By ROB HOTAKAINEN
If you believe the latest polls, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will have the best shot at raising his arms in victory at a Twin Cities podium two years from now when Republican Party activists convene for their national convention.
But he’ll have plenty of competition, mainly from Arizona Sen. John McCain, who’s running second in most polls.
And with President Bush leaving office, there’s a big field of potential presidential wannabes chasing the frontrunners: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Virginia Sen. George Allen, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo.
If recent history is any indication, the 2008 convention will be a carefully orchestrated affair with little suspense, which is the main reason network TV executives are losing interest in providing wall-to-wall coverage.
Then again, this one might be different: For the first time since 1928, neither the incumbent president nor vice president will be running _ unless Vice President Cheney pulls a very big surprise and decides to join the fray.
Here’s a quick look at who might get crowned in the Twin Cities, and a glimpse of the latest polls.
GIULANI: He was mayor of New York City from 1994 through 2001. He bucks his party when it comes to social issues, supporting some abortion and civil rights for gay people.
McCAIN: He has been in the Senate since 1986. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. He also has been known to defy the Republican Party.
GINGRICH: He’s the architect of the 1994 Contract with America, which promised floor votes on 10 reform bills within 100 days of Republicans taking office if they became the majority in Congress.
ALLEN: He has been considered a political contender, but a pejorative comment that he made about a Democratic campaign aide of Indian descent and a generally bumpy re-election campaign have hurt him.
ROMNEY: He founded Bain Capital, a venture capital and investment company, in 1984. He also was president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
FRIST: He retires from the Senate this year.
BROWNBACK: He is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate. He was elected to the post in 1996.
HAGEL: He has opposed the Bush administration in the past. He co-founded VANGUARD Cellular Systems Inc., a publicly traded corporation.
HUCKABEE: He’s the former chairman of the National Governors Association.
TANCREDO: He used to lead the libertarian think tank, the Independence Institute. He was elected to the House in 1998.
Thirty-one percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents would support Giuliani for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, according to a CNN poll in late August and early September.
McCain trails at 20 percent and is followed by Gingrich at 12 percent.
But according to a FOX News poll from late August, it’s a horse race. Twenty-seven percent said that if the Republican presidential primary were held today, they would vote for Giuliani. Twenty-five percent lean toward McCain. Gingrich followed 11 points behind McCain. When Republicans could only choose between Giuliani and McCain, the former mayor came out on top.