With the expected departure of Rudy Giuliani later today, the race for the Republican nomination boils down to two serious contenders and two also-rans. In the spirit of comity, here is some friendly advice to the four survivors:
- Ron Paul: Make a deal with the Republican establishment. You pledge not to run as an independent, they let you stay in the debates. McCain should want you there, since your isolationism is the perfect foil for his support of a strong military, his only claim on the right wing of the party. If you should get in the debates, play up your limited government message and limit any anti-war rants.
- Mike Huckabee: Get over any illusions that being friendly with McCain will win you a spot on his ticket. His brand in November is secularism and (moderate) progressivism. He has no interest in being asked whether his running mate supports Darwin. Get over your grudge against Romney. If you mend fences with him and help him beat McCain, you have some chance of getting on his ticket, since you can help him with social conservatives and lower-income, southern voters.
- Mitt Romney: Give up trying to brand yourself ideologically. Buy fuzzy, feel-good ads that show you off as vigorous and handsome. When you need substance, show off your economic wonkishness and play up your executive experience. Do not run any more negative ads. Say only nice things about McCain's "service to the country," but stay in the past tense when you talk about him to sustain doubts about his age.
- John McCain: Take Fred Barnes's advice and go on Rush Limbaugh's radio program (O'Reilly's too). Expect to be grilled on the litany of grievances conservatives have with your domestic positions. Your "I learned my lesson" position on border security and amnesty will work, so long as you aren't too touchy about the word 'amnesty'. Try to steer questions about campaign finance away from 1st amendment objections and toward concerns about earmarks and special interests. Say your "Gang of 14" compromise preserved the filibuster as a tool for the Republican minority, and take credit for both Roberts and Alito. Back away from any doubts you may have expressed about Alito wearing conservatism on his sleeve. Bolster your partisan credentials by reminding people of your tireless campaigning for Bush in 2004. In the coming weeks, resist the urge to triangulate prematurely. You can still lose the nomination if you talk about "green collar" jobs or emphasize the soft side of your views on immigration.
Labels: John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani