Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2008: A One-Issue Election?

With the first primaries about 10 months away, let’s take a quick look at the frontrunners in the two major parties.

Rudy Giuliani leads the Republican field. He is getting support from social and religious conservatives, despite his being liberal on issues such as abortion. Why? The war, stupid.
There is the war, which overwhelms everything as the major issue in the eyes of the base. No group in the country backs the war on terror as fervently as social conservatives, whose main criticism of the president's policy is that it has not been aggressive enough. To them, Rudy is the ultimate warrior, a man who not only survived 9/11 and rallied the city, but whose success in routing the gangs of New York is a template for engaging the Islamic terrorists, and an indication that he has the resolve and the relentlessness to carry this bloody task off.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is losing support among Democrats. Why? The war, stupid.
Democrats said in interviews last week that a that a critical factor contributing to her decline in the polls was her unwillingness to apologize for her vote for the Iraq war and admit it was a mistake. "Her Iraq war vote is coming back to haunt her. She's said everything except that she made a mistake. Voters see this as Hillary wanting it both ways," said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000.
So, despite disagreements on issues, the Republican base is supporting Giuliani because he is strong on the war. Despite agreement with Hillary on every other important issue, the Democrat base is leaving Clinton because she refuses to apologize for supporting a war that saw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship. The Republican base is better than I had thought and the Democrat base is, if possible, worse than I had thought.

A lot can happen between now and November, 2008, but right now one issue overshadows all others: war. If this remains the case, the Republican will win easily because independent voters tend to be pro-American and pro-defense. All the anti-war types are on the left, not in the middle. (The Republican might be a paper tiger like George W. Bush -- and America might actually be safer with a Democrat than a Republican who pretends to fight a war, but does not -- but the perception of strength is likely to be for the Republican among voters.)

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