Dan McCarthy is making his “rash” predictions, so I thought it would be time to update my own. Of course, once upon a time I made some really ridiculous predictions that were based more in contempt for the media-anointed candidates than in careful analysis. The top six (or, now, seven) all seemed so preposterous and undesirable–how could any of them win? But, of course, two of them are likely to emerge as the nominees. More on that in a moment.
Nine months later, I see just how wrong my painfully counterintuitive claims for a Duncan Hunter grassroots surge were. Restrictionists evidently like their candidates to be preoccupied with nothing else, and so have backed Tancredo, leaving Hunter in asterisk country. Rather embarrassingly, I assumed that Ron Paul’s position on the war would make him so unwelcome in the GOP primaries and would prevent him from playing any significant role, and yet it is Rep. Paul who has enjoyed the grassroots explosion of support and Rep. Paul who has made the biggest splash in the debates. In theory, there was nothing more implausible about a Hunter candidacy enjoying this kind of success, since both Hunter and Paul are relatively little-known Congressmen, but I clearly overestimated the draw of Hunter’s trade and immigration views and neglected to consider that he would be dreadfully conformist on all questions pertaining to the war. I actually underestimated the depth of frustration with the war, or at least I assumed it would work to the advantage of the Democrats. Among other reasons, Hunter has generated so little enthusiasm because there is nothing particularly distinctive about Hunter’s campaign that mobilises many people.
Dan suggests an eventual Giuliani-Huckabee ticket. This ticket seems designed to alienate two-thirds, so to speak, of the Republican coalition. Huckabee’s social-con credentials will not be enough to stifle dissenters against Giuliani as the presidential nominee, and if Giuliani chooses Huckabee he will have sent a signal that will be deeply worrying to economic conservatives. I have previously made light of such a combination of candidates, and I am still convinced that neither of these two will be on the national ticket. Huckabee is arguably as personally likeable as Giuliani is obnoxious, and putting the two of them together will simply make people wonder, “Why isn’t the VP nominee on the top of the ticket? This other guy is crazy!” Besides, the GOP has never nominated an ethnic Catholic, nominal or otherwise, to either of its top two slots. It isn’t going to start this year or next. Romney will start failing early, and Thompson will benefit from this. McCain will be gone or all but gone by the end of January. Romney will probably still hang on to win Iowa. Thompson, Romney and Paul will go 1-2-3 in N.H. Giuliani will place maybe fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire. It’s frankly inconceivable to me that Giuliani can fare well in these states. Thompson wins South Carolina. Giuliani will persist, but find no success until Feb. 5 and even then not much. Romney has the self-financing to keep going through March, and he will do so, but with ever more diminishing returns. Thompson ultimately wins the nomination, and Thompson will choose someone from outside the presidential race as a running mate. Thompson’s general election campaign will be unsuccessful, losing to the Democratic nominee by a sizeable margin. A Clinton-Biden or Clinton-Richardson ticket will prevail.