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Friday, January 18, 2008

Are FisCons the Key?

A couple nights back Dick Morris had an interesting analysis of the Republican race that I had few problems with. He said that because there is no one candidate that lives up to everything the Republican base is looking for, they are split into three camps. He believes there is the social conservative camp that is backing Huckabee. He thinks there is the GWOT hawks that are supporting either McCain or Rudy. Finally, there are the Fiscal Conservatives that are supporting Romney.

Now, I agree that there is no candidate that the base can settle on. Each of them has problems with the base in one manner or another. I agree that the Republican party is made up of these three factions however I disagree that the factions have chosen candidates quite so neatly. I don't think any of the camps are quite so monolithic or frankly simple.

Along with Iraq, what everyone will tell you is that the Republicans lost in 2006 because they lost their sense of fiscal discipline. The base finally got fed up with bloated prescription drug benefits, education programs, and a plethora of endless pork barrel projects (bridge to nowhere anyone). The fiscons were taken for granted and they lashed back. The party got crushed as a result.

I am still not so sure the Congressional Republicans have learned their lessons, however one thing is clear, the Presidential candidates have. As this race is unfolding, what is becoming obvious is that the one faction that no one is overlooking is the fiscons. Rudy is a social liberal who will have to win despite the Social Conservatives not because of them. Ron Paul is running as the dovish candidate and Romney and Huckabee have little if any foreign policy experience. McCain has ticked off all sorts of factions within the party.

What I have noticed is that along with stronger border enforcement, fiscal conservatism is a staple of each campaign. McCain has been out front as a champion of fiscal restraint. Here is the line he has used in multiple debates.

I guarantee you I’ll veto those bills. I’ll ask for the line item veto and I’ll veto them and I’ll make the authors of them famous.

Huckabee, Romney, Rudy, and Fred Thompson have each emphasized their records as not only tax cutters but as champions of fiscal restraint. Ron Paul has long been emphasizing shrinking government and taxes. We have an eclectic group of candidates: the former pastor running as populist conservative, the maverick war hero, the accomplished mayor, the business tycoon... Each of them has appealed to certain factions and also written off others. Except for one faction that is, the fiscal conservatives. It appears clear the one faction each of them will appeal to is the fiscal conservatives. Each candidate is highlighting their own record as a tax cutter and model of fiscal restraint while many times subsequently attacking their opponents record as less than acceptable fiscally.

That was the subject of Fred Thompson's attack on Mike Huckabee. He referred to his policies as big government, the fiscon death knell. Romney's record has been attacked and Rudy's record has been questioned. Most of the other candidates have attacked McCain's vote against the Bush tax cuts, the holy grail for most fiscons.

The one thing we know about the Republican Presidential race so far is that we know very little. It continues to be up for grabs. If we know anything though is that it appears that the candidates see the fiscal conservatives as key. Two years too late for most people but better late than never.

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