It's interesting to me that the Harriet Miers brouhaha coincided with stories about the return of two high-profile Republicans to the political fray: Rudy Giuliani just announced that he might run for president in 2008 and Roy Moore just declared his candidacy for governor of Alabama.
Polls suggest that Rudy's candidacy is the better bet -- he is GOP voters' favorite candidate for '08 according to a late-September Fox poll, while a Mobile Register poll shows Moore well behind incumbent governor Bob Riley in the Alabama Republican primary.
But the anger about Miers is coming from somewhere, and it's not going to be limited to one Supreme Court pick. The worst the right can say about Miers is that it's not clear whether she toes the conservative line -- and merely on that basis right-wingers are livid about her choice. Giuliani favors gun control and gay rights as well as legal abortion. Can he possibly maintain his lead among Republican voters once those facts move to the foreground?
Maybe moderates really will outvote zealots in the '08 primaries and Giuliani or John McCain (#2 in the poll) will manage to win the nomination -- I can't see it, but that's what the numbers predict. If that happens, I think the rightists will bolt -- and they're certainly not going to bolt to Hillary.
That's where Moore could conceivably come in. Yeah, it looks as if he may not get past the governor's race; he's getting drubbed in the Mobile Register poll. But it surveys only likely GOP voters. And note this:
Riley held his largest lead over Moore among respondents from households where the annual income exceeded $60,000. With each step down the economic ladder, the race tightened. Likewise, Riley held a wider lead among respondents who had gone to college than among those with a high school diploma or less.
Likely voters tend to be wealthier and better educated. It seems to me that if unlikely (i.e., poorer) voters turn out, Moore could do much better.
And they might turn out if they feel that (a) the country's going to hell in a handbasket and (b) even mainstream Republicans are betraying conservative principles. Right now, George W. Bush seems to be doing his level best to keep his base thinking both of those things are true. If that's still the case next summer, when the GOP primary takes place in Alabama, a vote for Moore may seem like an effective way to flip the bird (in a godly way, of course) to Bush and the established GOP.
I don't trust the Moore poll. As the linked article notes, Riley has benefited recently from favorable publicity for his hurricane response. Before that, in a January poll, Moore actually led Riley by eight points.
And here's something else, from an article about Moore in the current Atlantic:
Moore has ... toured the country tirelessly, speaking about the Ten Commandments at churches and dinners, conferences and conventions, hitting thirty-one states last year alone to share the news that the federal government is threatening the American way of life....
One political consultant I spoke to, who is not affiliated with Moore, predicted that Moore would easily raise more money from out of state than any other gubernatorial candidate in U.S. history.
So Moore could do quite well -- and even if he merely loses to Riley by a few percentage points, he'll be in a position to take his messianic act national, possibly as a third-party candidate for president. (He considered a run last year; read the Atlantic article if you want to know just how grandiose his vision of his theocratic life mission is.)
So maybe we'll have a three-way race in '08, with the third-party candidate pulling votes from the Republican. And so maybe we'll have another Clinton winning the White House with much less than 50% of the popular vote and thus, according to conventional wisdom, no mandate. Wasn't that fun the first time?
(Atlantic article via Red Hair & Black Leather.)