Fisking Fred Barnes On The 2008 Election

Normally, Fred Barnes does a pretty good job of political analysis. But, for whatever reason, perhaps because he fears Hillary as a candidate or because he has been affected by the gloomy political atmosphere, Barnes has written an unjustifiably pessimistic column about the GOP’s chances in 2008.

Truthfully, things just aren’t anywhere nearly as bad as Barnes makes them out to be. He starts out by saying:

“THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION of 2008 is a long way off, but Republicans better start worrying about it now. The 2006 midterm election? Republicans are likely to hold onto the Senate and House. But 2008 is another story. In the midst of a Republican era, Democrats stand a good chance of taking the White House then. Even Senator Hillary Clinton of New York–or perhaps I should say especially Hillary Clinton–has realistic prospects of winning.”

Fred gives 5 reasons why he believes this is so. Starting with…

“(T)he Republican party (has) a lesser field of candidates: McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Senator George Allen, and a few others. All of them have distinct handicaps. McCain’s is that many Republican loathe him. Giuliani is a social liberal. Allen and Romney are inexperienced at the national level. Frist has a soft and blurred image.”

Although Barnes is right on target about McCain & Giuliani, since when is being inexperienced at the national level a handicap in a run at the presidency? To the contrary, the opposite is true: governors generally make better candidates than politicians with the stink of Washington on them. If you don’t believe that, just look at W., Clinton, and Reagan, none of whom were “Washington insiders” when they ran.

Furthermore, in today’s world, which features a 24 hour news cycle, talk radio, blogs, and endless analysis of every political detail, any candidate the Republicans select as their nominee, even if he (or she) is at present a relatively unknown governor, will have no problem introducing himself (or herself) to the American public.

Given that — and the fact that a lot of governors who may be potentially excellent candidates haven’t gotten into the race — it’s a little early to conclude that the field is weak. Remember, you only need one really good candidate.

On to Barnes’ 2nd reason:

“But in 2008, there’s a reasonably good chance Democrats will able to produce another great field operation. All they’ll need is another infusion of money from rich liberals. But Republicans will have a harder time. The 2004 volunteers showed up because of their strong personal commitment to President Bush. Will so many volunteers work so hard for McCain or Allen or Giuliani or whoever wins the Republican presidential nomination in 2008? I doubt it.”

While Bush was strongly supported by the GOP in the 2004 campaign, there’s no reason to think that another candidate won’t be able to inspire that kind of loyalty in 2008. Truthfully, in 2004, most conservatives seemed more motivated by having a strong conservative hand guiding our foreign policy than any great love for President Bush.

It’s also worth noting that the GOP isn’t locked in to any particular approach. If volunteers aren’t getting the job done, there’s no reason why Republicans can’t supplement their efforts with paid campaign workers.

The Democrats had a big overall advantage with 527 groups last time around because, quite frankly, they were simply more willing to ignore the letter of the law. But in 2008, when campaign finance laws are going to be more clear-cut and the GOP has had more time to prepare, the money, including funds needed for voter registration if need be, will likely be much more even than in 2004.

Number 3 from Barnes:

“In 2004, John Kerry was a heavily flawed Democratic candidate. He was a northeastern liberal who hardly inspired trust or persuaded voters he would be a strong leader. Yet if 60,000 voters in Ohio had switched from Bush to him last year, he’d be president today. He was that close. Thus a more attractive Democratic candidate in 2008, including Hillary Clinton, has a strong residual Democrat base to build on.”

Sure, Bush did have some stellar numbers from 2001 up until the last few months of 2003, but from that point on up until the election, he never had great poll numbers. In fact, he spent that entire time hovering right around 50% approval and he has steadily declined since then. So even if conditions were to remain the same, and they never truly do, there’s no reason why the GOP can’t run a more popular candidate in 2008 than Bush was in 2004.

Number 4 from Barnes:

“And what if Democrats check their emotions at the door and clean up their political act? I think this is more likely than not. All Democrats can’t be as self-destructive as Howard Dean, their party chairman.”

This is always possible and were it to happen, it would actually be good for the country. But, there’s very little evidence that they’re about to turn things around. In fact, if anything, the Michael Moore, Howard Dean, Cindy Sheehan, Kos wing of the party that is killing them politically actually seems to be getting stronger.

When the Dems start seriously considering Southern Democrats with a reputation for being moderates, like Phil Bredesen & Mark Warner, as their candidates for President, then that’ll be a sign that they’ve wised up. As long as they keep running faux moderate liberals like Kerry and Hillary Clinton, they’re never going to be able to turn things around over the long haul.

Here’s #5 from Barnes:

“Finally, there’s the media, more aptly called the Republican-hating media. We’ve already seen what they are willing to do to protect Hillary Clinton.”

The media is going to slobber all over Hillary Clinton and give Republicans a hard time? What else is new? Since when has the mainstream media ever played fair in a presidential election?

Fortunately, that matters less and less as time goes on because the MSM is bleeding eyeballs and credibility by the day, while conservatives are slowly but surely starting to balance the scales with Fox, Talk Radio, and the blogosphere.

Sure, the MSM may hate us, but if media bias were a decisive factor, the GOP would never win an election.

Last but not least, Barnes doesn’t discuss Hillary Clinton’s many defects as a candidate. Even though Hillary should make a better candidate than Kerry, she still has a cavalcade of weaknesses.

She’s a liberal politician from a liberal state with a liberal voting record. Furthermore, she has staggeringly high negatives & she’s so hated that she’ll actually motivate the GOP base. On top of that, she has a frosty personality and she doesn’t generate much more enthusiasm than Kerry did amongst the Kos/Moore/Dean crowd.

That’s not to say that Hill can’t win, because she can. But, Hillary Clinton is far from the rampaging juggernaut she’s portrayed to be and if the GOP can put up a halfway decent candidate against her, chances are, she’ll lose by a bigger margin than Kerry did.

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