democratic year. The odds are that Hillary Clinton will be the forty-fourth president of the United States.

A month ago, I offered a recipe for a long shot victory.

Here is another thought:

An independent Ron Paul candidacy paves the way for a GOP upset.

Ron Paul's surprisingly impressive recent five-million-dollar campaign contribution haul has some pundits wondering if he has a chance in the Republican primary. Short Answer: not in this lifetime. He may finish in double-digits in a state or two in which so-called independent voters make up a statistically significant segment of the voting, but, even in those places, Dr. Ron Paul will never finish in the money. Why? His position on Iraq makes him completely unacceptable to the Republican faithful. In terms of the GOP caucus, the Paul candidacy is deader than a doornail.

However, one thing is absolutely certain. He has a noteworthy following. Of course, the money talks. But even before this announcement the power of his popular appeal has been conspicuous on places like C-SPAN, where his followers are relentlessly dedicated and unwavering. In fact, they remind me of Howard Stearn fans or, even better, the "truthers" in their persistence and their palpable certainty that they know something we don't.

So what?

Ron Paul is NOT going to win the Republican nomination. He is actually much more popular among Democrats--but he is not going to win that nomination either. Of course, the Democrats would score the coup of the century, if they could garner Paul's endorsement for their eventual nominee. But I don't think that will ever happen.

However, what might happen is that Ron Paul, rejected by Republicans and disdainful of Democrats, might choose to run for president as an independent libertarian candidate. Of course, Paul has done this before--but back then no one outside of his congressional district had ever heard of him.

If Paul were to run this time, his candidacy would be a major media event. And he would garner a lot of votes--not from traditional Republican voters-- but a lot of votes, nevertheless.

Who would vote for Ron Paul? The frustrated, cynical, disgruntled, ill-informed and numerous outliers of American political culture. The one-time Nader voters. The non-voters. The guys and gals with sock caps and questionable hygiene who hang out in non-franchised coffee shops and bemoan the closing vise of a corrupt government and mindlessly manipulative and corrosive society. The most virulent anti-war radicals. The anti-globalization crowd.

None of these folks are going to vote for the party of George Bush in 2008. Of course, many of them will sit out the election--but some of them, maybe enough of them to make a difference could possibly vote for a change--Hillary Clinton.

If these folks had a fashionable alternative, they would likely choose it. Ron Paul could very possibly siphon off the counter-cultural voters who might actually participate in the next election and make a difference.

Moreover, if Ron Paul is in the race, Hillary Clinton will not be able to tack back to the middle after gaining the nomination. She will spend a lot of time courting fringe voters who might have otherwise come to her by default. Most importantly, if Hillary is forced to remain stridently opposed to the war, she will lose a significant slice of Americans who are confused and depressed--but not quite ready to jump off the bridge.

Most of the commentators who continue to believe that Hillary is easily beatable in November fail to anticipate how moderate she aims to be in the general election. Hillary Clinton does not intend to run for president as an agent of radical change. Rather, she is prepared to court the American public in well-tailored suits, perfectly coifed hair, standing next to her ex-President husband, and promising a return to competent and steady leadership. This is a winning strategy.

However, if Dr. Paul is in the race hammering Mrs. Clinton as "more of the same," she will face a serious decision. She will try to have it both ways for as long as she can--but, eventually, she will necessarily pick mainstream, Middle America over the coffeehouse crowd. When Mrs. Clinton abandons the fringe voters, and Ron Paul picks them up, the GOP candidate will emerge in a suddenly much more competitive race.

Run, Ron, Run.