Carol Platt Liebau: Wish is Father to the Thought

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wish is Father to the Thought

In this column John Mercurio speculates that the much-ballyhooed report by The New York Times -- that Republican unhappiness with their presidential frontrunners could presage a realignment -- strikes me as more speculative than accurate.

Not so fast. There are several more innocuous reaosns for Republican discontent. First, it's worth noting that the GOP has always been a party of stability, and its candidate has traditionally been the "next in line" or otherwise a logical heir to the nomination. This year, given the widespread animus toward John McCain, that isn't the case, which in itself can be causing some uneasiness.

Second, if there's been any surprise in this campaign so far, it's the extent to which Rudy Giuliani has been embraced by elements of the party which -- according to the punditocracy -- were going to reject him outright. That isn't the sign of a realignment-producing discontent . . . rather, it's a signal that Republicans are in the race to win, and are willing to be pragmatic if that's what it takes, whatever their internal unrest.

Finally, party happiness with a nominee is important, of course -- but it isn't entirely dispositive. What likewise matters is how much appeal the nominee is likely to have across the spectrum to moderates and independents. And by that calculus, any of the three Republican frontrunners seem every bit as likely as the top Dems (more likely, in fact) to have widespread appeal. What also matters is -- even if Republicans aren't thrilled with their own candidate -- how alarmed or opposed they will be with the Democratic candidate.

And if that candidate is, for example, Hillary Clinton -- well, need I say more?


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