It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Party has a huge problem going into 2008. Usually, it has a clear frontrunner going into the process who is broadly acceptable to most Republicans. But in this election cycle, that is not true. The race is wide open and it is hard to predict who will be left standing when the last primary vote is cast.
One thing that can be predicted is that a great many Republicans will be dissatisfied with their party's presidential nominee. It won't matter who among those currently running ends up with the nomination, because, in my opinion, none have the capacity to unite the party or to stimulate the kind of intense support a nominee needs to win the general election.
Moreover, I think the Democrats will be united around their candidate, whoever it is. They have been out of the White House for a long time and feel, rightly or wrongly, that the last two elections were stolen from them. They won't let that happen again. Nor do I think it is likely that the Democrats will run three historically awful campaigns in a row. They are due for a rebound.
One thing that could have changed things for the better, from the Republican point of view, is if it had a sitting vice president who was a candidate. That person would at least be the prohibitive favorite for the nomination. While this is no guarantee of success in the general election, it can be very helpful. For example, it is doubtful that George H.W. Bush would have been elected in 1988 otherwise.
That the Republicans do not have a sitting vice president running for the presidential nomination in 2008 is entirely George W. Bush's doing. In 2004, he decided that he would rather have a vice president who would never question him than one who could carry on his legacy. As Bush explained in a Feb. 12, 2007 interview on C-SPAN:
"From my perspective, it is good not to have a vice president running for president. Can you imagine somebody out there running and all of a sudden saying, 'Well, I wouldn't have done it exactly that way.' When things got difficult, like they are in Iraq, I told the president that he should have done it this way. He chose another way.' In other words, there would be the tendency for a candidate who was associated with the president to feel like they needed to distance themselves during the tough moments, like right now, and that would create instability inside the administration."
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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