Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008 | Yes, Republicans still can win the White House.
Few would have thought so after the ’06 elections or even last year when Republicans were still praying to be saved by a movie actor, Fred Thompson, who hadn’t even entered the race. True, Bush is still vastly unpopular, but the long stalemate in Iraq has numbed the moral outrage of some Republicans and allowed for the resurrection of John McCain, the great war champion pronounced dead only six months ago.
McCain, following the Hara Kari of Virginia’s George (“macaca”) Allen two years ago, was the only Republican with a real chance to succeed Bush — if only the war would go away. Rudy Giuliani destroyed his candidacy by preferring to be anointed rather than actually campaign, and as for Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, even in the unlikely chance either won the nomination, neither could win the presidency.
For Democrats, the question all along was who had the best chance to take back the White House after the Bush disaster. The three leading candidates were all acceptable; none was having his credentials challenged as conservatives were pounding away on McCain. John Edwards was more liberal, Hillary Clinton more articulate, Barack Obama more inspiring, but they were all recognized as strong.
McCain sewed up the GOP nomination Tuesday, and Republicans like Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson who don’t like him will either hold their nose and support him or serve the cause of the Democrats. Except on immigration (on which he has changed his tune), McCain gets high marks on conservative issues such as taxes, guns, wars and abortion. Limbaugh’s rants never made any political sense
It was Iraq that nearly did McCain in. Just as he believed we could have won in Vietnam with more troops, he holds that view on Iraq as well, and Bush’s dispatch of 21,000 more troops last year saved him. It has, however, done nothing to end the war. Last year was the deadliest for Americans since the invasion, and 2008 is off to a bad start. Given what we know, the idea that more U.S. troops can guarantee “victory” in any colonial war these days seems to me daft.