The Republican Party has a serious problem.
Fred Thompson announced that he is finally serious about his presidential campaign after toying with voters for nearly two months.
The former Law and Order star made it honest last Wednesday night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and joined what John Stewart has appropriately dubbed the 2008 “Clusterf*** to the White House.”
With too many candidates for the average American to focus on already and no real standouts on the Republican side, Thompson’s announcement could be the death rattle for the Republican Party.
We’re talking about a guy who, without even declaring his official candidacy, was ranked second only to Rudy Giuliani as the man that Republicans would most like to see get the presidential nod, according to a late August Gallup Poll.
The fact that a man who was not even running at the time was beating most of the men that have been campaigning for months shows just how much trouble the Republicans are in.
Now that Thompson’s official, though, he may be an even bigger problem for the GOP – as an honest candidate, he has the potential to ruin the little momentum the party has managed to muster.
Rudy Giuliani has built his platform on 9/11. As the man America saw both grieve with and rebuild New York City, he definitely has some credibility there.
And, at least from television interviews, he just seems like a hell of a nice guy.
The problem is that he’s a bit soft on issues that are important to the conservative base. Namely abortion and gay rights, just to name a couple.
Thompson, on the other hand, has made it clear that he’s a Republican’s Republican – he’s pro-war, anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, anti-illegal immigration and anti-terror.
Given that these two front-runners are so oppositional on key issues, Fred’s foray into the race could be the divisive element that costs the Republican the ’08 election.
Generally, the road to convention is more of a general popularity contest than anything. Hard issues are rarely brought up because, more or less, the candidates feel the same way about it.
This is the way it is for the Democratic hopefuls.
The serious candidates are all identical on the big issues within their party – they don’t like Bush, they don’t like Iraq, and they’re trying to find a way out of it.
The problem for Democratic voters, therefore, is less about who extols their virtues, but rather about which generic candidate has the most experience, who’s getting the most expensive haircut, or who has the least abrasive personality.
No matter who makes it, in this instance, the voters know their values – or at least most of them – will be represented.
Republican voters don’t have this luxury.
If Thompson gets the nod, voters more moderate on social issues may feel alienated. Likewise, if Giuliani is nominated, conservative Christians will probably be a bit upset.
Should this happen, the only solution for the GOP would be a split ticket with either candidate as president and his counterbalance in the less coveted vice presidential chair.
Of course, things may never get this far.
Now that Thompson is an official candidate, he has to do the fun things he had up to this point been immune to. Like debates.
The excitement surrounding him may fade when he has to defend his positions against his peers. Or maybe it will only increase.
What is certain is that Thompson isn’t going away anytime soon and how the Republicans choose to deal with the situation will affect their chances in ’08.
For their sake, they had better choose wisely.
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com