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McCain, Romney, Giuliani _ heavyweights in Republican field as 2006 ends

McCain, Romney, Giuliani _ heavyweights in Republican field as 2006 ends

When it comes to the U.S. presidency, the Republican Party has a long tradition of nominating the next guy in line.
That is John McCain _ and the failed Republican presidential aspirant of 2000 is positioning himself as the anointed 2008 nominee.
Yet, a full year before the first primary contests, the Republican race is anything but wrapped up. The Arizona senator who once reveled in his reputation for bucking the party line is now running as the establishment candidate, but he faces serious challenges from Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"Right now, McCain is the front-runner. There are always dangers in being a front-runner. But you'd rather be the front-runner than the also-ran," said Ken Duberstein, a longtime Republican consultant. "The question is whether McCain falters or not."
Others dispute that the front-runner mantel belongs to anyone this early.
"We don't have one yet. There's not enough engagement by the activists and the money people," countered Ed Rogers, a Republican strategist. He said straw polls, dollars in the bank, and key endorsements next year would better gauge the state of play.
Yet, there is no denying the party's history.
"We're respectful of hierarchy," Rogers acknowledged.
Regardless of who has the early edge, McCain, Romney and Giuliani make up the top tier of the crowded Republican presidential field that includes a cast of other lesser-known potential candidates, most of whom would be long-shots should they decide to formally enter the race.
In all, at least a dozen Republicans are considering running to succeed President George W. Bush. With Vice President Dick Cheney having ruled out a candidacy, the cast of wannabes grows daily. It includes current and former governors, as well as current and former members of Congress.
Among them, the McCain, Romney and Giuliani troika are considered serious contenders believed to be able to raise the $80 million (euro60.7 million) to $100 million (euro75.9 million) next year that operatives say will be needed to mount a viable campaign.
Yet, all three also have positions that raise alarms with the Republican vitally important conservative base:
_ Long viewed skeptically by conservatives for his renegade streak, McCain has further agitated them with his position on immigration and his involvement in avoiding a Senate showdown over Bush's judicial nominees.
_ Romney insists that he opposes abortion and is a defender of traditional marriage. Yet, he voiced more liberal views when he ran as a moderate in his 2002 gubernatorial race and in a failed 1994 Senate bid. He has drawn fire from leading conservatives for such inconsistencies.
_ Giuliani is a social moderate who supports gun control, same-sex civil unions and abortion rights, stands that run counter to the positions of the Republican's s right flank.
Those apparent deficiencies _ in the eyes of conservatives _ may leave a spot in the field for someone with less-shaky right-wing credentials, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who the party's base reveres. He says he will wait until fall to decide whether to seek the nomination.
Mindful of their conservative obstacles, the top-tier trio spent 2006 seeking to sow good will within the party and curry favor with Republican candidates across the country _ particularly in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina _ by campaigning and raising money for them.
At the same time, McCain _ who has been a political celebrity since his underdog campaign of 2000 _ sought to position himself as the front-runner, spending much of the year building a national campaign that paired his longtime loyalists with top Bush political aides. He also set up organizations in key states, announced the backing of grass-roots supporters and signed on big-name fundraisers.
The 2006 campaign season had barely ended when McCain formed a presidential exploratory committee, launched a Web site and gave a speech calling himself a "common-sense conservative" _ the main theme of a campaign should he go forward.
Romney, meanwhile, spent the year as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association, a post that allowed him to travel the country, dole out money to his party's gubernatorial candidates and show off his fundraising prowess. He raised a record $20 million (euro15.1 million) for the association to help elect Republican governors, but the Republicans ended up losing 20 of 36 races.
The Massachusetts governor also made preparations for an expected White House run, recruiting notable Washington insiders to work alongside his longtime cadre of Boston-based aides and putting in place campaign-style teams in early states. He is expected to formally enter the race shortly after he leaves office on Jan. 4.
As 2006 closed, his support was in the single digits in national polls.
Not so for Giuliani, the famed former big-city mayor whose star power reached new heights after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The man dubbed "America's Mayor" has consistently ranked first in national surveys, usually leading McCain by a few percentage points. Giuliani also draws huge crowds when he visits early primary states.
Like McCain, Giuliani created an exploratory committee just after the November election, but he significantly trails both McCain and Romney in recruiting top political talent and putting together an organization capable of running a national campaign.
Meantime, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson have established exploratory committees, and California Rep. Duncan Hunter and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore have said they intend to follow suit. Others said to be mulling a bid include Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, New York Gov. George Pataki, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.


Updated : 2021-04-20 19:28 GMT+08:00