Captain Ed notes that Fred Thompson has vaulted into second place in the latest Los Angeles Times poll. John McCain has slipped to third.
I’m not surprised, and I think that Rudy Giuliani had better watch his back. Thompson is an incredibly strong candidate, and he doesn’t have the baggage that Giuliani brings to the race. Thompson was an attorney and a politician long before becoming an actor, and he has more than just gravitas by his side. It’s becoming quite clear that he will enter the race, and he could change the dynamics of the race in a way that steals momentum from Giuliani and McCain.
It’s interesting that McCain’s Iraq gambit doesn’t seem to be helping him. I don’t fault those who feel that we need a break from the George W. Bush era — I agree wholeheartedly. However, McCain’s making a stand on principle. He believes that not following through in Iraq will hurt the long-term security of this country. He is right on that point. I’ve been very critical of Senator McCain on a lot of issues — especially campaign finance — but he is taking a politically dangerous stand because he believes it’s the right thing to do. That kind of refreshing honesty is so rare in politics that I’d hate for McCain to suffer for it. McCain’s political courage may hurt him, but that’s more of an indictment of the sad state of American politics that it is an indictment of John McCain.
Giuliani’s abortion slip-up could not have come at a more inopportune time for him. Being the front-runner inevitably means facing more and more criticism, and Giuliani needs to forge inroads with the socially conservative base of the GOP. Saying that federal funding for abortion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution (forgetting that Roe and Casey are both horrendous decisions) is the sort of thing guaranteed to alienate Republican voters. The last thing that Giuliani needs to do is remind the base of the Republican Party that he’s taken stances on issues that are polar opposite to conservative values. Yes, Rudy is strong on defense and strong on fiscal matters — but the Republican Party isn’t going to nominate a candidate who is to the left of the Democrats on abortion. Giuliani has a lot of fences to mend now, although he’s not down and out by any means.
Thompson has the gravitas of McCain, the outside status of Giuliani, and none of the baggage of either. If he runs, I would not at all be surprised to see his name at the top of the polls in short order. The other GOP candidates had better be watching their backs, because Fred Thompson has what it takes to win.