Hot on the heels of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani taking the same step, Arizona senator John McCain is forming an exploratory committee for a 2008 run at the presidency. A formal announcement will come tomorrow. But McCain has let a raft of email recipients--including, somehow, me--know that this is coming. A simple web site is collecting email and snail mail addresses and telephone numbers interested in his candidacy.
McCain is the third-most conservative member of the US Senate and as, he reiterated on last Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, he supports sending more troops into Iraq, a course advocated by only 18% of the American public, a decidedly conservative take on things. But he has a demonstrated ability to appeal to independents and moderate Democrats as well as Republicans.
At present, he is the clear frontrunner in what appears to be a three-way race for the 2008 GOP nomination, the other two being Giuliani and soon-to-be former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.
In the end, I don't believe that Giuliani can win the Republican nomination. Republican primary and caucus voters might be willing to accept his candidacy if he departed from Republican orthodoxy on just one or two issues. But Giuliani is at variance with most Republicans on a whole constellation of issues.
Romney has apparently done a good job of organizing in Iowa and, as a Massachusetts pol, enjoys such a huge advantage going into the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary that unless McCain, Giuliani, or another candidate wins there, the contest in the Granite State will be meaningless. That will magnify the significance of both Iowa and South Carolina, a state where many believe, the Bush campaign or people allied with it, engaged in a campaign of character assassination against the Arizona senator in 2000.
One advantage, among many, that McCain enjoys going into the 2008 race is that Giuliani on the left and Romney on the right gives him the luxury of being able to run as the right-center candidate, appealing to both Republican voters in the run-up to the convention and to the entire electorate in the general election. I could easily see a McCain-Romney ticket being the result of the pre-convention campaign.
As I've said before, Republicans tend to be more orderly in how they select their candidates for President. There's an informal plan of succession, it seems. It was, Republican primary voters and caucus participants seemed to feel, Reagan's turn in 1980, though his candidacy was contested, and Dole's in 1996. Were it not for the peculiarities of New Hampshire's proximity to Massachusetts and the smear campaign waged against McCain in South Carolina, whose primary follows that of New Hampshire, McCain might be considered the heir apparent.
But at present, few things are apparent about 2008.
[This was cross-posted at RedBlueChristian.com.]