Thanks to everyone who has so far voted in this site's presidential straw poll, linked at right. You are invited to continue voting on a weekly basis and to encourage anyone else you know to visit and do the same. The Pajamas Media poll is, of course, not at all scientific, but I find it fascinating to get a peek at the preferences of those who frequent this blog, and I will be interested to see if the results change over time. So please keep voting! (Last week's poll has closed but there should soon be a new one.)
Right now among voters at this site, Fred Thompson is leading the GOP contenders and Bill Richardson is leading the Democratic ones. I find it interesting to note that these results mirror those of the national Pajamas straw poll but that they are in stark contrast to the Real Clear Politics average of leading national polls, which this week shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton ahead in their respective races.
Reflecting on this divergence, I have a couple of theories (about which I am the first to admit I could be totally mistaken). First, the Pajamas poll in its un-scientificness reflects the more conservative leanings of Pajamas Media readers. Second, I believe the Republican result in particular reflects the high hopes conservative voters have for the candidacy of Fred Thompson. As I have talked with other conservatives in recent months, I have often heard reflected in their opinions my own struggle to find a candidate I can enthusiastically embrace combined with my curiosity about the possible candidacies of both Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich. Now that Thompson has announced, I think a lot of conservative voters are eagerly anticipating his emergence as a candidate who can compete nationally while representing them as a social as well as fiscal conservative.
I have shared in that anticipation. Yet in the first few weeks of Thompson's candidacy I have begun to have doubts about whether he is THE ONE. I will admit that this uncertainty is a result less of my own impressions of his performance in the last few weeks--due to personal circumstances I have just not been following national news very closely--and more of the observations of some analysts whose opinions I respect. I have also become aware and concerned that in head-to-head match-ups of Republicans against Hillary Clinton (who as we all know is the almost certain Democratic candidate), Thompson does not fare as well as either Giuliani or--surprise!--John McCain. Yes, we need a candidate with the right views. But we also need a candidate who can win.
If you, like me, have been waiting around for the Republican knight on a white horse who is going to ride in and save this election, and if you have been hoping Thompson might be our hero, you may wish to read the following columns by two savvy political pundits who suggest that may not happen. If after reading you can offer some rebuttals to the concerns they raise, I encourage you to do so, because I would like to hear the case for Thompson.
If you are a committed Thompson supporter, please know that I have not yet decided on a candidate, and it is not my intent to attack him. But I do think that when he was on the sidelines it was very easy for frustrated conservatives like myself to idealize him, endowing him with whatever attributes we were most missing in the announced candidates. Now that he is in the race, the political honeymoon is over, and the scrutiny has begun.