When I look at the averages of the polls for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations at Real Clear Politics, on thing which strikes me is that neither party’s frontrunner (Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton respectively) have ever managed to climb about 40%. Indeed, over the past two months, each has shown a steady drift downward.
Despite her name recognition and the acclaim in which her party still holds her husband, Hillary Clinton still hasn’t managed to capture the support of a majority of her party’s faithful. And it seems she owes her fundraising success largely to her husband’s machine — and his presence. Would she have raised as much as she had had he not headlined her events?
At the same time, Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, while holding strong in the GOP polls, doesn’t seem to have built upon his lead. While many conservatives are warming to him despite policy differences, many remain wary. His latest “gaffe” on federal funding of abortion has increased the skepticism of some social conservatives.
In short, while each enjoys a comfortable lead over his opponents, neither has won over his party.
No wonder many Democrats are turning to a freshman Senator from Illinois, a man without any executive experience. And no wonder many conservatives are waiting to see if former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson enters the presidential contest.
While it’s clear that Rudy could better unite the nation than could any other politician enjoying national prominence at this time, it appears Fred Thompson would have an easier time uniting the GOP. (With some Democrats are clamoring for former Vice President Al Gore, Jr. to enter the race, it seems the unknown factor in the presidential race is whether two men who held the same Senate seat are interested. In 1994, Thompson was elected to fill the remaining two years in Gore’s term.)
While I remain a Giuliani man, I would have no problem supporting Fred Thompson should he win the GOP nomination. He has a presence and rhetorical skills which are almost Reaganesque.
It’s odd that with nine months to go until the first caucuses, some wonder if it’s still too “late“* for Thompson to enter the race. I think that by delaying his decision, he actually increases his chances. When he tosses his hat into the ring (should he choose to do so), he’ll get a lot of free publicity — and closer to the time when most people are beginning to make their minds up about the contest.
The bottom line is that while both Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton enjoy comfortable leads for their parties’ respective nominations, neither has yet closed the sale, understandable this far out. If Fred Thompson joins the GOP race, I believe he will make it a two-man contest, taking much of Mitt Romney’s conservative support as well as rallying uncertain conservatives to his side.
With Giuliani’s record of leadership and Thompson’s ability to articulate conservative ideas, a Thompson-Giuliani contest could only redound to the benefit of the GOP, helping rally a dispirited rank-and-file and reminding the nation of the real strength of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.