Q&A Friday #97: Could Any Of The 2008 GOP Primary Candidates Have Won The Election?
Question: “Could any Republican have won in the current environment, who, in your opinion, could that have been, and why?” — RtWingNtCase
Answer: Two things.
First off, the environment was so tough for Republicans that I think it would have been an uphill battle for any of the candidates to pull off a victory.
Second of all, it’s a little hard to judge how particular candidates would have matched up to Obama because McCain was the most moderate of the bunch and so, he ran a very different campaign than any of the other contenders would have.
That being said….
I think faux conservative Mitt Romney would have been behind Obama in double digits by mid-summer and would have lost by an even bigger margin than McCain did — and that’s even with the economic twist at the end that would have helped him.
Romney wouldn’t have delivered any northern states, ran weaker than McCain did in the South (My guess is that he would have lost Georgia and Missouri in addition to the other southern states that went for Obama), and to be honest, it’s hard for me to really see a wishy-washy moderate technocrat pretending to be a conservative, like Romney, getting the base fired up. There are a lot of conservatives who have never liked the guy, never trusted him, and probably never will.
Rudy Giuliani would have had a lot of the same problems McCain did and had a really sleazy cast of characters around him as well — however, I do think Rudy would have at least been pugnacious enough to really try to take Obama’s head off. Still, I have trouble seeing Rudy changing the map significantly from what McCain pulled in.
Mike Huckabee would have done a better job of pitching the middle-class than McCain, would have done better in the South (Does Huckabee lose NC & Virginia? I doubt it), would have annihilated Obama in the debates, and was smart enough to oppose the bailout. On the other hand, most of the same conservatives who don’t like McCain, don’t like Huckabee either. Could that have changed over the course of the election? Maybe. I think there is an outside chance that Huck could have won the election.
I think my old boss, Duncan Hunter, would have been a solid candidate had he gotten that far. He had McCain’s credibility on defense issues, but would have hammered away at Obama on things like abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration. That being said, Dunc never took off at all anywhere except online, so if he wasn’t able to sell himself to conservatives at the polls, you have to wonder if he could have sold himself to the American people. That being said, without question, I would have rather had him up there providing a clear contrast between Republicans and Democrats, rather than having McCain running on a “Democrat light” platform.
The guy who I think would have done the best was Fred Thompson. He understands the conservative movement, he can really speak (as anyone who saw his speech at the Republican National Convention can tell you), and he’s a genuine conservative who would have ferociously hammered away at Obama on taxes, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, guns, etc., etc.
That being said, I really like Fred, but I also question how badly he wanted the job. A lot of the time, I got the impression that Fred would be just as happy acting and relaxing at home as he would have been in the White House and I am not sure he could have overcome that lack of drive. A “fired up” Fred would have been our best candidate and could have won. Would he have been fired up though?
Long story short: It’s entirely possible that none of the other candidates may have done better than McCain, but at least when it comes to Hunter and Thompson, it would have been nice to test that theory in the real world.