Wow, where was I last month?
Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?
The Republican Party’s top contenders for 2008 aren’t paleoconservatives—or any other kind.
The field is dominated by candidates who support the Bush line on immigration and Iraq or are inclined to go even further. In a March Fox News/ Opinion Dynamics poll, the top three Republican hopefuls were former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at 29 percent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at 22 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich drawing 8 percent. Not a paleoconservative among them.
The sole Iraq skeptic, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), is at the bottom of the pack with just 1 percent. The Fox poll is no outlier. Giuliani and McCain lead in most surveys—in November, Rasmussen Reports had Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joining them in the top tier—while mavericks like Hagel languish in the low single digits.
Conservative distaste for Hagel appears to have two causes. The first is that the Nebraska senator established himself as a reliable Bush critic before he developed a reputation as a Beltway conservative in his own right.
Hagel’s second problem is that he is perceived as being too close to McCain. While the two senators are far apart on foreign policy—Hagel is known for prudent internationalism while McCain outdoes Bush in go-it-alone interventionism—the Nebraskan was one of the few senators to endorse McCain in 2000.
Hynes warns, “Republicans may be in real trouble with values voters.” Traditional conservatives are also in real trouble if, after eight years of Bush, the best the GOP can do is even worse.