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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Republican Round-Up

For obvious reasons, I”ve been blogging about Democrats lately, so it might be a good time to take a quick look at what’s happening on The Other Side.
This coming Saturday will feature the first semi-real Event in the Republican nomination contest, with the Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll in Ames. Giuliani and McCain have already written off the event (to the great annoyance of Iowa Republicans who count on it as a fundraiser for the operation of next year’s Caucuses), so it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney will win. But that means second place in the straw poll is a heaven-sent opportunity for lower-tier candidates to emerge from the pack and get themselves viable.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post blog “The Fix” has a nice write-up of the stakes this weekend for the perennial insider Dark Horse favorite Mike Huckabee, using data from WaPo’s new Iowa poll that shows the Arkansan tied with John McCain for fourth place. WaPo also has an article explaining the history and character of the Straw Poll, including the basic fact that campaigns pay for most of the attendees to attend, and the fascinating historical note that Iowa Republicans felt it necessary in 1999 to require Iowa residence for the event because campaigns were busing in supporters from other states (a tactic Ron Paul has often employed for less momentous Iowa events).
And the Des Moines Register has a piece up today on Sam Brownback’s prospects in the Straw Poll. He’s the other GOPer with a reasonable chance to finish second in Ames and get known by America.
One of the things that has happened in the runup to the Straw Poll has been some questionable phone calls on the religious views of various candidates. Michelle Cottle at The New Republic has the details, which involve Mitt’s Mormonism, Brownback’s conversion from Methodism to Catholicism, and the much-debated question of whether Fred Thompson is a member of the Church of Christ or the United Church of Christ (who differ on religio-cultural issues nearly as much as Jews and Jews-for-Jesus). Cottle suggests that the beneficiary of this sort of religious kulturkampf may be Rudy Giuliani, whose own religious and cultural non-credentials place him outside the pale, irrelevant to the effort to identify a True Believer alternative to Hizzoner.
And that may be the ultimate meaning of the Iowa Straw Poll: will Mitt Romney, Mormon and former pro-choice and pro-gay rights governor of the godless state of Massachusetts, be the only alternative to Rudy? Or will a true Son of Right-teousness, in the eyes of the GOP’s conservative base, soon emerge?
As the latest WaPo poll showed, Republicans are far less satisfied with their presidential field than Democrats. So expect more fireworks on that side of the aisle, maybe beginning this weekend.

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