Those Other Republican Candidates


Those few, hardy libertarians who aren't lining up with Ron Paul occasionally make the case for Fred Thompson or John McCain as the small government-er's next hope. (Not everybody agrees with Matt Welch, or thinks that medical marijuana is a pressing issue, or worries about the First Amendment…) Michael Crowley (who interviewed Brian Doherty for a Paul piece) is on the ground with McCain in New Hampshire:

[I]n response to an audience question about George Bush's reliance on "signing statements" to get around acts of Congress, McCain vowed that he would never use them. "It's wrong. It should not be done," he said. "I would never issue a signing statement. I would only veto or sign a bill into law."

An honest answer? The first attempt by a Republican to peel back some Washington-hating Paul voters? It's an ancillary issue, anyway, because. McCain's campaigning on the troop surge.

Meanwhile, John Frank follows Fred Thompson on the Florida campaign trail and… well…

The meager crowd, no more than 100, waited in the cool bright morning for twice as long as the speech itself lasted. Just feet from the stage, along the ledge of the pier, a blowfish rotted in the sun.

It's not just an anecdote. It's really bad.

In May, before Thompson had even entered the race, the Panhandle represented the backbone of his support. The Times poll then showed him stronger in that region that any other, solidly in third behind Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

But six months later—after a staff shakeup, panned campaign announcement, news he lobbied for an abortion rights group and an overall lackluster campaign—Thompson has fallen from grace. The Panhandle is now his second-weakest region, with only 6 percent of voters there supporting him.

I figured this might happen. There are miles and miles of daylight between Thompson and Huckabee on policy. Thompson is a Club for Growth supply-sider, Jack Kemp meets Horatio Alger. Huckabee is, as Jonah Goldberg points out, a progressive, "the bastard child of Lou Dobbs and Pat Robertson." But neither candidate is running on policy. Thompson and Huckabee are running on personality, and the grumpy TV star is unable to compete on that field with the avuncular ex-preacher.