Running six months ahead

Just a few weeks ago - when I thought Rudy Giuliani could win Florida, on onward to take four of the states that actually went to McCain - I was concerned that the Republican race would go all the way to the Convention. The Democrats, by contrast, had only two candidates and could easily have selected a prohibitive front-runner on Tsunami Tuesday.

I wrote this blog on how the GOP could cope with a situation of fighting for the nomination six months after the Democrat candidate was known.

Now, of course, the GOP has a prohibitive front-runner. I doubt that anyone but John McCain will win any more states - though Huckabee has surprised me before. The Democrats will not have their candidate this month, and maybe not until a bloody battle over seating Michigan and Florida has been fought. Does anyone else remember that in 1980 the Kennedy supporters were trying to change the rules at the Convention so that Kennedy could still have a chance?

How does John McCain start to look like a President in waiting while the Democrats are still scrapping with each other?

Plainly McCain has ground to make up with several wings of the party. He seems to have little interest in economics or in the social agenda. Many of the things he is passionate about put him at war with much of his party - and the one that doesn't he finds himself out of line with most swing voters.

He needs to show people that he will surround himself with a strong and capable team. He has many highly respected people in his camp - Phil Gramm, Jack Kemp, Tom Coburn. He needs to find role for them that show the nucleus of a cabinet.

In today's Wall Street Journal Pat Toomey makes a case for several possible running mates for McCain. These are mostly good suggestions, but so what? The VPOTUS has almost no signficant constitutional role. McCain can promise anything he likes about a Cheney-type figure with real influence, but we would never be sure until the administration was in place. In any case, naming a running mate now would probably be a mistake. There should be a big surprise to unveil at the Convention.

I would rather have some strong hints as to the type of people McCain would install as Treasury Secretary, Commerce Secretary, and Attorney General. State and Defence would be interesting too, though I am much more inclined to trust him on these issues.

In Britain, Leaders of the Opposition appoint a Shadow Cabinet. It is not binding. The appointments in government might well be other people. But it gives the electorate a feel for the type of administration that the challenger might form.

It is also a campaigning tool. McCain can't be everywhere. A figure with a clear authority from him to speak on Treasury issues would have real weight with which to campaign.

My first thoughts would be Phil Gramm as Shadow Treasury Secretary; Rudy Giuliani as Shadow Attorney General and Ron Paul as Shadow Commerce Secretary. A Gramm and Paul combination would imply a real determination to get tough on economic issues and seriously roll back the role of government in the economy.

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