I don’t think that particular poll means that Hillary is in trouble, because as everyone pointed out, it’s early. It does, however, make an Obama candidacy seem more plausible. Over the past few weeks many preference polls for the Democratic nomination came out where Obama’s numbers were in the 16-20% range with Hillary in the mid 30s. Many analysts pointed to these numbers to say, despite all of the publicity Obama has gotten, his numbers have hardly moved. What the NH poll shows is that concentrated media attention in one state actually did boost his numbers. Whether he can replicate this in other states and sustain it is another story entirely.
Little by little, the conventional wisdom that Rudy Giuliani is unelectable is starting to fade. In just the past few days, Jonah Goldberg, Michael Barone, and Tom Bevan have written about how Rudy could win the nomination. Today, the Washington Times reports:
But Rudy will never win in South Carolina, say you? The story continues:
“John McCain and Mitt Romney have been working hard in South Carolina over the past year,” Mr. Malyerck said. “Even though Rudy Giuliani has not formally gotten his campaign up and going, he has been treated like a rock star across the state at rallies and fundraisers alike.”
Meanwhile, Richard Viguerie, who not surprisingly is bearish on a Rudy candidacy, calls Giuliani a “blank slate” on taxes and the size of government. Say what you will about Giuliani’s record on social issues, but on the tax and size of government issue, he’s no blank slate–he cut or eliminated 43 taxes in the liberal New York City, slashed government payrolls and reduced welfare rolls to 1966 levels. The fact that Viguerie would make such a comment reinforces a belief I’ve had for awhile. The conventional wisdom is that once conservatives learn more about Rudy’s record, he’ll lose support. However, I think the exact opposite is true. Because of a lot of Republicans who are liberal on social issues tend to be more moderate to liberal on economic issues, conservatives who hear Rudy is pro-choice and pro-gay rights just assume he’s also for big government and for raising taxes. Once conservatives are more familiar with Rudy’s record in its entirety, they’ll be much more able to accept disagreements on social issues, especially if he commits to appointing strict constructionalist judges.
The leaders of the incoming Democratic Congress are already taking steps to ensure that the party maintains its majority in 2008. The NY Times reports:
Their names will be affixed as co-sponsors atop big-ticket measures on ethics and stem cell research that are to be voted on in the first 100 hours of the new Congress, Democratic leaders said.
In the LA Times, Jonah Goldberg explains that Rudy Giuliani could win over conservatives if he can make some of the debates over social issues “secondary to a broader defense of American civilization.”
George Will writes that “There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine.” Will’s piece comes on the heels of a Joseph Rago column in yesterday’s WSJ along similar lines.
I think that analysis of the blogosphere is often weighted to the extremes: those on one end who think it will rule the world, and those who believe it’s useless, even detrimental to political dialogue. The truth, as is often the case, is somewhere in between. Blogs will never do away with the need for traditional writing and reporting, because they’re responsible for feeding blog content, and a brilliant essay will always have more staying power than a blog post. The ease of posting something on a blog is a big reason why most of them are dreck, but the freewheeling nature of blogs also allows people to engage in lively debates and throw out interesting ideas that may not justify a formal column. Blogging isn’t a substitute for the traditional media, but when it’s intelligent, it’s a useful supplement to traditional media.
The Washington Post plays catch-up today with a front page piece on Romney’s wavering social views. Nothing that would be new to readers of this blog, but I wanted to make note of this:
Paul M. Weyrich, who is head of the Free Congress Foundation, said Romney should not underestimate the problem he may face as he prepares to launch his campaign.
“I think it’s very serious,” he said. “Our position is that, if a candidate can change his position sort of overnight, what would he do once he got in office? Would he do the same thing?”
