Monday, June 11, 2007

Prediction for the 2008 race

It is said to be foolish to make predictions regarding party nominations in a presidential race, especially this early. On the contrary, I think there is little to be lost and everything to gain from it. If you are wrong, no one remembers and, of those who do, no one cares. If you are right, however, everyone knows because you remind them at every appropriate opportunity.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto in the early 1980s, the great political scientist Nelson Polsby gave a guest lecture on why the election of Ronald Reagan was a fluke, a largely protest vote against an unpopular president. There was no electoral realignment and he had the figures to prove it. I sat there thinking that this fellow was so lost in his digitized world that he could not see the unquantifiable but decisive consideration. Regardless of why people voted for Reagan, he would charm them not only into loving him, but also into thinking that they had always loved him. I predicted he would be easily re-elected (no one cared, but take my word for it; I did), which he a landslide.

Here we are in 2007. Hillary Clinton is leading the Democrats in money and connections and poll support, and Rudy Giuliani is leading the Republicans. Never mind that. The nominees for the two parties will be Barack Obama and Fred Thompson, and I'll tell you why.

Each of the candidates is competing to convince one party or the other that he or she conforms most convincingly to the party’s ideal of a dream candidate. For the Democrats, that remains John F. Kennedy, and for the Republicans, of course, it is Reagan, and neither will be satisfied with its field of potential nominees until a Kennedy or a Reagan re-emerges. Most often they settle for what they can get (Kerry, Dole). At times, they think they have it, but are later disappointed (Clinton, the boy wonder, who was photographed as a youth with JFK, and George W. Bush who talked tough and moral, and seemed to look past his father to Reagan as a model).

Obama will strike the party as being sprung from the Kennedy mould. He is young, fresh, full of hope and can speak that hope persuasively into the living rooms and iPods of America (perhaps that is what Senator Biden meant to say). Fred Thompson is conservative, hawkish, homespun and media savvy...and he has only one divorce far back in his past.

I will even venture to predict the tickets and the winner in November 08. Obama will pick Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia as his running mate (popular governor of a large, conservative, southern state, but with northeastern connections). They will be a Democratic boys' brigade, reminiscent of the Clinton-Gore ticket, remembered fondly among the party faithful, but with greater geographic breadth.

Fred Thompson will choose Mitt Romney who is still young enough to harbor presidential ambitions after Thompson serves out his two terms (presumably). It is a perfectly balanced ticket: south and north, senator and governor, no religion and weird religion.

Of course, what happens in Iraq is a wild card, but, that aside, Thompson will wipe the floor with the young senator from Illinois. (He is only 45! But Kennedy was 43 when he took office.)

When Americans elect a president in a time of war, they look for the candidate who is most convincing as a commander in chief. Obama has little experience in government beyond the local level and much of his time as Senator will have been spent running for president. Thompson’s Washington experience, while sporadic, goes back to the Watergate hearings and includes two full, undistracted terms in the Senate. The contest will resemble one between teenaged idealism and sober, adult maturity.

Furthermore, while the image he evokes among party rank and file is that of Jack Kennedy, he will strike the broader public as more closely resembling Jimmy Carter who most inconveniently has been keeping himself embarrassingly in the public eye. Obama has high ideals and I have no reason to doubt that they reflect the man's good character and public spiritedness. However, a majority of the voting public will (rightly, I think) see these ideals translating into Carteresque naiveté in foreign policy and equally Carteresque incompetence in domestic policy, particularly in regard to the economy. Not only that, but by 2008 the only thing worse than looking like Jimmy Carter (who, as I said, is educating a whole new generation on why you don't want to grow up to be like your uncle Jimmy) will be looking like George W. Bush. America by that time, if not already, will be sick of any kind of moralistic foreign policy, but that is precisely what Sen. Obama will be offering.

Senator Thompson (are you reading this?): take note.


Anonymous said...

I'm convinced. Go, Thompson-Romney!

Bob VH said...

I'm not too keen on Romney going far in the Presidential race. He is, after all, the man we have to thank here in Massachusetts for the implementation of same-sex "marriage." See

John said...
This article by George Will has made me rethink Thompson a little bit. Any thoughts on it?