Will GOP base sit on its hands?

Howard Fineman:

In the midst of a shaky economy and an unpopular war, it is nothing short of astonishing that the Republican Party’s contenders run neck-and-neck with Democrats in test matchups. But the GOP is going to lose next fall if it cannot reunify the three pieces of its conservative base: evangelicals, libertarians and hawks.

As Republicans head into one of the last televised debates before the voting starts, the cracks in their Reagan-Bush coalition not only are showing, they’re getting wider. The ideological ala carte candidates – Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani – are generating buzz; the one-size-fits-all conservatives – Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson – have yet to show they can unify the party.

Just look at the TV ads and polls and you can see what I mean. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher, is fast becoming the semi-official candidate of the evangelicals, and is rising in Iowa as a result. In a new TV ad running there, he touts his religion. “Faith doesn’t influence me,” he says. “It really defines me.” Even Pat Robertson didn’t say that in 1988.

Among libertarians – the anti-tax, small-government crowd that worships at the altar of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman – Paul is the baptized hero. His TV ad in New Hampshire (where he is about to crack double digits) features local voters praising his “Live Free or Die” attitude, and he is on course to raise $12 million via the Internet by the end of December.

For the hawks – law-and-order crusaders against Communism and now terrorism – Giuliani is the Man.... The implication: what he did to squeegee men, criminals and welfare cheats he can do to al-Qaida, Hamas and Hugo Chavez. Rudy is making a serious play in New Hampshire, lured by some positive poll numbers.

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The reasons for the lack of passion for the so called unifiers has to do with their own either lack of passion or misdirected passion. Romney is a candidate with ambiguous passions that seem poll tested more than real. Thompson is a clever guy who seems to have no real passion for the position. McCain has had too many misdirected passions that anger the base such as campaign finance reform and immigration reform.

I think Giuliani can make his case to the libertarians with his record in NY York, which was about more than squeegee men. He has a good record on tax cuts and spurring growths in jobs and cutting entitlements. He has tried to address the faith voters with his commitment on judicial appointments. Whether that will be enough will be tested at the polls soon enough. The real question for the libertarian and faith voters is do they think they will like Hillary Clinton better?

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