Thursday, July 27, 2006

Strong independent run
Readers of this blog know that I'm a Republican. They also know that the old name of this blog was Running for the Right, which I've now re-branded as RFTR. Why?

Because, while I'm a Republican, I'm not a Republican first. I'm a conservative, but I'm not a conservative first.

I'm not quite sure what my ranking is, but it's something similar to this: I'm a Christian first, an American second, a pragmatist third, a conservative fourth, and a Republican finally. The Christian and American roles sometimes switch, I think, but the rest is pretty stable.

So why am I telling you this? Because I think there's a possibility of a strong independent ticket for the presidency in 2006, and I have a hard time convincing myself not to support them.

I meant to write something about this over a week ago, but I got too busy. Then, I was going to do it this weekend, but I got absorbed into the redesign, and it never happened.

So, imagine my surprise when I clicked over to RealClearPolitics on Monday and found this article by Peter Brown. His thesis is basically that, by radicalizing Connecticut to possibly take down Sen. Joe Lieberman in November (not likely, if he runs as in Independent, though he may very well lose the primary), the Dems are opening themselves up to a huge risk in two years. Brown says:

[I]t would not be hard to write a scenario in which the real loser from a Lieberman defeat to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont might be the Democratic Party itself.

That would especially be the case if Lieberman's good friend [Sen.] John McCain of Arizona becomes the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and picks Joe as his running mate.

Then, Lieberman, Al Gore's running mate in 2000, would become the only person in American history to have ever run on the national ticket of both parties. And Lieberman on a Republican fusion ticket in 2008 might be a huge GOP asset.
Now, let me be straight: I don't think there's any possibility of a McCain/Lieberman Republican ticket. First off, Lieberman has already announced that if he wins the Senate with an "I" after his name, he will still caucus with the Democrats. He may be betrayed by his Party, but Joe is a Democrat through and through. He's not going to jump tickets, even for a VP nod.

Secondly, I don't think McCain can win the Republican nod. I've met McCain. I think he's inspirational, and while I disagree strongly with some of his positions (can you say "campaign finance reform"?), I think he's a very strong politician who is really trying to do what he thinks is best for the country.

But primary politics, especially in the beginning, have a lot to do with personal presence. When I met him two summers ago, he, frankly, looked awful. His face has been ravaged by skin cancer, and with American voters' legendary fickleness, that could be enough to chase off a lot of the New Hampshire and Iowa voters. Now, he's the press's darling, so we're unlikely to see a lot of close-ups of his face, and there will be next to no mention of his fight with cancer—so he might squeak by that one.

But there's a big problem in the current climate with a pro-choice candidate winning the Republican nomination. It's the same reason Rudy Giuliani would have a lot of trouble picking up the nomination.

Now, if McCain were to lose the Republican nomination, that would open him up for an Independent bid. This is likely his last shot at the presidency. He could run in another four years, but I think that's unlikely. He's got to be starting to feel the exhaustion of a long life in politics, and two defeats in three presidential elections over eight years, as well as the repeated snubbing by his own party, are likely to discourage that.

At this point, with his name recognition where it is, with the support of the press, and the general respect and admiration of the country, he's got a good shot at making a strong third-party bid. And, really, at that point, there's nothing to stop him from doing it. If you miss your party's nomination twice in three elections, the chances of picking it up the third time are slim to none. He'll look pretty pathetic at that point, like a perpetual "also-ran."

Now, imagine a scenario in which McCain runs with an "I." Who's going to be his running mate? Well, there's this (possibly current, possibly former) Senator in Connecticut who is immensely popular with moderates (as is McCain) and ran with the same "I" merely two years prior. He also has the national name recognition, and the credentials of a former major party vice presidential nominee, who likewise is staring down the barrel of an almost-over career in politics.

Honestly, I don't see anything to keep them from teaming up. And they could very well be tough to beat.

We all know the tradition in this country is to run to the base in the primaries, and run to the center in the general elections. W bucked that trend two years ago by never turning to the center—but that doesn't mean any single base will be able to win an election without the boost from moderates any time soon.

I haven't had a chance to do the research yet, but from my recollection, there has never been a third party candidate who ran to the center of the major parties with any chance of stealing a sizeable portion of the popular vote. Typically, you wind up with a third party to the right or left of the major parties, forcing the candidate closest to them to move in that direction without picking up enough base votes to carry an election and getting screwed over—think Al Gore vs. Ralph Nader in 2000.

In this case, however, you'd have a team going right up the middle, stealing the moderates and moderate partisans from both parties. And, theoretically, that could be enough to steal the general. I know I'd have a tough time voting for the Republican if it's soemone in the mold of the current Republican Party leadership.

Now, there's another possibility. In order to defeat this insurgent candidacy, the major parties would have to run to their bases, pushing turnout, in order to capture enough of the electorate to win. And if the McCain/Lieberman ticket were to lose, we'd be stuck with either a left- or right-wing victory. That's not exactly an exciting prospect on either end.

Still, the overall concept intrigues me greatly.

We're a long way off yet, but I think this is shaping up to be one hell of a presidential contest—particularly considering we won't have an incumbent anything running for the first time in a long time.

Stay tuned...

1 comment:

The Man said...

Think Teddy Roosevelt and The Bull Moose Republicans.

Can we dig up Teddy and have him run?