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Hugh Hewitt: Watching the Signs (The 2008 GOP Primary Is Already Underway)
The Weekly Standard ^ | December 9, 2004 | Hugh Hewitt

Posted on 12/09/2004 1:27:11 PM PST by RWR8189

The race for 2008 is already underway on the Republican side, you just have to know what to look for.

NOT SINCE 1952 has a presidential election lacked a sitting president or vice president as a contestant, and Ike was about as close as one could get to non-official incumbent. Before that, it was the 1928 race, and there, too, Herbert Hoover was, like Ike, a figure of towering popularity. In other words, there has never not been a front-runner in at least one party in the modern scrambles for the presidency. Here is a bit of evidence that the race for 2008 also has a leader, one along the lines of Eisenhower and the Great Engineer.

The National Federation of Republican Women is one of those groups about which not much is ever written, but which functions as one of the circulatory systems of American politics. There's a Republican Women's, Federated in practically every county of every size, and their monthly gatherings are full of the stuff of Tocqueville. These are the precincts of the proverbial "blue haired legions," but also younger, more partisan activists as well.

I make a point of speaking to a couple of chapters of the Federation every year, more to listen than to inform. (These ladies have legislative chairman's reports that go on for an hour--and they take notes.) Last Monday, just before heading off on vacation, I went to Temecula, California to speak to more than 200 women from the Riverside County Republican Women, Federated. After a recap and an assessment of Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans for a special election in 2005 to confront gerrymandering, I announced the first straw poll of 2008. By a show of hands, I gave the ladies--and a handful of men who were their guests--four choices: Senator John McCain, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Bill Frist, and "other." The results astonished me.

 

RIVERSIDE COUNTY is as "red" as any county in America, and getting redder. Before I spoke, the group had been entertained by the local home-schooling association's girls' choir, and many of the questions I received concerned illegal immigration and Hillary Clinton's ambitions. In other words--this is to use the title of John Podhoretz's invaluable book on places such as Riverside County, Bush Country.

Giuliani swept more than three-quarters of the votes, with the other three choices receiving smatterings of support. Keep in mind that this isn't an exercise in name identification--these women knew each of the candidates--as well as every possible name in the "other" category. This was an informed choice. I stopped what I was doing, repelled the audience, and then conducted a focus group.

Like many other pundits, I have been wondering whether Giuliani can escape the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008 given that Pat Robertson won the former in 1988 and Pat Buchanan the latter in 1992. Giuliani is too "moderate" to win the GOP nod, right?

Wrong, if these ladies are to be believed. Among the many praises that gushed forth: decisive, experienced, loyal to "W"--an interesting positive, that--funny and, crucially, tough enough to take on the Clintons. There were many praises for Senator Frist, and some for John McCain, but Giuliani has their hearts--already.

I long ago revealed myself as a single-issue voter: I favor the most conservative Republican in the primary most likely to win the general election. The GOP has never had many of what I call this orientation: principled pragmatists. In fact, a debate is raging even now among bloggers such as Patterico, PrestoPundit, CalBlog, In the Agora, and Interocitor, over the arguments for principled pragmatism that I laid out in my last book.

But if the ladies I spoke with on Monday are any indication of a trend--and there are excellent reasons to conclude that they are--the battle may already be over. For Giuliani to consolidate his position with the center-right would only require some deft appearances during the coming struggles over Supreme Court nominees. If he wades into the fray to help confirm the president's nominees, his personal views on abortion will matter far less than if he is absent from these fights. He would also find it useful to get on the side of allowing the people a vote on the defense of marriage amendment through the process of state ratification or denial of ratification to a proposed amendment.

Senator Frist seems to have sensed that the race for the 2008 nomination is already launched, and has responded with tough stands on the "nuclear option" for the judicial nomination process and a rousing defense of the Boy Scouts. Very sharp moves that reflect he is in this for good. The same cannot be said for Senator Hagel who only seems to make news when throwing stones at Bush or the Iraq effort. Bush is the unquestioned hero in the hearts of the activists, and while 2008 is a long way away, that course is much shorter than it used to be because impressions are made early.

 

A FINAL NOTE: There is little upside in being coy anymore. The candidates will almost all blow off the primary caps and raise money as Dean and Bush did in 2004, and that means an early launch in fundraising and organization. Candor is increasingly a valued trait, and the fan dance of yesteryear seems trite. I have blogged on the need for would-be nominees to scout out and sign the next generation of internet talent, especially in the area of fundraising and grassroots communication, and the Shrum Primary of 2003 may be replaced by the Ruffini Primary of 2005. We'll know for sure who is serious when the candidates launch their blogs.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a Giuliani blog up and running in January. The ladies of the Riverside Republican Women Federated would welcome it.

 

 

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Iowa; US: New Hampshire
KEYWORDS: 2008; 2008gop; 2008primary; frist; gopprimary; guiliani; hewitt; hughhewitt; iowa; mccain; newhampshire; weeklystandard
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1 posted on 12/09/2004 1:27:12 PM PST by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189

Jeb Bush/Condi Rice in 2008!


2 posted on 12/09/2004 1:33:48 PM PST by West Coast Conservative
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To: RWR8189

Hmm....Not from a lib or rino source, either.


