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reed magazine logoAutumn 2007
Paul Gronke and insets of presidential candidates

What about the rest of the rest of the Republicans running for president? Handicap them.

I honestly have a difficult time understanding the Republican field this year. I’m a Democrat—I make no secret of that—but I do think it’s very important to understand the opposition and think in those terms.

Giuliani, I thought, was too liberal. His personal background, I thought, would have made him toxic in the Republican Party. The way he gave up on his previous marriage and started this recent one—I’ll just leave it at that.

I have to think that Mitt Romney is number two now, but all he’s done is spend $25 million or $30 million to get a few percentage points in the national polls. He is doing well in a lot of the smaller states; he’s sinking a lot of resources into Iowa, New Hampshire, hoping that he’ll vault into national prominence via those two primaries. He has a history like Giuliani’s—that he governed as a moderate in order to be successful in a liberal state. I guess that would make Romney number two, but I still can’t quite figure him out. Maybe it’s the hair—I just can’t get the hair, it’s too perfect.

Fred Thompson—he seems devoid of any desire to run for president. It seems like his main campaign theme is “I’m an actor, you know me from Law & Order, oh yeah, that Ronald Reagan guy, he was an actor, too.” But people forget that Reagan had a long history in politics. Yes, Thompson was a senator, by all marks not an undistinguished senator. He’s made his name on a few issues, particularly campaign finance, and he did work for the Watergate investigative committee on the Republican side. So he does have experience in politics, but he was a lobbyist for many years. He’s running as an outsider, but he’s really an insider. I guess his only appeal is that he’s not all the other candidates, and that’s not a very good way to win a campaign.

Ron Paul is interesting. He’s raising a lot of money, and as far as we can tell, the support he’s getting spans the political spectrum. He’s only getting 1 or 2 percent in the national polls, but he’s saying interesting things, and people who want a real outsider, who will say goofball things about the monetary system, love Ron Paul.

Tom Tancredo is so right wing that it’s unbelievable.

Mike Huckabee is the potential surprise. I will put myself on the line now by saying that Huckabee will outpoll Thompson, and he will knock Thompson out. There’s my stick-my-neck-out prediction. He appears to be the potential alternative for the conservative forces. He’s saying the right things; apparently he does pretty well on the stump; he’s been humorous in the debates, a little self-effacing. He’s a nice contrast to Giuliani because of his personal approach. He’s a Southerner—Southerners just do well in American politics. Huckabee could potentially finish second; that would be a stretch, but he could.

Then there’s John McCain. I think that as there is unhappiness about the candidates, and as the potential savior, Fred Thompson, turns out to be a very old war horse, it feels to me, and the polls show, that McCain may actually emerge. It might be that Huckabee is the alternative to Giuliani, but it could be McCain. My feeling is that Romney is a paper tiger, and that he’s not going to do as well as expected in New Hampshire. If he doesn’t win New Hampshire, he’s in trouble, because he was the governor of Massachusetts. And someone else will be anointed, and it will probably be Huckabee or McCain.

What about the Democratic field?

I think the Democrats, perhaps more than the Republicans, really want to win. The Republicans are feeling disenchanted right now and demoralized. The Democrats are feeling emboldened, but they don’t want to blow it. There’s a concern among Democrats—you know that quote about the Democrats’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?—I think that tendency would, at this point, play into Hillary Clinton’s hands. I hesitate to say that, because John Edwards is most electable in my own personal opinion. The reason from the political science viewpoint is that he’s a Southerner, and it’s difficult to put together a winning coalition without winning a couple of Southern states.

Clinton has a very well-oiled campaign machinery, obviously. She had some stumbles a couple months ago that she seems to have recovered from very well. She seems to be getting good advice, identifying her weaknesses. It’s interesting that she’s not running as a woman; she’s running as confident and experienced. All reports are that she’s a very effective senator in New York. People seem to forget that she’s popular in that state.

I think she was really surprised by the emerging Obama phenomenon. I saw, and still see in some people, a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that I really haven’t seen in my lifetime. Two months ago, I would have said Barak Obama is a real threat, but his campaign doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere.

Edwards just struggles with being out-organized and out-funded by Hillary Clinton. Like Romney, he’s placing all his eggs in one basket. He really has to win Iowa. He’s got the organization in place to do well after Iowa because he’s been organizing for so long. The problem for him is not going to be the personnel, it’s going to be the votes. If he wins Iowa, the money will come.


reed magazine logoAutumn 2007