Bob Riley for President in 2008
By By Tray Smith
Since the crushing defeat of Republicans nationwide on Nov. 7, GOP partisans have come to a consensus that, in the words of Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, "We did not just loose our majority, we lost our way."
With President Bush's successor set to be decided less than two years away and potential Presidential candidates rushing to begin fundraising efforts, that sentiment will have a profound effect on the campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination.
Though former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have successfully established themselves as the early front runners in the campaign, they will each face hurdles if they hope to become the next Republican Presidential nominee.
The moderate positions Giuliani and McCain take on issues important to the Republican base-abortion, gun control, and gay rights for Giuliani, taxes and gay rights for McCain-will drastically limit their ability to position themselves as the leader of the revolution the Republican base is craving for. Romney, a conservative Republican who won the Governorship of a heavily Democratic state and has a record of working productively with the members of Massachusetts's Democratically-controlled legislature, must overcome public weariness of having a Mormon in the Oval Office. These factors make the front runners extremely vulnerable to a dark horse conservative candidate
But with conservative favorite George Allen out of the race after his disastrous Senate re-election campaign in Virginia, the Republican base has not yet found such a candidate to rally around. Congressmen Duncan Hunter, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Arkansas Governor Mike Hukabee are possibilities, but they have not generated a lot of enthusiasm. Gingrich is no doubt very smart and capable, but he may not be electable.
Thus, several Republicans are looking to find someone outside of the current realm of possibility and catapult that person into becoming America's next commander-in-chief.
After Gov. Riley's lopsided victory over Democrat Lucy Baxley, despite voter discontent with the GOP nationwide, several Alabama Republicans, myself among them, believe they have found that someone. With six years of service in the United States House of Representatives under his belt, Riley has much more experience in national governance than Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.
Coming into the House only two years after the landmark election of 1994, Riley also embodies the very principles the GOP is struggling to return to. Of all of the Republican candidates who placed term limits on themselves during the 1990's- agreeing that if elected, they would only serve a limited amount of terms-Gov, Riley was one of the few to keep his word, limiting himself to only six years in Congress. Riley has the advantage of having left Congress before the GOP busted the deficit through the roof.
The only issue facing Gov. Riley is his failed tax increase proposal, amendment one. But he could easily turn that into a positive issue by explaining the following:
"When I became Governor, Alabama faced one of the worst financial crises in its history. Everyone was saying, "Governor, we have to raise taxes." So I put aside my ideology and did what I thought would be best for the state. I proposed the largest tax increase in Alabama history.
But that proposal was thankfully rejected at the ballot box. For the next three years my administration followed a different course.
By cutting wasteful spending and respecting tax payer dollars, we have now grown our economy by record rates, cut our tax rate to record lows, and maintained the largest surplus in Alabama history. Today, liberals in Washington are saying our nation cannot sustain its current fiscal path without a tax increase. I have made the mistake of listening to such advise once before and I am not going to make it again. If we can turn a financial crisis into an economic boom in Montgomery, we can do it in Washington, D.C.
Elect me as your President and I will cut your taxes! Elect me as your President and I will balance your budget!"
In his quest for the nomination, the Governor will be aided by Alabama's early primary in February of 2008. As one of the first states to vote in the nomination process, Alabama could give the Governor momentum going into future primaries. Gov. Riley also has funds left over from his Gubernatorial campaign that could be used to start a Presidential effort.
In light of such opportunity, why would the Governor decide not to run, you ask? Before the election, it was expected that Luther Strange would win the race for the Alabama Lt. Governorship. That would have given Gov. Riley the opportunity to pursue the Republican nomination for President or Vice President in 2008 without turning the Governorship over to a Democrat.
But in light of Democrat Jim Folsom, Jr.'s defeat of Republican Luther Strange in the race for Alabama's number two job, it is now unclear whether Gov. Riley will leave his post as Governor to a Democrat in order to pursue national office.
But I would much rather have Gov. Folsom and President Riley than Governor Riley and President Clinton. If the Governor wants to run for President, he can. If he wants to win, he can do that too. The question now is if he will.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.