Monday, January 29, 2007

Decision '08

As is becoming a truism, the US elections of 2008 look like shaping up to be a cracker. With the Vice President not standing, a decision now as justifiable on the grounds of basic common sense as it always was on health and age grounds, the field looks wide open for the Republicans. On the Democrat side, we have the unexpected sight of Hillary running on the right, with Barack Obama and John Edwards competing to the left - Edwards making the early populist running.

John McCain, who was my ill-informed pick for the 2000 nomination, has the indefinable air of a busted flush about him - an impression that can be countered, but has the horrible habit of gaining momentum. His main problem is that his USP has long been that he is not of the Republican party base and can thus appeal to the independents, while his good history and basic innate fiscal conservatism could at least appease the base. Now, however, he has been so implicated with the politics of the Iraq surge (partly thanks to John Edwards) that his fate and Iraq's are largely intertwined. This is unfortunate for a man whose critique of too few troops, too late, has been consistent for three years. Nevertheless.

Mitt Romney, everyone's favourite Mormon, is still relatively low-profile. His religion is likely to count against him slightly, despite his fierce championing by Kathryn Lopez of the National Review. More to the point is the fact that he lacks glamour and glitz. The former governor of Massachusetts is obviously capable of getting bi-partisan support - but he looks more like a default 'none of the above' candidate at the moment.

There is, however, another potential Republican candidate, yet to announce his running, but not slow in fund-raising or flesh-pressing. The name is still familiar, mostly these days for one particular event, but also still resonant for a remarkable turn-around in the fortunes of New York City. He is, obviously, Rudy Giuliani. Younger than McCain, infinitely more interesting than Romney, and, importantly, more fiscally conservative than George W Bush, Giuliani has the potential to be a fantastic candidate. His reforms in New York were both successful and rooted in conservative thinking: lowering taxes to increase financial activity, leading to raised revenues; focusing on the enforcement of existing laws rather than the creation of new ones, leading to reduced crime. His social liberalism, which is, to me, part of the appeal, is something of a handicap in winning the Republican nomination, but have a look at this article before you write him off as not being a conservative.

He has one further advantage. Discounting Romney, of the five major contenders on either side, four are senators. The last time a senator won the presidency was 1960 - interesting times lie ahead.

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