Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain Republicans

Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain Republicans California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, endorses Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani looks on at left, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008, after a tour of Solar Integrated Technologies in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) RealClearPoliticsJohn McIntyre reminds us that the 2004 convention gave President Bush a large bounce in the polls, while the Democratic convention did next to nothing for John Kerry. He’s got an interesting theory on why that was:

Who did Karl Rove and the GOP strategists chose to put front and center on prime-time television for the American people? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Zell Miller.

These prime-time speaking slots were not an accident. For a President who was struggling with sub-50% job approval ratings (ratings that many pundits felt would ensure his loss) these four speakers were meant to send a clear message to Independents and moderate Democrats that they were welcome – and wanted – in a big tent, majority Republican Party.

Starting Tuesday in the state that delivered George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 and in California yesterday and today with the Giuliani and Schwarzenegger endorsements, the Bush/Cheney baton has been passed to John McCain.

Many on the more conservative side of the Republican Party are balking now that the Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, McCain faction looks likely to be the standard bearer in 2008. But with President Bush’s approval ratings hovering in the low 30’s (as opposed to the high 40’s of 2004) and after the wipe out in 2006 where the GOP was annihilated in the Northeast and basically everywhere outside of the South, the Republican party is putting forth – either through luck, serendipity, or design – its most competitive general election candidate, by far.

With the country screaming for change and very ready for a Democratic president, George W. Bush would not win a third term. But if the Democrats nominate the divisive Hillary Clinton over the inspiring Barack Obama, John McCain will be in a very strong position to keep the White House in Republican hands, with one caveat.

Without Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain voters in 2004 George Bush would have lost to John Kerry and without Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and evangelical voters in 2008 John McCain does not have a chance against Hillary Clinton.

He’s right on both counts.

With Michelle Malkin saying she wouldn’t vote for McCain over Hillary Clinton and the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Bob Novak questioning McCain’s conservative credentials, McCain clearly has a lot of work to do to persuade staunch conservatives that he has far more in common with them than they think.

At the same time, though, McCain’s strength as a general election candidate is that he’s not viewed as an extremist. The hard-line Republican platform on torture, immigration, and the environment is a sure-fire loser in November. Not only does it ensure the GOP will never again be a strong contender in places like California and New York but it means that purple states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, and elsewhere are likely to slide into the blue column.

McCain needs the support of staunch conservatives to win the election. They’re a critical part of his base. But they’re a damned sight short of a majority.

Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP

FILED UNDER: General, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John425 says:

    “The hard-line Republican platform on torture, immigration, and the environment is a sure-fire loser in November. Not only does it ensure the GOP will never again be a strong contender in places like California and New York but it means that purple states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, and elsewhere are likely to slide into the blue column.”

    If Mr. Joyner is saying that politics trumps principle then count this conservative out too.I’ll mourn for my country and hope that after wandering in the wilderness for 8 years the new breed of Conservative Republicans like DeMint, Flake and Kyl will be at the helm and can enunciate principles and beliefs better.

    Late in life, I find myself more Conservative than Republican and GWB made me that way.

  2. mw says:

    McCain needs the support of staunch conservatives to win the election. They’re a critical part of his base. But they’re a damned sight short of a majority. – JJ

    It is hard to overstate the animus toward McCain from the rabid right. I expect it will be enough to derail his nomination. Maybe a “Sunday Surprise” before the big primary. Which means it is Romney by default.

    No matter. In any mix of the leading candidates, the Republican Party is going to lose the 2008 Presidential election. Even if the Dems nominate Clinton, she is smart enough and ambitious enough to put Obama on the ticket, and retain his passionate supporters. Which means we are on a hellbound train for at least two years of single party Democratic Government with a real possibility of a 60 vote Democratic plurality in th Senate. The only silver lining is that they are unlikely to do as much damage in two years as it took the single party Republican government to do in six.

    There is one additional possibility which is also unlikely but possible with Romney leading the Republican ticket. Since the Republican party is already so far behind the 8-ball and unpopular due to the policies of the Bush administration, (70% think the country is going in the wrong direction), and either Romney or McCain as a nominee will experience “tissue rejection” from a significant segment of the GOP itself, we may be looking at the end of the Republican Party as a relevant political force.

    A Romney v Clinton contest is likely to bring Bloomberg/Hagel into the race. History shows that there is no path for a 3rd party to succeed in our system. However there are precedents for one of the two major parties self-destructing and being replaced by a new second party. Problem being, you have to blow up one to make room for the new. This may be the year that happens. It would be a fitting legacy for George W Bush. The man who destroyed the Republican Party.

  3. James Joyner says:

    If Mr. Joyner is saying that politics trumps principle then count this conservative out too.I’ll mourn for my country and hope that after wandering in the wilderness for 8 years the new breed of Conservative Republicans like DeMint, Flake and Kyl will be at the helm and can enunciate principles and beliefs better.

    What I’m saying is that hard-core conservatives are like 15 percent of the electorate. Politics is the art of the possible.

    None of the men you mention will be president.

  4. > The hard-line Republican platform on torture,
    > immigration, and the environment is a sure-fire
    > loser

    Yes, open borders is what poll after poll is saying, right?

    Oh, and with the economy going in the toilet, I am SURE most Americans will be all for some sort of scheme to raise prices on gas and what-not.

    And if torture is so bad, how about the democratic House and Senate passing a law against water-boarding and what-not. Heck, with McCain and other “moderates”, they could even override a potential veto. But they won’t do that, will they? Why do you think that is?

    Like most “issues” there is a big difference between what people and politicians say and what actually happens. These are three of those issues, and most Americans are conservative on them, even if they won’t admit it.