Magazine article The American Conservative

The Marathoner's Race

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Marathoner's Race

Article excerpt

NORFOLK, VA .--I think it's safe to say that the Republican establishment doesn't want Mike Huckabee to be the GOP nominee. Good. The blessing of party panjandrums seems to be a kiss of political death.

Consider: Just a little while ago, the Republican establishment candidate was John McCain. Then last spring, McCain's campaign cratered, in large part because the Arizonan redoubled his bet on a key establishment priority, "comprehensive immigration reform." In a head-to-head contest between the establishment and a fully informed electorate, the electorate always wins.

Since then, the establishment split up in various ways. Rudy Giuliani, for example, picked up some big-state governors, such as Rick Perry of Texas, who was attracted to Giuliani's advocacy of a "virtual fence" along the Mexican border as opposed to a real fence. And of course, Giuliani won leading neo-conservatives to his side, such as Norman Podhoretz and David Frum.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney made a play for social and economic conservatives, bagging quite a few big shots, including Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and National Review. In addition, Romney gained a quasi-endorsement from George H.W. Bush, who invited the former Massachusetts governor to deliver his "important" religion-in-American-life speech last December at the Bush Library; at that event, "41" offered an effusive introduction. If things didn't work out for Romney, it wasn't for lack of trying.

And of course, if there were any not-nailed-down establishmentarians floating around last year, Fred Thompson picked them up. During his lazy campaign, Thompson roused himself sufficiently to embrace avant-garde Republicanism, including a Bush 43-style partial privatization of Social Security. Such ideologizing made Thompson the darling of the D.C. think-tank set--but got him nowhere with voters.

Well, gee. Now Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson are all out of the race. To be sure, McCain is back, in a big way, but only after disavowing his previous "amnesty first" stance on immigration and shedding his big-budget inside-the-Beltway campaign in favor of a low-spending, straight-talk-expressing candidacy that returned him to his maverick roots. Now a resurgent McCain, having won a bunch of primaries, is being embraced by big-state governors and big-time operatives, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Karl Rove. …

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