With former Senator Fred Thompson's entry into the presidential race, the Republicans now have at least three candidates who could have the money and votes to compete, if necessary, all the way to June 2008. And they might have to do so. Indeed, when the Republicans meet in Minneapolis-St. Paul in September 2008 to choose their nominee, they might be looking at a brokered convention. Of course, the party has had multiple strong candidates before--in 1980, for instance, and 1988 and even in 2000. But the old schedule of primaries and caucuses was designed to winnow down the field.
Every political reporter has a Karl Rove story, and I have mine. I met Rove in Austin in 1995, when I was writing a profile of presidential aspirant Phil Gramm. Rove had done direct mail for Gramm's campaigns for Senate, and I expected nothing but praise for the senator. Rove did praise him, but he would occasionally interject a surprisingly critical note. He said that people in Texas were "sick of being dunned for money" by Gramm.
The scandal surrounding Idaho Senator Larry Craig and his arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom will preoccupy politicians, ethicists, and bloggers for the next few weeks. But it probably won't alter Republican political prospects next year in deeply red Idaho. As far as the 2008 election is concerned, the big political news this week was Virginia Representative Tom Davis's visit to southwest Virginia to test the waters for a possible Senate race for the seat now held by Republican Senator John Warner. Why is that a big deal?
In June 2004, I went door to door in a white, working- class neighborhood of Martinsburg, West Virginia, a small blue-collar town in decline. There, I found voters disillusioned with both the Iraq war and the flagging economy. But, when I returned five months later-- the Sunday before the election--I had difficulty digging up anyone who didn't plan to vote for George W. Bush.
Every political reporter has a Karl Rove story, and I have mine. I met Rove in Austin in 1995 when I was writing a profile of presidential aspirant Phil Gramm. Rove had done direct mail for Gramm's campaigns for Senate, and I expected nothing but praise for the senator. Rove did praise him, but he would occasionally interject a surprisingly critical note about Gramm. He said that people in Texas were "sick of being dunned for money" by Gramm.
On July 26, the parents of Jeffrey Lucey, an Iraq vet who committed suicide, filed suit in Massachusetts against the Department of Veterans Affairs for "wrongful death" and "medical malpractice." The Luceys could win their case. In April 2007, the VA's Inspector General concluded that the VA Medical Center in Leeds had made mistakes in dealing with Jeffrey Lucey. But the questions about this case go beyond the already well-documented incompetence of the Veterans Administration. They involve the effect of the Iraq war on the mental health of American soldiers.
The Bush administration is concerned that China's "blue-water navy" could encroach upon American prerogatives in the Pacific. According to The Economist's recent study of American power, "China is the country that most worries the Pentagon." Human rights activists demand the release of thousands of Chinese political prisoners. American consumers are up in arms over tainted Chinese pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, and dog food.
The release of the second-quarter fundraising totals spells trouble for two presidential candidates: Democrat John Edwards and Republican John McCain. Edwards has always been a long-shot for the nomination, but McCain was once the Republican frontrunner and expected (by me, among others) to have an easy path to the nomination. His candidacy is in now a shambles--and for more reasons than money. When former Senator Phil Gramm was running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, he used to cite "Huckaby's Law," named after political consultant and fundraising expert Stan Huckaby.
Congress's approval rating is even lower than President Bush's--it's at 23 percent according to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. And, in another poll, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's favorability rating is down there with Scooter Libby--at 19 percent. Some Democrats blame their low standing with the public on the difficulties inherent in controlling Congress when the opposition party controls the White House. The fact is that the Democrats, with only a 50-49 majority, do not have enough votes to override White House vetoes or even to stop a Republican filibuster.