February 13, 2007

The Republican Runner Round-Up

Today brings news from all three major Republican primary candidates in the 2008 Presidential race. It started with a formal announcement from Mitt Romney of his candidacy for the nomination, followed by an unusual endorsement for Rudy Giuliani, and winds up tonight here at CQ with a preview of an in-depth interview I conducted with Governor Tim Pawlenty, John McCain's national co-chair of his exploratory committee. I'll be playing the entire interview on my Thursday night talk show, CQ Radio:

TP: On campaign finance reform, you have a lot of conservatives who are concerned about it from a First Amendment standpoint. I think it is fair to say that some reforms were in order, because you have interest groups that were wielding so much clout, leading to so many scandals that a cleaning up of the process, or at least an improvement of the process was in order. I don't agree with all the aspects of the McCain-Feingold reform, and a lot of conservatives don't either. That should be put in the context of all the other things he is conservative on. I think McCain-Feingold has some good -- I think some of the elements of McCain-Feingold are good, I just think that it overreached in other ways.

EM: Well, do you think that Senator McCain would address those overreach -- those positions that overreached and roll back some of the BCRA? Do you think he would be in favor of doing that?

TP: I have not heard him speak to that or say that, so I can't comment on that, but he has not to my knowledge indicated that he would do that.

Governor Pawlenty spoke with me for about 25 minutes and did not duck any of the issues I pursued. It's a good interview with a man who has a big future in national politics in his own right. He discusses his early decision to support McCain, policy disputes between McCain and conservatives, and why Pawlenty thinks McCain is the most authentic conservative in the race. Be sure to tune in Thursday night at 9 pm CT to hear all of the interview.

Romney started the day off today by making his candidacy official. He chose his home state of Michigan for the announcement, where his father served three terms as Governor and briefly flirted with a Presidential run himself. He positioned himself as an innovator and a manager with proven executive success:

We have lost faith in government, not in just one party, not in just one house, but in government.

We are weary of the bickering and bombast, fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion. For even as America faces a new generation of challenges, the halls of government are clogged with petty politics and stuffed with peddlers of influence.

It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve.

I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician. There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements ... and too little real world experience managing, guiding, leading.

I do not believe Washington can be transformed by someone who has never tried doing such a thing before, in any setting, by someone who has never even managed a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world.

It seems like Romney has decided that his toughest competition will come from McCain instead of Giuliani. This makes sense. Giuliani will run as the moderate with a tough mien for securing the nation, and Romney wants to run as the banner-carrier of the conservative wing of the party. The little digs about someone who hasn't run a corner store as well as the "outsider" remarks clearly reference McCain. He wants to bump McCain to the side of the road by reminding Republican conservatives of all the compromises and aisle-crossing McCain has done in over twenty years in Congress.

It's a smart move, but Romney may have his own issues with aisle-crossing. His position shifts on abortion and taxes will leave conservatives guessing as to which candidate they can trust more (or less).

Giuliani picked up an interesting endorsement. Ted Olson, the Solicitor General of the Bush administration in the first term and a longtime colleague of Giuliani, publicly endorsed the former mayor today:

The support of Olson should help Giuliani in his quest to win over social conservatives who remain skeptical of his pledge to appoint strict constructionist judges.

"I've known him for 26 years and we've talked about this many times," Olson said. "He feels very strongly that people like Justice Scalia, Chief Justice Roberts, Sam Alito, Clarence Thomas, are the type of people that he would put on the court…I'm quite convinced that this is a genuine viewpoint that he has."

When asked about differences conservatives have with Giuliani on issues such as abortion and gay rights, Olson said: "Rudy's views on many, many issues are going to be very compatible with people in the conservative political community and the political legal community. Nobody's going to be able to find a candidate with whom they agree with 100 percent on every issue. Overall, Rudy's strength of character, his capacity for leadership in a time when a strong executive is important, his energy level, his ability to provide the kind of leadership that Ronald Reagan did -- I think that is going to be very persuasive with conservatives."

Olson also lost his wife, Barbara Olson, in the 9/11 attacks. She was a passenger on the flight that hit the Pentagon, and had a following from her appearances on television talk shows. Olson has persevered through the loss in a dignified manner and has built tremendous respect among conservatives. This endorsement may help bridge the gap between the Republican Right and the moderate, pro-choice Giuliani.

It's been an interesting day for Republicans, and lots of food for thought. The interview on Thursday night will provide even more -- and it may not be the only interview I have for that night. Stay tuned!


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