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Presidential Race update! 18 July, 2007

Posted by David Anderson in Election 2008, federal.
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This is from Evans-Novak’s Political Report of today.

President 2008

The second-quarter financial filings should be alarming for Republicans, revealing that the top three Republicans have raised a total of $93 million for the presidential race compared to the $135 million raised by the top three Democrats. Recent polls put former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) in the lead among Republicans, but “undecided” places slightly higher than either one. Democratic voters, meanwhile, appear to be far more satisfied with and locked into their choices.

Ames Straw Poll: With Sen. John McCain‘s (R-Ariz.) campaign all but dead, the August 11 Ames, Iowa, straw poll takes on a significance it did not have before. McCain, already lagging Iowa, had dropped out of the straw poll with a sigh of relief after Giuliani chose not to compete, and that would have left the two frontrunners out of the contest. But now, only frontrunner Giuliani is missing.

  1. That sets up a brawl between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and several minor conservative candidates. For the latter, a strong showing in the Ames straw poll is their best chance to compensate for a lack of campaign funds and propel themselves out of the second tier.
  2. Romney probably needs to win at Ames. Despite the fact that he lags in national polls, Romney is the clear frontrunner in most Iowa and New Hampshire state polling, largely a reflection of the positive ads he has run in those states to build up his image. Even if he continues to trail nationwide come January, winning in those states would make him instantly more credible heading into the big Super Tuesday of February 5. A second-place finish could embarrass Romney but not destroy him. A multi-millionaire, Romney will not be devastated by bad news with donors fleeing in every direction — as McCain has been and will be in the coming month.
  3. One candidate who could surprise in Ames next month is Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), whom most commentators write off for his lack of fundraising ability. Iowa Republicans have a history of supporting social conservatives, nearly handing Pat Buchanan a victory in 1996. Although Buchanan is really closer politically to presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), Brownback has a geographic and issue advantage in Iowa that Hunter, Romney and Giuliani lack with respect to farm issues. He also may be picking up many of McCain’s former supporters, who are not turned off by Brownback’s position on immigration.

    Low on funds, Brownback has been frugal and intensely concentrated on Iowa. His operation is all grassroots, with no mail or television in the state. The conventional low expectations work in his favor, but a more realistic appraisal is that he needs a win or a close second at Ames to have a shot at Iowa in January.

  4. Among the other battlers for the right-wing vote is Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who views Brownback as a key rival. Tancredo landed a few punches on Brownback for his support of the comprehensive immigration reform bill and the fact that Brownback changed his vote from “yes” to “no” during the Senate’s second cloture vote on the bill last month. Brownback responded by blanketing Tancredo’s congressional district with mailers about contributions Tancredo had received from John Tanton, an anti-immigration activist with ties to Planned Parenthood. Tancredo has toned things down since then, a sign that he is likely to run for his seat again when the presidential campaign is over.
  5. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has gained much attention for being the only anti-war Republican in the race. At the same time as some Republicans are accusing him of treason, he appears to have collected more in campaign donations from active-duty military than any other Republican presidential candidate. He has attracted enough attention that some worry about a third-party candidacy.

    Paul’s anti-ethanol subsidy position will not help him in Iowa. Yet like Buchanan, he embraces an isolationist foreign policy that many Iowans appreciate. He recently stoked controversy with an appearance on the radio show of a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, in which he suggested that the Bush Administration is looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran.

  6. What about Fred? It is an open question where Fred Thompson stands in Ames, considering that he will probably not be an official candidate by then and will not actively participate in the straw poll.

Gilmore: The exit of former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) from the race did not shock anyone, but it is a lesson in the difference between a frontrunner and an underdog campaign. Even as he received advice to go out on a limb by attacking the frontrunners or by embracing bold policy proposals that would distinguish him from other candidates, Gilmore ran a very cautious campaign.

Instead of running like an underdog, Gilmore campaigned like a frontrunner, presenting himself as a mainline conservative. He also made a habit of showing his résumé constantly during the debates, answering questions from his experience in one capacity or another.

The result of his exit now could be that Gilmore competes for the Senate seat of John Warner (R-Va.) should Warner retire. In a state where Republicans have received few breaks lately, many conservatives would find him preferable to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), whom they see as more moderate.

Giuliani: By releasing a list of prospective judicial nominees, Rudy Giuliani wants to ease the minds of conservatives who are otherwise unwilling to support him because of his views on abortion. With Fred Thompson at his heels, Giuliani needs to offer these conservatives something more substantial (and more consistent) than his message on abortion in the campaign so far.

Fred Thompson: Thompson has wavered from an outright denial to an acknowledgement that he may have lobbied for or at least given advice to a group seeking to have the U.S. government fund abortions abroad. If he did, he does not remember. This would have occurred during the administration of George H. W. Bush, before Thompson was elected to the Senate. Conservatives appear to be unconcerned by the allegation, which was brought by the abortion group.

Thompson could form an exploratory committee at the end of July, which would allow him to avoid disclosing campaign contributions until the third-quarter reporting period. Thompson would instead file an IRS form to maintain the tax-exempt status of his “testing the waters committee.” His official announcement might not come until September.

Randy Enwright, a Republican political consultant from Florida with strong ties to the Iowa GOP, has been tapped as political director of Thompson’s forthcoming presidential campaign. Based in Tallahassee, Enwright worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 Florida campaign and has been the Republican National Committee’s regional political director for Florida since then. In the early 90s, he was staff director of the Republican Party in Iowa, where caucuses will kick off the 2008 delegate selection. Enwright was executive director of the Florida party in 1995-1999 and adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

Clinton: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) received the endorsement this week of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Her husband, President Bill Clinton, appealed to small donors for Senate Democratic campaigns recently by asking for a tax increase for upper-income earners — which include himself. As President in 1993, Clinton pushed huge upper-bracket tax increases through Congress, after which Republicans won control of the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years.

His June 25 appeal, asking contributions of “$50, $100 or even more,” included the declaration: “I never had any money until I left the White House. But now that I’m a millionaire, I get more help from the federal government than anybody. I think it’s inconsistent with the common good to give me huge tax cuts.”

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