3 posted on 12/09/2004 1:33:59 PM PST by expatpat
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To: West Coast Conservative

Jeb is not running and he was pissed off at a poll today that said he was a good candidate for president. And I don't think Condi wants to either.


4 posted on 12/09/2004 1:38:50 PM PST by areafiftyone (Democrats = the hamster is dead but the wheel is still spinning)
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To: RWR8189

Frist, Guiliani, McCain, Other -- a pretty dismal list. I guess I would have picked Guiliani, too, given the choices. What's surprising is that the women "gushed" over him.


5 posted on 12/09/2004 1:38:51 PM PST by Yardstick
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To: West Coast Conservative

I just heard Neil Cavuto interview Tommy Franks. He asked the Gen. if a run in 2008 was in the cards. Gen. Franks said he didn't see it happening, but wasn't ruling it out. Hmmmm...


6 posted on 12/09/2004 1:38:53 PM PST by Stars N Stripes (When a 20 footer sneaks up like a ton a lead, an the crest comes along and slaps um up side the head)
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To: Yardstick

If it was a choice between the three of them Guiliani would be my pick!


7 posted on 12/09/2004 1:39:43 PM PST by areafiftyone (Democrats = the hamster is dead but the wheel is still spinning)
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To: RWR8189
Just what we need: wedge issues on who should run next just as we're trying to unify before Bush's inauguration.

Just more of the ol' brown-spoon stirring.

8 posted on 12/09/2004 1:41:25 PM PST by Prime Choice (I like Democrats, too. Let's exchange recipes.)
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To: areafiftyone

More to the point, why would anyone want Condi? She's not a politican and but rather a bureaucratic administrator.


9 posted on 12/09/2004 1:41:32 PM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: RWR8189

Governor Tim Pawlenty if he wins in '06 or Senator John Thune.


10 posted on 12/09/2004 1:42:14 PM PST by LdSentinal
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To: Hermann the Cherusker

I like Condi in the role that she has now but she is NOT presidential material.


11 posted on 12/09/2004 1:42:38 PM PST by areafiftyone (Democrats = the hamster is dead but the wheel is still spinning)
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To: expatpat
Hmm....Not from a lib or rino source, either.

eh...Hewitt's kinda conservative, it depends on the issue.

He is against CCWs for the unwashed masses.
He is against the Proposition / Initiative process in California (the same one that allowed us to oust the commie Gov. Davis)
He is an open borders guy.

12 posted on 12/09/2004 1:45:35 PM PST by AreaMan
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To: Prime Choice
Sen. (and former Gov.) George Allen . . . unless Frist grows a personality and comes clean on some of the hospital funding/Medicare potential scandals in his past.
13 posted on 12/09/2004 1:45:42 PM PST by BroncosFan ("If I'm dead, why do I still have to go to the bathroom?" - Thomas Dewey, 1948)
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To: Stars N Stripes

Franks would be my first choice right now.

None of the early candidates mentioned really interest me like a Bush or a Reagan did in the past.


14 posted on 12/09/2004 1:46:08 PM PST by RWR8189 (Its Morning in America Again!)
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To: RWR8189
If we all do our jobs, the abortion issue will be resolved in this term with the appointment of as many as three Supreme Court justices and a bulletproof anti-PBA law. Given that environment I could very easily support Rudy, who would be an incredibly appealing candidate in blue states.
15 posted on 12/09/2004 1:46:31 PM PST by denydenydeny
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To: RWR8189

Our primary concern for 2008 is that at this time our top "candidates" are all liberals. I can see us in '08 making the same mistake that we made in '88, when we began to abandon the Reagan revolution and relegate conservatives to the fringe. The strength of the GOP is the conservative base. GOP leaders would do well to accept this fact.


16 posted on 12/09/2004 1:47:09 PM PST by bushisdamanin04
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To: West Coast Conservative

I like it!


17 posted on 12/09/2004 1:47:20 PM PST by blackie (Be Well~Be Armed~Be Safe~Molon Labe!)
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To: West Coast Conservative

ick!

2 bushes are more than enough. and, i voted all 3 times for the bushes.

if hillary won in 2008, we could have 28 years of our lives run by the same 2 families.

in a country that rebelled against royals and aristocrats.


18 posted on 12/09/2004 1:49:31 PM PST by ken21 (against the democrat plantation)
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To: RWR8189
I stopped what I was doing, repelled the audience, and then conducted a focus group.

LOL! I hope Hugh meant that he repolled the audience, not repelled.

19 posted on 12/09/2004 1:51:25 PM PST by SandyInSeattle (Official RKBA Landscaper and Arborist, Pajama Duchess of Green Leafy Things)
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To: expatpat
Hmm....Not from a lib or rino source, either.

It is true that Hugh Hewitt is not a Lib or a RINO, but he is a man who thinks it is better to put loyalty to the GOP ahead of loyalty to conservative principle. For example, during the California recall he was a big backer of Arnold and was unsparing toward those who backed the more qualified, more intelligent, and much more conservative candidate for governor, State Senator Tom McClintock.

As for 2008, I sure do hope that a better candidate than those three emerges. Rudy is a liberal on social issues and a hyper-liberal on immigration. McCain seems to think his base is the press. Frist is a nice guy and fairly conservative, but he's a dull cipher. I think nominating any of these guys would be a disaster.

20 posted on 12/09/2004 1:51:33 PM PST by feralcat
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