Friday, July 29, 2005

D'Amato: Don't Count Pataki Out

Former New York senator Al D'Amato has an op/ed column in Newsday today warning Republican primary watchers not to underestimate George Pataki's chances for '08. While I think those chances remain fairly slim, it's always good to see somebody sticking up for centrism and its voices.

Tip to Political Wire.

[Update: Dennis at The Moderate Republican makes a good point regarding the op/ed cited above, noting that "If we think that a moderate has no chance of winning the GOP nomination, then we will make sure that prophecy is fulfilled. We as moderates are sometimes too weak willed to see a future when the party will move back to the center. We tend to think the far right is way too powerful for us to challenge them."

I don't think at all that a moderate/centrist has no chance of winning the GOP nomination ... but I do think Pataki has very little chance of winning it. He's been my governor for ten years, I've met him, had lunch with him, heard him speak. And except for his announcement speech the other day that he wasn't running again, I have been perpetually underwhelmed. While I agree with nearly all of his policy positions, I just don't see his personality playing well in the presidential ballpark. As I said earlier in the week, however, if he becomes the centrist standard-bearer in the GOP pack, he'll have my full-throated support.

As Dennis concludes, so will I: "I dare to dream that the GOP can change and that it will change. Maybe it won't be Pataki, but his campaign would lay the groundwork for moderate movement in the way that Barry Goldwater laid the blueprint for the conservative movement fourty years ago. One loss today might mean a big win tomorrow." Absolutely right. -- 1:54 p.m.]

13 Comments:

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Not a Rino said...

"I don't think at all that a moderate/centrist has no chance of winning the GOP nomination ... but I do think Pataki has very little chance of winning it."

I think that's very true. And I doubt that a true "centrist" could ever win either party's nomination. You wouldn't see, say, Jesse Ventura on either ticket. Basic political calculus suggests that "center right" or "center left" is the most moderates can get out of either party.

The risk moderates who lean Republican run in 2008 is ceding the primary contest to the far-right. Like I said in previous threads, I don't think Brownback or Tancredo will get the nomination. It will basically be a contest between a few candidates who are slightly right of the center of gravity in the GOP (Allen, Frist, Huckabee) and a few candidates who are slightly to the left of that GOP center of gravity (Rudy, McCain, Condi). Romney's views change every day, so who knows where he'll be by 2008.

Anyway, in any case, the GOP candidate probably won't be someone that makes moderates want to leap off a cliff. But if moderate Republicans truly want the most moderate candidate they can get out of the current GOP, they need to vote strategically. Instead of splitting between McCain, Rudy, Pataki, and maybe Condi and Mitt, see which one is doing the best and line up behind that candidate. That's the best way of maximizing impact.

Since I'm sort of a weird mix between old-fashioned conservative, neocon, and libertarian, I probably have fewer problems with Rudy or McCain than many proud "RINOs." But RINOs need to realize that the GOP will never nominate Whitman or Pataki. Uniting with us mainstream conservatives will help avoid the prospect of a candidate who decides to make gay marriage his number one priority.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I think the only truly strong moderate Republican candidates are McCain and Guiliani.

I know a LOT of Democrats who'd vote McCain. But he's going to have to get past that age thing. The man would be older than was Reagan if we elected him. And he'd have to find a way to win the nomination despite the fact that the social-conservative base really doesn't like him.

In that regard, Guiliani might do better. He's actually more socially moderate, but has built a number of bridges to the far right. Only thing is, he was just a mayor. Sure, he was the mayor of the most important city during its most important moment and performed better than any other leader we had at the time (including Bush), but people are going to say "how is he qualified to be president?"

But some time before 2008 gets rolling, we need to figure out who to get behind or we'll just divide the moderate vote.

Oh, and I agree about Pataki. Not dynamic enough. He paled in Rudy's shadow after 9/11 and he'll pale during the campaign too.

I just realized I wrote that whole comment as if it were a given that the Republicans were the only party that could cough up an acceptable Centrist. What's that say about the Democrat field?

