It’s still anyone’s Presidential race

Gov. Mitt Romney (AP)


The GOP presidential race can be summed up this way: three strong contenders and a hunger for someone else. “There’s no question that there’s a very open field,” said Ken Mehlman, a former Republican National Committee chairman. Unlike in 1980, 1988, 1996 and 2000, “there’s not a presumptive front-runner,” he added.

The nomination fight has become even more fluid since the year began, which is unusual for a party that typically has a clear heir apparent.

For now, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has the lead in national popularity polls. Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the most money. Arizona Sen. John McCain may have the superior national political operation.

But none has a clear advantage in all three areas — polling, fundraising and organization — that are traditional measures in determining which candidate is in the best position to become the nominee. Perhaps more telling, Republicans say, is that none has articulated a message or offered an agenda that a majority of the party supports.

“What’s missing so far is a clear down-the-line conservative champion, an establishment candidate,” said Greg Mueller, a GOP consultant.

Nine months before the leadoff Iowa caucuses, the fragmented field and disenchantment with the top candidates may present an opportunity for a fourth formidable contender to emerge.

That could be an underdog such as Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas or two former governors — Mike Huckabee of Arkansas or Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin.

Other prominent Republicans are flirting with a run, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and could shake up the field. The latest to express interest is Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator who, friends say, is seriously considering a bid. He is running third in a few national polls without doing anything more than acknowledging he was thinking about running.

Such buzz is evidence of the degree to which GOP voters are seeking alternatives to Giuliani, Romney and McCain. Conservatives who dominate the Republican primary see all as flawed.

In Iowa, Susan and Roger Rowland of West Des Moines are attending campaign events to find someone to embrace. Last week, they saw Giuliani one night and Romney the next. But they were not impressed enough by either to commit. They have not seen McCain and are open to learning more about others, too.

“There are a lot of candidates out there, but I don’t really know what I’m looking for,” Susan Rowland said, sighing. Her husband said, “If I had to pick today, I’d probably pick Romney, but I’m really glad I don’t have to pick today.”

The Rowlands are not alone in their uncertainty.

“Significant numbers are really undecided,” said David Redlawsk, a University of Iowa political scientist. Short of someone else catching fire or entering the race, he said, “in a year where Republican caucus-goers are focused on electability, they may ultimately hold their nose and pick one of the three.”

It is Giuliani, McCain and Romney among the nearly dozen Republican presidential hopefuls who appear best positioned to capture the nomination.

Projecting invincibility, McCain spent more than a year meshing loyalists from his failed 2000 bid with some of President Bush’s top political operatives to build what he hoped would be an unrivaled organization. Despite its depth, McCain gradually has faltered.

Last week, he announced raising a disappointing $12.5 million in the year’s first three months. During a visit to Baghdad, he made upbeat comments about security only to have Iraqis mock his characterization. Before the trip, McCain drew criticism for saying some parts of the capital were safe enough to walk in freely and that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, drove around in an unarmored humvee. He told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in an interview to be broadcast Sunday, that he misspoke when he made that remark.

To get back on track, McCain ordered an overhaul of his fundraising operation and better controls on spending. He scheduled policy speeches, including the first this Wednesday in which he will defend his support for Bush’s policy in Iraq. Other speeches and an official announcement tour are set for this month as he seeks to regain momentum.

Once he made clear he was serious about running, Giuliani jumped to a double-digit edge in national polls. His built-from-scratch political operation is not yet on par with the others. Still, Giuliani ended the January-through-March fundraising period with a respectable $15 million raised.

He continues to lead in national surveys but his advantage has softened as he has come under increased scrutiny. He has faced questions about his business dealings and about his ties to Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner against whom prosecutors reportedly are pursuing multiple charges.

Giuliani also has had to answer for his abortion-rights stance and clarify statements suggesting his wife would play a significant role if he were president.

Romney set out to prove he was a threat by ensuring he had a stellar fundraising start. He succeeded, collecting a surprising $21 million in the year’s first three months.

Yet he remains significantly low in national polls. He continues to be dogged by his reversals on abortion and gay rights, and his equivocations on other issues. He resumed television advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire to define himself. His campaign is eager to start debates, where aides believe he will shine.

Given the shifts in the field, Republican consultant Alex Vogel said, “You have to wonder whether gravity takes hold again and conventional wisdom will apply or whether this really does indicate a new paradigm in the Republican primary.”

Liz Sidoti covers politics for The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Sandy Price

    We get all the latest nonsense of what the RNC does not want but have they repaired this ridiculous platform or will they continue to lap up the religious right?

    They want the prohibitions but do not have the spine to admit it. The RNC has no plans for a Republican Party and are still hanging on to a desire for a Theocracy.

    Most still feel that individual freedoms are an excuse for living a sinful life. I doubt that most Americans want a police state from D.C. and will vote Democratic instead of pushing for more Congressional legislation against sins.

    The GOP would be much smarter to expose their own deep seated corruption and find candidates who know right from wrong.

  2. Sandy Price

    If Romney is now against abortion, how far will he go to ban them? This is a question that must be asked of all Candidates who claim to be pro-life. Will he use a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit abortions as well as gay marriages and death with dignity to allow suicides to end a devastating and agonizing death? i.e., how much government does he want over the wishes of the American people?

    The GOP brought this on and many of us want to know how far they will go to enforce their wishes?

  3. SEAL

    Does anyone in the party know? The general public’s view is that they are dishonest, incompetent, phonies, religious zealots or (e) all of the above. But what does the die hard republican no matter what think their candidate must be? Right now there seems to be no identity, therefore, there can be no candidate.

    During the past 6 years they have lost their identity, consequently their support. Bush is primarily responsible for that due to his incompetence. But their congress is equally responsible for blindly following him. The only support left to them comes from the religious base and that is waning. So, what is a republican? That’s what they have to figure out.

