Archive for Monday, April 23, 2007

Candidate confident GOP can win in ‘08

April 23, 2007


— In the last 24 elections, since 1912, winners of the presidency won a plurality of the states along the Mississippi. Today the Republican presidential candidate with perhaps the most impressive resume says:

Republicans should assume that in 2008 they will lose Ohio (20 electoral votes), where the state party's corruption and incompetence cost it the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and a House seat in 2006. So the GOP candidate must carry Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota (27 electoral votes). In 2004, George W. Bush narrowly carried Iowa and narrowly lost Wisconsin and Minnesota, the only state that has voted Democratic in eight consecutive elections.

The man with the impressive resume is Tommy Thompson, who says he can carry those three Midwestern states. He served four terms as Wisconsin's governor, and four years (2001-2005) as secretary of health and human services, where he presided over a $580 billion budget, larger than the combined budgets of the eight largest states.

Regarding Iraq, he would challenge that country's government to re-legitimize the U.S. presence by voting to ask U.S. forces to remain. If the government does not, the U.S. would leave. If it does, it should then encourage voluntary ethnic rearrangements by establishing federalism - strong governments in all 18 provinces - where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can cluster under governments of their kind. Then it should divide oil revenues, one-third to the national government, one-third to the provincial governments and one-third to Iraqi individuals, much as Alaska does with its oil trust fund.

As governor, Thompson was the progenitor of what became the greatest social policy success of the 1990s, the national welfare reform of 1996 that has reduced the states' welfare rolls an average of 60 percent. He is even prouder of his efforts for school choice. He announced his presidential campaign at Messmer High School in Milwaukee, an inner-city Catholic institution that has flourished in the competition for students and in its freedom from educational bureaucracy: 90 percent of its graduates continue their education at college or vocational or technical schools. Do Iowans ask him about education? With characteristic bluntness, he says: "No, but I talk about it."

In seven years, health care will, he says, devour $4 trillion annually, which will be 21 percent of GDP. It is, he argues, irrational to spend just 7 percent on prevention of sickness and 93 percent on treatment of sickness. Seventy-five percent of health spending goes to treat the 125 million Americans who have one or more chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, which is related to the epidemic of obesity. In five years, or sooner, such diabetes may involve 62 million Americans and cost $400 billion. Sixty percent of these cases could, he says, be prevented by walking 30 minutes a day and losing 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight.

He has not yet lost much weight raising money, but expects to have the $2.5 million he thinks will enable him to win Iowa. It, he thinks, will be a slingshot that hurls him toward Feb. 5, when perhaps 21 states will vote. Win Iowa, he says, and New Hampshire becomes winnable. Then, propelled by free media attention, on Feb. 5 he can be leading the few surviving candidates. He says he would bet $100 to $5 that his better-financed Republican rivals would swap their money for his organization in Iowa, where he has visited 33 of 99 counties and will concentrate most of his energies, leaving the remainder for New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Iowa, however, is often an insufficient slingshot. Among the winners of Iowa who failed to win New Hampshire are George H.W. Bush (1980), Walter Mondale (1984), Dick Gephardt (1988), George W. Bush (2000).

Still, Thompson is confident the Republican nominee will become president. The Clintons' machine, he says, will whittle Barack Obama down to size, deflect John Edwards and secure Hillary Clinton's nomination, and she, he insists, is unelectable. He says he already has 1,800 Iowa supporters promising to bring five friends each to the straw poll in Ames on Aug. 11, so he is confident he will easily top the 7,418 votes George W. Bush won there in 1999.

Then there is the Sturgis Factor. Thompson, who rides a Milwaukee-made Harley, is a member of the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Sturgis, S.D. (population 6,260). Every August about half a million motorcyclists gather there to enjoy the pleasure of one another's company. This year's gathering (Aug. 6-12) coincides with Iowa's straw poll. It would be a mere 660-mile ride for some Iowa bikers to get from Sturgis to Ames.

- George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


drewdun 10 years, 11 months ago

More wishful thinking from Will. There is no doubt the Republicans will be drubbed in 2008. People will not forget their disastrous leadership and Bush will still be president during the 08 campaign, severely harming any GOP candidacy.

It will be interesting to see a GOP candidate separating himself as far as possible from a sitting GOP president. Think Al Gore in 2000 X 10, with the only difference being that Gore made a colossal mistake in his 'break' with Clinton, while separation from Bush is an absolute necessity for the GOP candidate.

drewdun 10 years, 11 months ago


Thompson is one of the few national Republicans I can stand. That being said, I wonder if his newfound ability to challenge his former employer is simply going with the way the wind is blowing. His stance on Iraq (obviously the most important issue right now) sounds reasonable, but the odds of the Iraqi government and the politicians its composed of asking us to leave seems unlikely to me, as they know they will be losing their protector and main source of finance, and thus legitimacy. Without US protection, the Iraqi government will likely fall, thus providing a strong incentive for the Iraqi politicians to vote for us to stay, and basically leaving the wishes of the US public out of the equation. It is patently obvious that there are no good solutions in Iraq, but the status quo of our troops dying to protect a fragile and highly unpopular government is not maintainable (word?) or desirable. Perhaps this is where Thompson's plan for a partitioned Iraq will come to fruition, though not in the way he envisions it. And regardless of how it comes to pass, if Iraq is disintegrated politically, the idea of oil revenue sharing among the different sects is laughable. But at least Thompson is saying something other than "stay the course." He should be lauded for that, even if his rhetoric is the product of political calculation.

Regarding the welfare "reform" of the 1990s: its easy to say "welfare rolls have dropped by 50%" and automatically assume "problem solved." But as I'm sure you're aware, the reform created an entirely new set of problems. Chronic underemployment of those off of welfare (single moms esp.) is nearly as bad as people living on the dole. And no, I know its not reasonable to expect those fresh off of welfare to be paid like doctors, but minimum wage at McDonald's cannot support any family. The government merely shifted its subsidies to the poor, called them by a different name, and gave itself a big pat on the back. Once again, I believe that Thompson's efforts to address the problem are to be applauded, however they have certainly not 'solved the problem' as Will insinuates.

Sorry for the lengthy response, but I do think Thompson is probably the only Republican who would give the Dem nominee a run for his (I pray its a 'he' and not 'she') money. Winning is a different story, as that (R) next to his name is going to be a major, major drag, regardless of how decent a candidate he would be.

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