To me, that gets to the biggest downside with Romney. He has a very limited political record, and all we know of it is that he’s always taken positions that were the most politically advantagous at the time. He ran two campaigns as a moderate Republican with liberal positions on social issues, and once he decided to run for president, he began to stake out conservative positions on those issues. Were he to get past the primaries and capture the White House, he would no longer be beholden to conservatives, but to the broader public. His record doesn’t inspire much confidence that he’d actually govern as a conservative if he’s no longer worried about the Republican primaries, especially given the type of pressure that is put on a president by polls, the media, political advisors, etc. This stretches beyond social views. Would he cut a deal with Democrats on Social Security that involved a payroll tax hike? Would he compromise with Democrats on a disasterous universalized health care bill in search of a legacy? Would he be convinced to negotiate with Iran and Syria? Conservatives can’t say with any confidence that he wouldn’t, and that’s a problem.
There’s an additional problem with Brink Lindsey’s argument. Democrats were able to make gains with libertarian voters without doing anything to specifically court them, so there isn’t much incentive for Democrats to suddenly risk alienating their base to pursue polices being pushed by Lindsey, such as “restructuring” of entitlement programs, just to win over more libertarian votes. From the Democrats point of view, a growing number of libertarians will be inclined to vote for them on the basis of national security and social issues anyway, so there’s no need to seek reconciliation with libertarians on economic issues.
Quin, I agree with you that calling Donald Rumsfeld one of the best Secretaries of Defense ever, and saying the army needs to be bigger is quite a contradiction.
But I think this was the most troubling exchange of the interview:
Just on that point, are you willing to sit down with Democrats in a commission that puts all the options on Social Security on the table? Not just reductions and benefits, not just private accounts, but also some kind of revenue increases, tax increases?
I don’t see how you can move forward without people feeling comfortable about putting ideas on the table. I have made it clear that I’ve got a way forward that can do it and I want to hear other people’s opinions. And that’s what Hank Paulson is telling both Republicans and Democrats. It’s going to be very important for people to feel there can be a full, wide-ranging discussion about how to move forward.
And specifically, tax increases on the table then?
Well, specifically, personal accounts; specifically, everything that the Democrats think will work, as well.
Well, they talk about tax increases.
Well, let them; that’s fine. They can come to the table and talk about them. I proposed a way forward that doesn’t require tax increases. Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing their opinions.
It makes no sense to me why Bush would even consider raising taxes. What would he gain politically? All he would do is cut off the one remaining leg he has to stand on among conservatives.
The New York Times reports on what has been billed as Rudy’s kickoff fundraiser, held Tuesday night in New York:
“We’ll have a large number of people who support us, and then we’ll figure out who has a better chance,” Mr. Giuliani said.
He also praised Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, another possible Republican contender. “We’re going to have to figure out which one of us can make the best contribution, who has the talent, experience and background to guide this country two years from now,” Mr. Giuliani said.
I wonder if the tone will change slightly by, say, this time next year.
James, your response brings to mind the phrase “defining deviancy down.” Even though the Palestinians’ popularly-elected parliament is led by a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction, even though Palestinians are at war with themselves, the Israelis, you say, are supposed to strike a deal that isn’t worth the paper it would be printed on because it has to deal with the best partners it has. Unfortunately, Israel has been down that road before. That was the whole argument for elevating Arafat to the status of statesman, only to see him reject a Palestinian state when it was offered to him in 2000 and launch another Intifada instead. Give the Palestinians more autonomy and make them more accountable? That was the whole logic behind the Olso process as well as the recent democratic elections. The same argument was used when the Israelis withdrew from Gaza and when Hamas came to power–that now they’d be held accountable. Instead, Hamas smuggled in weapons from Egypt, used Gaza as staging ground to launch rockets at Israeli civilians, and built tunnels to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The correct response is not to ask Israel to lower its standards to negotiate under these circumstances, but to hold firm until Palestinians understand that there only way to statehood is to behave like responsible, viable peace partners. Disengagement was one way to change the status quo and preserve Israeli security regardless of whether there was a viable peace partner, but Sharon’s stroke and Olmert’s subsequent ascent to power decreased the likelihood that such a policy would succeed.