I've stopped thinking Rudy Giuliani is the inevitable next president -- he stupidly decided to put his abortion views in the foreground; now he seems like a guy who's lost control of his message (see his interview yesterday on Fox News), and he can't win the GOP nomination if he doesn't seem like the dominating alpha male.
But I'm a long way from thinking that the Democrats are looking really good in '08.
I'm worried about the flurry of attention right now to a possible third-party run by Chuck Hagel or our current mayor, Mike Bloomberg -- or even a Hagel-Bloomberg (or Bloomberg-Hagel) ticket. A "centrist" third-party ticket isn't going to win, and it isn't going to pull in a lot of actual centrist votes; all it will do is siphon off votes that would otherwise go to the Democratic nominee and give us four more years of the damn GOP.
This is especially true if Hagel is at the top of the third-party ticket and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee -- in that case especially, just about every vote he wins will come from someone who's disgusted with the war and who therefore would probably vote for a change of party in the White House. Thus he has the potential to be next year's Nader and throw a couple of states to the GOP.
Hagel may be fooling himself into thinking he'll excite the pundits. But David Broder will drive the groupthink on his subject, and while Broder has said he's intriuged by a possible "Unity08" ticket, it's obvious what he really wants: a McCain/Lieberman ticket, nominally bipartisan but rabidly in favor of the war. If the big third-party ticket has Hagel on it, expect Broder to suddenly discover all the things he wanted from a third-party run in the GOP ticket, even if it's McCain and a litmus-test right-winger.
Bloomberg might impress Broder more -- he backed Lieberman last year, after all -- but he simply can't compete. He's a shortish, non-charismatic, non-tough-talking Jewish bachelor with an adenoidal voice who's passionate about gun control and a fondness for intiatives such as a trans fat ban in restaurants that inspire critics to use the phrase "nanny state" -- that's a real blueprint for success in Middle America, right? He'll get more than a handful of votes in exactly one state: New York. He's operating under the delusion, very common in New York, that if you're popular here, you're popular all over the country. But New York is a big state, and he has the potential to do reasonably well here (a new poll of New York City residents says he's regarded as a better mayor than Giuliani and would make a better president) -- and thus he might hand its big chunk of electoral votes to the GOP.
So, yeah, I have a bad feeling about this.
By the way, if Hagel and Bloomberg really are discussing a joint run and seriously think they could win, there's another potential setback -- check out what the New York Daily News calls the ticket:
And you thought a Bagel was just a roll with a hole. It could also be the celebrity-couple name for an independent presidential ticket featuring Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Get it? Bloomberg + Hagel = Bagel? That name could catch on and be an albatross for them the way "Breck Girl" is for John Edwards -- ome more reason these guys are utterly doomed in the heartland. I'm not joking about that -- I think these things really matter. But "Bagel" could win votes on the coasts -- just where a Democrat will need them.