- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

GOP meltdown?

The latest poll from Newsweek finds President Bush’s approval rating at an all-time low of 28 percent, and indicates that Mr. Bush’s unpopularity may be dragging down the Republican Party and its 2008 presidential candidates.

“The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter, who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979,” the magazine reports in its issue published today. “This remarkably low rating seems to be casting a dark shadow over the GOP’s chances for victory in ‘08. The Newsweek Poll finds each of the leading Democratic contenders beating the Republican front-runners in head-to-head matchups.”

In the presidential poll, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, tops former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani 49 percent to 46 percent among registered voters, beats Arizona Sen. John McCain 50 percent to 40 percent, and crushes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 57 percent to 35 percent.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the poll shows, would also beat Mr. Giuliani (50-43), Mr. McCain (52-39), and Mr. Romney (58-29). Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards also outpolls Mr. Giuliani (50-44), Mr. McCain (52-42) and Mr. Romney (64-27).

The Newsweek poll was based on telephone interviews Tuesday and Wednesday with 831 registered voters, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Gingrich’s view

The 2008 presidential campaign is like a reality show, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says.

“There are a lot of smart people who are running very hard,” said Mr. Gingrich, who is considering getting into the race. “But they have allowed themselves to be talked into a consultant-driven model, which is the equivalent — it’s a mixture of ‘American Idol,’ ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Survivor.’ ”

Mr. Gingrich, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said recent candidate debates “were ludicrous.”

“In the debate the other night, the Republicans averaged seven minutes and 20 seconds apiece, split up into 25-to-30-second answers,” he said. “The television celebrities dominate these things. They cut people off. They treat them with disrespect.

“The potential president of the United States, the most powerful governing office in the world, shrinks with each appearance in these shows, and we don’t have a national discussion.”

Mr. Gingrich has been arguing for a different style of debating than the rules, time limits and moderator that come with traditional presidential debates, the Associated Press reports.

“Whoever the two nominees are, they should agree in advance to 90-minute dialogue — timekeeper, but no moderator — 90 minutes a week, for nine weeks, from Labor Day to the election. Let the American people have in their living room a chance to see two adults.”

Exasperated

Rep. Tom Tancredo admits he’s running for president mostly on a single issue, but complained that not even he could turn a question about organ transplants into a discussion of illegal immigration, reports Eric Pfeiffer of The Washington Times.

“Well, I didn’t get a chance, frankly, to break through on almost anything. In the first 45 minutes of a 90-minute debate, I had one question, and it had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with illegal immigration,” the Colorado Republican said when asked by ABC’s “This Week” why his signature issue didn’t “break through” during last week’s debate.

“I know everybody tries their best to avoid the questions they’re asked, and answer the question that they want to be asked. But, you know, I find that difficult. If somebody asks me a question about — in this case, it was, I don’t know, organ transplants or something,” he said.

Mr. Tancredo wasn’t the only one unhappy with the debate format.

“The big picture was that Chris Matthews was a terrible moderator,” Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said during the “Fox News Sunday” round table. “MSNBC did a terrible job.”

The conservative pundit appeared at first to be joking with his colleagues about an upcoming debate hosted by Fox News, but then added, “The candidates kept their dignity and gave reasonable answers, and the media questions were ridiculous and sort of rude.”

Reagan’s shadow

“They stood earnestly in a row, combed, primped and prepped, as Nancy Reagan gazed up at them with courteous interest. But behind the hopeful candidates, a dwarfing shadow loomed, a shadow almost palpable in its power to remind Republicans of the days when men were men and the party was united. His power is only increased by his absence. But enough about Fred Thompson,” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“This is a piece about Thursday night’s Republican presidential debates, but first I would like to note that the media’s fixation with which Republican is the most like Reagan, and who is the next Reagan, and who parts his hair like Reagan, is absurd, and subtly undermining of Republicans, which is why they do it,” Miss Noonan said.

“Reagan was Reagan, a particular man at a particular point in history. What is to be desired now is a new greatness. Another way of saying this is that in 1960, John F. Kennedy wasn’t trying to be the next FDR, and didn’t feel forced to be. FDR was the great, looming president of Democratic Party history, and there hadn’t been anyone as big or successful since 1945, but JFK thought it was good enough to be the best JFK. And the press wasn’t always sitting around saying he was no FDR. Oddly enough, they didn’t consider that an interesting theme.

“They should stop it already, and Republicans should stop playing along. They should try instead a pleasant, ‘You know, I don’t think I’m Reagan, but I do think John Edwards may be Jimmy Carter, and I’m fairly certain Hillary is Walter Mondale.”

Forgettable debate

“Remember the first or even the second or third debate among Republican presidential candidates in 2000? I don’t, except George Bush’s insistence — I think it was in Iowa — that Jesus Christ was the political philosopher who’d influenced him the most. Recall anything that happened in the endless Democratic presidential debates in 2004? I pretty much draw a blank there, too,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“Those debates fall in the forgettable category. And so does Thursday’s debate involving 10 Republican presidential aspirants at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. It wasn’t boring. Some of the questions by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and his cohorts were zingers, particularly the ones on abortion. But debates more than eight months before actual caucuses and primaries are rarely pivotal, and this one certainly wasn’t. Better luck next time.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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