Who will Republicans choose versus Clinton?

Published 1:51 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2007

By By Steve Flowers
It is assumed by political pundits that Hillary Clinton will be the democratic nominee for president next year. For six months she has consistently sustained a 20 point lead over her nearest rival, Barrack Obama. With less than three months to go before the Feb. 5 mega Tuesday primaries she will be hard to derail. In fact, the Las Vegas odds makers handicap her to win the whole ball of wax next November.
The big question politically as we look toward the next year of campaigning is who will the republicans pick to run against Hillary? The dynamics of the nomination process have been changed dramatically with the avalanche of states moving their primaries to February. We will probably know who the nominees will be in three month's from today.
The republican nomination is far from settled. Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner. The most recent national polls among likely republican primary voters have Giuliani at 33%, Fred Thompson at 16%, John McCain at 16%, and Mitt Romney at 9%. However, in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire Mitt Romney's money and hard work has him leading in both of these states. Fred Thompson's southern appeal has him doing well in South Carolina and Florida. These four states will vote prior to the gigantic mega Tuesday sweepstakes on Feb. 5.
If these numbers hold in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida do Romney and Thompson get a bump going into February 5th? Another question is does Romney, Thompson, or McCain have the resources to expose Giuliani's liberal underbelly in the early primaries? The former New York mayor is very vulnerable to negative advertising in a GOP primary. He is basically a liberal democrat on social issues. Regardless of his social liberalism Rudy Giuliani is a favorite for the republican nomination. Either Thompson, McCain, Romney or maybe Huckabee needs to emerge soon if the former New York mayor is to be derailed. Pundits predict Romney has the best outside chance because of the momentum that will accrue to his candidacy if he prevails in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The question then becomes can either of the three beat Hillary next November? Bush's invasion of Iraq has made that war the pivotal issue. His adamant refusal to withdraw has cast an ominous cloud over the GOP. It cost them control of Congress in 2006 and most experts believe that Bush's war is an albatross around the GOP's neck. It is an Achilles heel that will make it tough for them to retain the White House.
In addition, the party seems in disarray over their choice to lead the ticket. The possibility that Giuliani may be the nominee has awakened the religious right. Conservative Christians comprise one-third of the GOP voters. They are the hardcore base of the party. They are saying we cannot support Giuliani. They are even threatening to run a third party candidate if he is the nominee. This would be devastating for the chances of a republican victory. Even without a third party effort, if the religious right simply stays home it will be hard for the republican nominee to be victorious.
This past year's revelations have not exactly enamored the right-wing with their party. It is hard to figure that the GOP is the party of family values with their string of moral scandals. The party of family values has become the party of hypocrisy. The exploits and revelations of Congressmen Mark Foley and Senator Larry Craig espousing conservative agendas while leading a homosexual lifestyle. Then Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who ran as a family man and has been a right-wing republican stalwart in the senate, is exposed for using a Washington escort service. This hypocrisy is demoralizing to the religious GOP voters. They feel betrayed by a party that has preached one thing and practiced another.
However, when all is said and done remember more people vote against someone than for them. Bill and Hillary Clinton are lightening rods for republican voters. They see red when they hear their names. Will that venom make them see red enough to make their state a red state? We will know in exactly one year and will have a good idea who the republican nominee is in about three months.
Get ready because it should be a fun and interesting year politically.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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