Friday, November 03, 2006

George Will: Romney Emerges from the Crowd

In a Townhall article, journalist George Allen asserts that Mitt Romney is the beneficieary of Senator George Allen's tough reelection campaign.

Even before the votes are counted, over the Republican Party a "thick darkness broodeth" -- words from a Victorian hymn, for a party with a Victorian tendency. But one Republican, who is not running for anything this year, will emerge from this bruising season with enlarged prospects. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's hopes for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination have been enhanced by Virginia Sen. George Allen's difficulties.

Romney's most formidable rival for the Republican nomination is John McCain, who needs a crowded field of Republican aspirants to prevent the conservative majority of the party's nominating electorate from quickly coalescing around a single candidate. Allen once seemed likely to compete with Romney for conservatives' support.

Allen's radically reduced prospects will make it less likely that McCain can duplicate his 2000 triumph in New Hampshire's primary. As one seasoned New Hampshire Republican says, "It is difficult to capture lightning in a bottle twice." It will be particularly difficult for McCain to do so because there is apt to be a spirited New Hampshire contest on the Democratic side. This would draw independent voters who were crucial to McCain in 2000, when he thrashed George W. Bush, receiving 115,606 votes (48.53 percent) to Bush's 72,330 (30.36).

So the presidential field is uncommonly open, and there is a palpable desire in the country to shuffle the political deck. In their new book "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008," Mark Halperin of ABC News and John F. Harris of The Washington Post suggest why:

"When the current President Bush completes his full second term, it will be the first time since James Madison and James Monroe almost two hundred years ago that back-to-back presidents both served all eight years of two elected terms. Put another way, two of the most divisive figures in this country's history will have commanded the White House for sixteen consecutive years."

Such circumstances should entice many aspirants into the race. Yet with Allen much diminished and perhaps out of contention, and with Rudy Giuliani not yet doing serious groundwork for a national campaign, the Republican field is already down to two. That is good for only one of them: Romney.

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