MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Just 23 weeks after the second inauguration of the 43rd president, someone who aims to be the 44th came here for the annual luncheon of the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women. It was a target-rich environment for George Allen.
He has the same name as his father, the late Hall of Fame head coach of the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins who was, to say no more, tightly wound, as coaches tend to be. If the son is similarly driven -- and he must be to embark on this marathon -- he conceals it beneath a demeanor akin to Ronald Reagan's, which was once described as ``Aw, shucks, I just stepped on my sneaker laces.'' Except there are no laces on Allen's cowboy boots, which go with the smokeless tobacco in the circular can in his pocket.
One of his father's mantras was ``Hit hard and good things will happen.'' The son, who as a University of Virginia graduate headed Young Virginians for Reagan in the 1976 nomination contest with President Ford, has Reagan's knack for expressing strong views in an unthreatening manner.
By 2008 it will have been 48 years since the country chose a senator to be president, so the ideal candidate is not a senator, or if he is, he has been a governor, someone with an executive's temperament and experience. Allen served a single term as governor of Virginia, where the constitution forbids consecutive terms. He now is in the fifth year of his first term in the U.S. Senate, which prudence might tell Allen is enough, because full-time campaigning often wins presidential nominations. Asked if he enjoys the Senate, he pauses, then says: ``Every now and then. It's better being governor.''
The ideal Republican candidate can meld two Republican tendencies that are in tension -- social conservatism and libertarianism. Social conservatives have no complaints with Allen, and libertarians vibrate like tuning forks to his invocations of ``Mister Jefferson,'' as Virginians refer to their saint of minimal government.
For example, concerning the inheritance tax, which conservatives call the death tax, Allen cites New Hampshire's motto: ``We want to 'Live free or die,' but when we die we don't want that to be a taxable event.'' He says he asked a Virginian, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the state's first governor, Patrick Henry, for permission to paraphrase him: ``No taxation without respiration.''