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December 19, 2007

Blankley Not Firing Blanks

Tony Blankley has a bone to pick with the conservative punditry covering the Republican primary race. Given the volatility of the campaign, the top-tier candidates have all had their shot at being the flavor of the week, exposing them immediately afterwards to criticism. While Blankley doesn't have a problem with honest debate on the issues, he warns about the internecine nastiness he sees:

The Republican Party primary has so far been an exercise in none of the above. In their turns John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney seemed to be or seemed about to be frontrunners — only to fall back as the party's likely voters got a sharper look at each of them. Even my old boss Newt Gingrich, without even announcing, had a handsome surge from 4-5 percent to 18-20 percent in February — before falling back to single digits.

Now Mike Huckabee — for the moment surging to the front — is on the receiving end of withering intra-party fire applied with a rhetorical violence usually reserved by Republican polemicists for a Clinton or a Kennedy. Just as social conservatives earlier this fall threatened (for a couple of weeks) to run a third party if Mr. Giuliani got the nomination, so Washington Republican elites are willing to misrepresent parts of what Mr. Huckabee has said and written in a savage effort to destroy any chance he might have of electability.

It is as if each faction of the Grand Old Party feels a stronger passion to defeat its intra-party rival factions than to defeat the Democrats in November. This maximum instinct to deny the intra-party rival victory may be a sign of a philosophical rebirth (as in the Goldwater nomination and campaign of 1964), but it is also a sign of a party likely to lose the next general election. ...

I don't have a candidate yet. I either disagree with each on important points or have doubts about the electability of each. But most of all, I fear our intra-party fury will destroy all leaders and send us off to a brokered convention — and from thence probably to defeat. If the Democrats have their candidate by February and we are campaigning harshly until August — we would surely start in a deep hole.

I second Blankley's commentary. At times, it appears that the various factions in the center-right coalition have all attempted to demonize the candidate du jour as a means of demanding obeisance to their own candidates. In doing so, many have distorted the actual policy positions of the candidates by using reductio ad absurdum arguments that allow for no nuance or compromise at all.

Where has that taken us? As I wrote yesterday, we appear to be heading towards an inconclusive primary season. The shortened schedule will not allow for much lead time for party voters to rally behind a single winner. If we have three or four winners before Super Tuesday, when 23 states go to the polls simultaneously, we may have a serious problem. Afterwards, not enough states will have an opportunity to seal the deal if February 5th produces a three- or four-way split.

Republicans need to take a deep breath and look at the candidates again with fresh perspectives. Blankley does this with Huckabee's CFR essay and concludes that he could live with most of what Huckabee offers, even if he didn't word it very artfully as a campaign document. Others can do the same with the rest of the candidates and take one more pass through the positions to see how much unites us instead of dividing us. If we can't do that, we'll end up electing Hillary Clinton by default.


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