A conservative in '08?
By John Bender
Right now the prospects of having a conservative nominee in the 2008 presidential race are not looking good. The two frontrunners for the Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are certainly not conservative and while Romney's words are conservative his record is not.
The only conservative actually in the race right now is Rep. Duncan Hunter, but the media and the Republican establishment are ignoring the fact that he is running. Mr. Hunter is going to have to find a way to bypass the drive-by media and the Republican establishment, which is firmly in the hands of what we used to call "Rockefeller Republicans", if he is going to have any chance at all.
There are delusional suggestions on Republican blogs that Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich might jump into the race. That's not going to happen. Even if it did, neither of them can win a general election. Santorum couldn't win reelection in his home state and Gingrich is so damaged by being forced out of the Speakers' office almost any Democrat could beat him badly in a national race.
Of course, some conservative could still jump into the race, but time is running out for that to happen. The money and campaign staff needed to mount a serious race are quickly being committed to people who already took the plunge. Plus, the campaign is already under way.
Our 24/7 cable news networks, internet newspapers, and talk radio have lengthened the campaign season. It now starts the day after the mid-term congressional elections. That's when the political insiders, political junkies, and activist groups start looking for a candidate to back in the primaries, and they are the people who choose who gets the nomination.
The elites within the party learned little since 1972, 1976 and 1980 when they condemned Ronald Reagan as too radical to win a national election. Conservatives finally broke the establishment blockade and gave Reagan the nomination in 1980. He won the general election in a landslide. In 1984 he was reelected in an even bigger landslide. Unfortunately, in 1988 the Rockefeller Republicans too back the party and have repeatedly nominated one of their own ever since.
Instead of learning that conservatives aren't, as Donald Rumsfeld, Ford's chief of staff in 1976, described the Reagan supporters a "bunch of right-wing nuts", but are the ticket to winning big nationally. The Republican elites are still parroting President Ford's fallacious warning in the 1980 primaries; "A very conservative Republican cannot win in a national election", despite the historical evidence against that notion. But, they also learned how to out maneuver the conservatives.
It will be harder to take back the party than it was to take it in 1980. The Rockefeller Republicans now claim they are the conservatives. The media also calls them conservatives and the right wing. And the masses believe the deception.
They've also infiltrated most of the conservative organizations that backed Reagan against them in 1976 and 1980. Some of them play conservatives on talk radio and the talking head shows on television.
Barring some miracle, or a lot of hard work from conservatives, the Rockefeller Republicans will again nominate one of their own in 2008. The results of that nomination will be to loose the White House, or another squeaker of a win.
But all is not lost yet. As late as March of 1980 it wasn't sure that President Reagan would win the nomination and he was 25 points behind Carter in the national polls. But conservatives kicked up their efforts, won the nomination and won the election in a landslide. We can do it again. It won't be easy. But it will be well worth the effort.
The country needs a conservative president in '08. Republicans need to nominate another "right wing nut" like President Reagan if they hope to win another landslide.
Rep. Duncan Hunter may not be the man who can pull it off. He's a Reagan conservative, a decorated combat veteran whose son served in Iraq. He's been Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and understands the importance of a well trained, well equipped military in this troubled world.
He may not be the communicator President Reagan was and may not be able to get his message past the media and Republican establishment. Only time will tell. But right now, Mr. Hunter looks like the party's only hope of nominating a conservative.
© John Bender, 2007
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!