George Will

WASHINGTON -- In the last 24 elections, since 1912, winners of the presidency won a plurality of the states along the Mississippi. Today the Republican presidential candidate with perhaps the most impressive resume says:

Republicans should assume that in 2008 they will lose Ohio (20 electoral votes), where the state party's corruption and incompetence cost it the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and a House seat in 2006. So the GOP candidate must carry Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota (27 electoral votes). In 2004, George W. Bush narrowly carried Iowa and narrowly lost Wisconsin and Minnesota, the only state that has voted Democratic in eight consecutive elections.

The man with the impressive resume is Tommy Thompson, who says he can carry those three Midwestern states. He served four terms as Wisconsin's governor, and four years (2001-2005) as secretary of health and human services, where he presided over a $580 billion budget, larger than the combined budgets of the eight largest states.

Regarding Iraq, he would challenge that country's government to re-legitimize the U.S. presence by voting to ask U.S. forces to remain. If the government does not, the U.S. would leave. If it does, it should then encourage voluntary ethnic rearrangements by establishing federalism -- strong governments in all 18 provinces -- where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can cluster under governments of their kind. Then it should divide oil revenues, one-third to the national government, one-third to the provincial governments and one-third to Iraqi individuals, much as Alaska does with its oil trust fund.

As governor, Thompson was the progenitor of what became the greatest social policy success of the 1990s, the national welfare reform of 1996 that has reduced the states' welfare rolls an average of 60 percent. He is even prouder of his efforts for school choice. He announced his presidential campaign at Messmer High School in Milwaukee, an inner-city Catholic institution that has flourished in the competition for students and in its freedom from educational bureaucracy: 90 percent of its graduates continue their education at college or vocational or technical schools. Do Iowans ask him about education? With characteristic bluntness, he says: ``No, but I talk about it.''

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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