    The last 6 years completely destroyed the time honored concept of what a republican was. They proved themselves to be anything but that. They became the “religious” party in order to win elections but reneged on those supporters. The standard small government and fisical responsibility republican watched them create the largest bureauocracy in history and plunge the nation into bankruptcy. The only ones the made happy were the gun rack in the pickup window set. The war party seems to be the only identity left and they are failng at that.

    The one part of their identity that has survived is being the big business party. But that is no longer popular, even among the die hards. The candidates are floundering around trying to hold some of the framents of the base together. But they have no clear message for any of them. The RNC, not the candidates, must write a completely new platform for the party and then find a candidate other than what is presently available to fill it. Otherwise, the 2008 election will be the biggest blowout in history making the Johnson Goldwater vote look like a squeaker for Johnson. And congress will be so blue they will have to redecorate.

  4. Gloryb

    At first glance, this photo of Mitt Romney looked like a staged photo of Barbie’s Ken-doll. If the intention was to make him appear as a plastic wannabe, it was a success! After I snickered at the picture, I read the article. If the present ‘Presidential’ candidates from both major parties, are the choices, I’ll have to go by whichever is the least offensive, probably a Democrat. I don’t trust anyone who proclaims himself a Republican regardless of level, local to national, we’ve been screwed too many times at all these levels by the Greedy Old Politicians.

  5. Carl Nemo

    I’ve listend to this guy on talkshows etc., and he comes across as too goody-two-shoes along with an all “too wholesome” delivery that immediately causes red flags go up. To me he’s just another Republican “wolf in sheeps clothing”. Take a look at the photo associated with this editorial and he’s standing at the mike like one of those Sunday morning, mega-church, hit-in-the-butt with the bible type preachers. If the electorate foolishly puts him in office, they’l find out they have nothing but Bushco in spades, except he will be using an endless stream of Godly euphemisms to further enslave us. “America doesn’t need no stinkin’ preacherman” types…Amen!

  6. Carl Nemo

    Re: Sandy Price and Jason concerning birth control etc.

    I realize abortion is an ugly story, and obviously unwanted pregnancy should be headed off before conception even occurs, but to the anti-abortion crowd I offer a link that might wake you up to the possibility that we are living in times of diminishing resources; i.e, arable land, potable freshwater supplies, and even our coastlines will diminish due to impending global warming causing the displacement or worse of 200 million people world-wide due to rising ocean levels.

    Many if not most of these people that were conceived due to unwanted, ill-thought couplings are the poorest of the poor. So Romney and his brethren need to glue their noses on this type of information and start thinking about their politically opportunistic publicly stated policies. I believe Romny is Mormon and Mormon’s like Catholics believe in having large families. Catholics and Mormons are even against birth control which would head off the problem at the head end. Just as the lower animal populations on occasion, humans are going to populate themselves out of their habitat.

    Are these are the kind of public policy-makers we need to elect in times of diminishing resources…?! 😐 If the American electorate continues to elect/re-elect these baby-kissing, chicken-in every-pot, Ford-in-every-garage, religious based, shallow pols it will be their undoing for sure.

  7. SEAL

    We all know the reason for over population. Stupidity. And the fact is that it is already too late. The world’s climate is changing so as to be detrimental to the human race and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Large masses of people will have to migrate in a few years to survive and that will bring on chaos and conflict. Death and destruction. Humans by the millions will perish. I know that nobody wants to hear this but that is the reality.

    My people are not religious. We understand that the sun is our supreme enity that, together with the earth, provides for all life. Unfortunately, we are the very few who seem to respect that. We have always tried to exist within natures framework instead of altering it. But the human race has altered it.

    Nature, the sun and the earth, will now correct what the humans have done. It will remove all or a sufficient number of those that created the problem – The humans. The earth is in no danger. We are. So, arguing about abortion is nonconsequential and it is too late to address birth control even if the religions would allow it.

    Those who accept and understand the reality will concentrate on survival. Those who don’t will die. The rest of this century will be a cleansing of the planet. Nature will establish a new order that may or may not include humans. This is not the first time nature has altered the balance of the planet and it probably won’t be the last. So, I guess it makes no difference if people choose to waste the time they have left arguing about things that make no difference.

  8. Jason

    This article neglects to mention Representative Dr. Ron Paul, who is by no small margin the best possible candidate for this country; Republican, Democrat, or otherwise. Ron Paul is the only candidate who is scandal-free with a congressional record that reflects a concern for the citizens of this country and a respect for the U.S. Constitution. While he may not exactly be the frontrunner, neglecting to mention the one true standout in the GOP race (actually, the entire presidential race) is just poor journalism.

  9. frofreak

    Romney is a federalist. He believes whole heartedly in the rights of the state to govern themselves. In line with that, he will not seek a constitutional ammendment to ban or prohibit abortion. He may seek to have Roe v. Wade overturned, and give the rights to determine abortion laws back to the states, but will not likely support measures to institute a federal law on the issue one way or the other. On the marriage issue, he has said repeatedly that he would support an ammendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but again, he is an advocate for states rights, and would likely support a states right to intitute what civil union laws they wish. On death with dignity, he has already publicly stated that he believes the government in florida was out of line getting involved in the terry shiavo case. he believed in that case anyway, the government should not have been involved, it was between her and her family. Again, he would support states rights in determining these laws, as they know best the needs of their citizens. Don’t know if this helps at all, and I can only speculate, obviously, as I am neither a spokesman for his campaign, not a psychic. And these are extremely complex issues, obviously I have not tried to delve to deep, but suffice it to say romney would leave these important decisions up to the states, with SOME federal guidance