Thursday, February 7, 2008
The War Hero and the populist - 2004 and 2008
Mitt Romney has announced that he is suspending his campaign. At this stage it's ambiguous but it looks like both parties have been whittled down to the final 2. Huckabee and McCain for the Republicans. Obama and Clinton for the Democrats, with the race looking like its going down to the wire.
With the unlikely combination of Huckabee and McCain rising to the top and the antipathy the base feels against both candidates. It's interesting to note that the final two GOP contenders in '08' are eerily similar in narrative to the final two Democrats in the '04 Primaries - A war hero and a populist.
In '04 the democrats nominated John Kerry. A decorated war hero in Vietnam, he represented the anti war sentiment then (Vietnam) and looked to represent it now (Iraq). He was the choice for a party running against the war for his military credibility. In 'O8 the Republicans look to nominate John McCain. Whilst the Iraq war has lessened as an issue, John McCain is a military hawk who represents strong support for the Iraq War mirrored in the conservative base. John McCain was a strong proponent of the surge, when it was an unpopular course to take. Like John Kerry McCain fought Vietnam and was famously captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese in the "Hanoi Hilton". It's still unclear whether the perceived success of the surge can be credited for his improbable success, but its surely the issue John McCain is best heralded for by conservatives.
The other upstarts running an admirable second are Huckabee for the GOP, and John Edwards for the Democrats in 2004. Both were relatively unknown candidates. Both disarmingly charming and present populism with a smile. In the case of Edwards in '04 his popularity and support was rewarded as Kerry invited him to be his running mate for Veep. Its unclear whether McCain will extend the same courtesy to Huckabee. Even though both have been very cordial with each other and have tag-teamed to eliminate Romney, McCain may have to find someone who will better ease a base skeptical of both front-runners.
Whilst narratively both pairs are similar, their goals and stance on the issues are at odds. They still represent competing philosophies so what they hope to achieve and how they approach it will remain different. Kerry is fighting against the Iraq War, McCain is a strong supporter for it. Huckabee is addressing economic concerns with a heavy emphasis on his Christian values and the unconventional idea of a "Fair Tax" (flat tax). John Edwards has a more traditional secular approach. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Watch Mitt Romney's announcement at CPAC 2008
Read Washington Posts' account of Kerry choosing Edwards as his running mate
Read John Mccain's bio and military history
Read John Kerry's bio and military history
Read John Edward's bio
Read Mike Huckabee's bio