The Sorry Slate of Republican Presidential Candidates
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Nov 19, 2006 at 10:43:54 AM EST
Regardless of John McCain moves further and further to the right, his campaign to woo the conservative base of the Republican Party (many of whom do not, cannot and will not trust the Arizona Senator) may ultimately prove futile, leaving a rather gaping opening in the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Can Rudy Giuliani, who has yet to face real scrutiny for his positions, his lifestyle choices and his post-9/11 business deals, actually emerge as the party nominee? Can Mitt Romney, who was until recently pro-choice and who is running as a non-Protestant in a party that has never nominated a non-Protestant, win? How about Newt Gingrich, who still maintains negative ratings far in excess of his positive ratings? Perhaps Mike Huckabee, who has come under ethics scrutiny of late as a result of his online gift registry, or Sam Brownback, who appears to be even more conservative than Rick Santorum (as if such a thing were possible)? Condi? Come on.
The current slate of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination is among the sorriest of American history. In fact it's difficult for me to think of a weaker group of candidates for either of the major party's nomination (I think you may have to go back to the race for the Democratic nomination in 1904 to find such a lackluster list -- and that was caused, at least in part, by the strength of then-incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt). The apparent addition of Tommy Thompson to the list does not do much, if anything, to mitigate this situation.
Thompson, who was rather popular as Governor of Wisconsin over about 14 years in office, comes into the race with a number of rather large political scars, not the least of which are his service in the Bush administration, which increasingly looks like a scarlet letter for candidates given the President's slide towards an approval rating below 30 percent.
Yet it's not just the fact that Thompson served in the Bush administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services that dooms his candidacy but how he served, as well. The crowning achievement of Thompson's tenure has HHS Secretary was the passage of Medicare Part D, a bloated program that costs significantly more than was necessary and provides significantly less services than is expected. And just as the program itself is a drag on Thompson's record, so too was how the bill was passed, with ethics violations being handed out after the fact for the intense and apparently illegal lobbying efforts on the floor of the House (of which Thompson was an integral part).
In short, Tommy Thompson is just another sorry candidate among a whole list of sorry Republican candidates. And while a party standard-bearer will eventually emerge -- the GOP does have to select a nominee -- the crop of candidates today is rather underwhelming. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, there aren't too many other names not currently considering runs who might otherwise improve the lot of candidates, thus boosting the party's chances at success in the 2008 general election.