The EFM Feature

I’ve been reading the longstanding debate on The Corner regarding poll numbers for ’08.
In thinking this over, it occurs to me that John Podhoretz (who likes Rudy and keeps saying things like, “When there are serious frontrunners in open races, they almost always win–Reagan in ’80, Mondale in ’84, Bush in ’88, Dole in ’96, Gore and Bush in 2000.”) is being fairly selective with his history. Specifically, right now I am reading Craig Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, on the primary challenge another guy they called “the governor” posed to incumbent president Gerald Ford in 1976. That (former) (California) governor, Ronald Reagan fell just short, of course, but it is obvious (regardless of who got the nomination) as to who captured the heart of the party for the decades to come. He was about 150 delegates short at the convention–a real nail biter.
Now–doesn’t this say something about the GOP’s supposed marriage to the frontrunner? It’s hard to come up with a bigger “frontrunner” than an incumbent president, even an unelected one. (If you don’t remember, Ford was nominated vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned and then became president when Nixon resigned–not an election in there.) Indeed, as Shirley points out in the book, Ford’s incumbent status is what carried the day for him, if only by a hair. And if Reagan could come so close to beating him–running from the right–is it really reasonable to assert that the status of a McCain or Giuliani is really so invulnerable to a similar challenge from the right by a well-spoken, optimistic governor with a good record of success in a difficult state? Especially given that the party is identifiably more conservative now?
I’m sorry, but no matter how accidental the guy was, “senator from Arizona” and “former mayor of New York” just don’t stack up against the guy for whom “Hail to the Chief” is played. And right now is also similar to 1975-6 in that the GOP is viewed as needing a cleanup from corruption and Washingtonism–McCain’s a creature of DC just like Ford was.
With 1976 in mind, I just don’t buy the idea (much as I like Mr. Podhoretz’s writing) that McCain and his man Giuliani are untouchable. Sorry!

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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