Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Is Rudy the Republican With Coattails?

Roll Call considers the question of which nominee would be the greatest help to Republicans running for the House or Senate:

Already, the battle for the House is shaping up to be waged largely in suburban districts in the Northeast and Midwest. Additionally, the top targets in the Senate are Republicans representing Democratic-leaning states like Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Backers of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who continues to lead the GOP field in most national polls, say he is the best-positioned candidate to appeal to the more moderate electorate in those areas...

Meanwhile, supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are more apt to argue that the top of the Republican ticket will have little impact downballot, and some say it shouldn’t be among the top criteria when choosing a nominee.

“Whoever is on the ballot opposite Hillary Clinton is going to ride a huge wave of popular support as the anti-Hillary,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who is backing Romney.

He added that either Romney or Giuliani “is going to do very well in the South” as the party’s nominee...

Too conservative a nominee could easily damage the chances of a vulnerable Senator running in a swing state, while a more moderate White House hopeful — such as Giuliani — could actually boost those incumbents’ odds at re-election.

Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), who is among the GOP’s most threatened Senators in 2008, said Giuliani would clearly be an asset to his campaign and that “there’s no question [Giuliani] has a chance to win Minnesota...”

There are eight House Republicans whose districts were carried by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race. Giuliani has been endorsed by four of them, including Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

Dent said one of his reasons for endorsing Giuliani was that he believed he would be the best person to run with in his Democratic-leaning district.
Can anyone make the argument that the 'Rudy has the longest coattails' thinking is wrong?

Let's run through some thoughts -- with the stipulation that I am working with a very broad brush here. First off, I think it's likely that if Hillary is the Democratic nominee, the GOP base will turn out. Anyone hard-core conservatives not terrified at the thought of President Hillary are likely to be scared by November, 2008.

Second, because hard core conservatives are likely to come to the polls, a candidate perceived to be a traditional conservative probably won't bring all that many 'new' voters to the Republican line. (IE, Mitt Romney can't help the GOP hold Ray LaHood's seat.) Thus, only a true moderate like Rudy is likely to have long coattails.

Therefore, Rudy IS the candidate best positioned to help Republicans running in swing districts and states outside the South.

A caveat: I fear that Fred Thompson is the only Republican candidate who is not truly susceptible of a complete meltdown on election day. McCain could lose in a landslide because of his age and temper. Romney could get trounced because of his religion and because of his dramatic transformation from moderate to conservative. Rudy could get trounced because of his peculiar personal history and because he differs from the base on key issues. So if you want a candidate who is virtually assured of performing 'respectably,' then Thompson is your guy.

And of course, if there is a Republican meltdown, then all bets about coattails are off.

One potential problem with this thinking. If the race comes down to Rudy vs. Hillary, will some conservative voters decide 'there's not a dime's worth of difference,' and stay home?

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