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

I agree that centrists have a chance at winning the GOP nomination but I do not see how Pataki could pull it off. Even my source in the Pataki family doesn’t think the guy has much of a chance. The Democratic field may be better suited to having a moderate. The party is hungry and the power of leftwing special interest groups are at a noticeable low (this is of course assuming that Clinton does not run, if she does, the race is to see who wants to get the VP slot). Setting Clinton aside, the Democratic field can be arranged from left to right as so: Bayh, Warner, Richardson, Obama, Kerry, Biden, Clark, Edwards, and Vilsak. Except for a few issues, none of the candidates are particularly extreme in their views. The top contenders (Warner, Richardson, Obama, and Edwards) are noticeable for their moderation, though Edwards continues to drift to the left.

P.S. Not to be too cynical but I would point out that D'Amato has a stake in Pataki winning. The Governor’s top political guys cut their teeth with D'Amato and a Pataki Presidency would be the only way that the former Senator could win back power.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Daniel Nexon said...

"The Democratic field may be better suited to having a moderate. The party is hungry and the power of leftwing special interest groups are at a noticeable low (this is of course assuming that Clinton does not run, if she does, the race is to see who wants to get the VP slot)."

I'd say Clinton is pretty moderate. The main argument for his being far left would be, I suppose, the Clinton Health Care plan. We could debate that all day, but it was a pretty centrist approach - if there is such a thing - to providing national health insurance.

But your central point is really important: the Republican party is unlikely to move back to the center until they are punished at the ballot box. Given its current electoral ascendency, it is pretty hard to make the argument that it needs to moderate their positions. In other words, if it can keep generating minimum-wining coalitions at the Presidential level while consolidating Southern realignment, I don't see a major change coming soon. But one big electoral setback and things might change.

There is an outside chance that if a "maverick" like McCain or a moderate gets elected to the Presidency that it will cause a major fight between him/her and the more hard-right congressional leadership. Since, right now, moderate Republicans in the House (and, to a lesser extent, the Senate) don't have anywhere "to go," that might make a difference.

 
At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Not a Rino said...

Probably because I'm inside the beltway, but I can assure you that most establishment GOPers on the Hill aren't Tancredo or Brownback style so-cons.

Allen and McCain are actually pretty standard for the GOP establishment. McCain just puts his foot in his mouth a lot by telling the truth (in politics, that's a no-no).

Most Republicans on the Hill, for example, would love a president who would sign the stem cell bill. And most wouldn't vote for, say, a national law prohibiting all abortions.

No, the split you'd see if McCain or someone got elected would be one between the Washington GOP and the grassroots types.

And don't discount fear of Hillary when it comes to the GOP nomination. Hillary is the Antichrist to conservatives. If a poll comes out showing a conservative nominee running 10 pts behind Hillary and a more moderate nominee running 10 pts ahead, Republicans will back the moderate as long as he'll play ball with the establishment. Like I said, Rudy, McCain, maybe a couple others. But definitely not Pataki or Whitman.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

“I'd say Clinton is pretty moderate. The main argument for his being far left would be, I suppose, the Clinton Health Care plan.” Yeah, I agree. My point was that if she runs, there is no point in debating who is and is not a moderate choice for the Democrats because the nominee will be the Senator from New York.

I agree with Not A RINO that in the event that the GOP goes with a moderate the Republican grass roots (which are dominated by various parts of the New Right) would be very unhappy. I tend to put more stock in the power of the grass roots base, though I am probably biased from growing up in a light Red county in a light Blue state (though I am as Blue as a B.B. King song). Out here in Oregon, the Republican Party has gone from near total dominance to barely functioning at a state level (Senator Smith only won reelection through a combination of a very weak opponent and pretending to be Senator Wyden). The collapse came about when the social conservatives (who are mostly from the Eastern and Southern parts of the state) took control of the party away from its traditional moderate power brokers (who were mostly from Portland and its suburbs). In that time moderate and liberal Republicans have switched party allegiances and the state GOP has been left with one state wide office and a 5 seat majority in the lower legislative chamber.

 
At 8:04 PM, Blogger JBD said...

Great discussion!

 
At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Not a Rino said...

Commenter "a":

You don't know how prescient your statement is. Or perhaps you do. They say that trends in this country start in the West and move East. That's true for politics too. Reaganism and the new conservatism started out West, in Cali, and a couple of decades later took over the nation.

