Don’t be surprised if, come November of 2008, voters are choosing between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush for president.
But how can that be? Jeb’s not running.
Well, he isn’t running now, but the new, front-loaded primary system may, counterintuitively, allow him to enter the race late as a “white knight” rescuing Republicans from a morass of unhappiness and indecision.
The fully frontloaded system replaces not the slow unfolding of primary and caucus states common through, say, 1976, but an already semi-frontloaded system instead. It is the latter, the semi, that produced overly quick ends to the nomination battles — but the fully frontloaded system may do just the opposite.
The reason the semi served to quickly winnow the presidential field is that it effectively anointed one particular candidate as the nearly unstoppable frontrunner by virtue of results in three states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Iowa would usually put forth one winner, New Hampshire — jealous of its “first in the nation” prerogatives — would put forth another, and then South Carolina would break the tie. The big jumble of staggered primaries in the weeks thereafter would come just at the right time to validate the momentum earned in South Carolina, and only a brief denouement was usually needed before the losing candidates acknowledged that the jig was up.
But in 2008, with a whopping 19 states, including mammoth California, moving their primaries, the Feb. 2 South Carolina match won’t seem so decisive because everybody will know that the big delegate haul will come just three days later. And because all of the major candidates will be fighting heavily across such a wide range of states, the odds are high that each major candidate will win at least several of those 19 states. If, say, John McCain wins California and Arizona, and maybe another, but Mitt Romney follows a New Hampshire win with Feb. 5 wins in Michigan, Utah, and Colorado, and another one or two, while Rudy Giuliani takes Florida, New Jersey, Illinois and Tennessee, and Mike Huckabee wins his home state of Arkansas and Sam Brownback carries home-state Kansas…well, then, who exactly is the front-runner?
RATHER THAN PROVIDING UNSTOPPABLE momentum to any one candidate, in other words, the widespread voting on Feb. 5 could serve to keep all three “major” candidates and even a couple of minor ones alive. Nobody could claim a mandate, the vitriol would continue to grow, and the dissatisfaction already being voiced by conservatives might take on pandemic proportions.
Meanwhile, a number of states may have qualifying dates for candidates or delegates that post-date Feb. 5. Nine states still won’t vote until May. A white night with a big enough name could conceivably jump in the race, sweep all the later contests, and lay claim to be the candidate of consensus and unity. Think of another president’s brother, Bobby Kennedy in 1968, and you get the idea.
Not only that, but the white knight could pick up the endorsements, and presumably the delegates, of the minor candidates as they fall by the wayside. Huckabee’s Arkansans and Brownback’s Kansans could both shift to the knight the moment those candidates drop out. Ditto for McCain’s Arizonans and Californians if, after eight more big primaries on March 4, he finds himself to be clearly in third place among the three major contestants.
Suddenly, the scenario for the knight’s victory doesn’t look quite so far-fetched.
Of course, this all assumes that we’re talking about one helluva knight. Somebody with major name ID, with access to large amounts of money and organizational might at a moment’s notice, and with a solid reputation across the Republican philosophical spectrum.
Of course, Jeb Bush qualifies on all counts.
BUT WHY WOULD HE RUN when the name Bush is so unpopular these days?
Perhaps because a lot can change in a year. Ask George H. W. Bush, he of the 91 percent approval rating in 1991, about how fast political fortunes can change. What if, by late winter of next year, the vaunted troop surge in Iraq is seen to have been a major success? What if the continued over-reaching by Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha makes President George W. Bush look good by comparison, just as Bill Clinton looked good when compared with the caricature Newt Gingrich allowed to be drawn of himself?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online