MICHAEL BARONE ON “POST-THUMPIN’ POLITICS:
Bill Clinton tried to create a natural majority for his party but fell short. George W. Bush attempted the same for his party but has also missed the mark. The 2002 and ’04 Republican majorities were too small to withstand the winds of 2006.
For a dozen years, our politics has been bitterly polarized, dominated by two baby boomer presidents who happen to have personal characteristics that people on the other side of the cultural divide absolutely loathe. Clinton in 1992 and Bush in 2000 both made genuine efforts to run as unifiers, but once in office proved to be dividers.
The 2008 cycle will bring a different cast of characters. The leaders in the polls — Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Hillary Clinton — all are, to varying degrees, in tension with their parties’ bases. That suggests that they have the capacity, to varying degrees, to appeal across the cultural divide and pull their parties above the 51 percent ceilings they’ve been under for the past 10 years. Other potential candidates — Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama — may have similar potential. The culturally conservative Republican base and the vitriolically antiwar Democratic base don’t seem to have strong candidates, unless you count Al Gore and John Edwards.
As I said a while back, I was hoping to see a Giuliani-Warner race, as I think that would have been depolarizing. I’d certainly like to see a less polarized politics in 2008.