Now what are we seeing out west? The same thing that will happen to the GOP nationally within the next 2 decades. The so-cons take over the party, eventually get frustrated with we apostates who won't allow them to enact their theocratic agenda, and slowly but surely begin to force us out. We see this in California, in Oregon, and in a few other states right now. Soon we'll see it nationally.

This is the reverse of what happened to the Democrats starting in the late '60s. The McGovernites got control of the party apparatus, decided that four decades of dominance that had come from a big tent wasn't for them, and started purging the apostates. From the 1970s on, southern Democrats like Phil Gramm were forced out, along with midwesterners who had been loyal to JFK (who was a tax cutter, a defense guy, and appointed a pro-life Justice), and finally the libertines in the West were pushed out because they didn't share the radical social agenda of the McGovernites (or at least didn't want to force it on the nation). In the end, the McGovernites muscled their way into minority status. And all those they pushed out went over to the GOP and formed a new kind of conservatism that appealed to broad majorities of Americans.

The same thing will soon happen in reverse. This time, it will be the so-cons that begin the purge. First it will be RINOs, then McCain mavericks, then mainstream conservatives who think stem cell research is a good idea, then libertarians. And we'll all go over to what's left of the Democratic Party and remake it in our image, just as the GOP was remade by Ronald Reagan and friends in their image.

Many current liberals, of course, won't like this. Just as "Rockefeller Republicans" felt their party was being taken away from them by the Reaganites, so will today's liberal Dems feel we apostate Republicans are corrupting their party and their ideology. But it will happen. And it will be good for the country. Today's liberalism is due to retire, just as Pat Buchanan's brand of conservatism was retired years ago. The result will be a whole new ideology that rises to combat "big government conservatism" and that looks very little like either the left or right of today.

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger Daniel Nexon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:30 AM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:35 AM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

Not A RINO, I think you flatter my predictive powers. Oregon can take credit for a lot of civic innovations (first in the nation to directly elect Senators, have a working referendum system, a mass recycling bill, modern beach protection laws- exploding whales aside-, death with dignity, and vote by mail) but I am less convinced that the Pacific GOP meltdown is a sign of things to come, at least for a generation. California, Oregon, and Washington where traditionally governed by liberal to moderate Republicans. Starting in the 60’s New Right activist began seizing control of the GOP at the local level and by the early 90’s these activist had taken control of the West Coast Republican Parties. However, the political preferences of the states’ electorates had not changed. This in turn caused the Republican Parties to collapse. I am not sure how many states are ripe to repeat this model. It seems far more likely that state political alignment will follow national voting trends. This means that most of what is left of the Democratic Midwest and South will collapse. Until the Democratic Party can offer an alternative plan for adapting the economy to globalization and talk credibly about foreign policy, they will not win.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Not a Rino said...

"This means that most of what is left of the Democratic Midwest and South will collapse. Until the Democratic Party can offer an alternative plan for adapting the economy to globalization and talk credibly about foreign policy, they will not win."

I would agree with that. In fact, I do think that when today's RINOs, moderate-conservatives, centrists, etc, end up being pushed out of the GOP, it's not that we'll simply join the Democratic Party. It's that we'll take the shell of the soon to be defunct Democratic Party (or perhaps, if it's time for the Dems to retire, form a new second party) in order to oppose what becomes of conservatism.

For now, yes, the current version of the Democratic Party is going to keep on heading down a road to nowhere.

Though as a caveat, if the GOP wants to turn the midwest red, as you spoke of, they're going to have to field the right presidential candidate. You'd be surprised at how stubborn some southern conservatives are these days, demanding the candidate be from deep-red southern territory.

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Pataki will not will the nomination because, as you say, there are much stronger moderate candidates. He is unpopular even in a place that elected him three times to state office. He is far too underwhelming to overcome all the barriers that would be against even a strong moderate's nomination. Besides, he would have a much stronger platform for the presidency as a sitting governor but he knows he'd be spanked by NY attorney general Elliot Spitzer. I think he's angling for the vice-presidency or a cabinet post. That's far more realistic.

 

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