As many of you know, I have a semi-regular gig on our local CBS affiliate offering political analysis. In the wake of the Bloomberg announcement yesterday, KWTX-Channel 10 [Waco, Texas] called me in to discuss Campaign 2008. Our conversations are usually fairly general, but, just in case anyone is interested, here is a synopsis of the exchange (and a few additional facts and some further analysis):

1. An unprecedented National Primary. Texas (along with Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Vermont) will hold its primary on 4 March 2008. Front loading? Think again. Thirty-eight states will have already held primaries by that date.

FYI: A 2008 Countdown:


14 Iowa Caucus
19 Nevada
22 New Hampshire
29 South Carolina & Florida

The Mother of all Super Tuesdays is 5 February, in which 23 states, including California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, will conduct primary elections.

Although it is possible that the nomination will still be in doubt after 5 February, it is unlikely, if recent history is any indication.

More importantly, and this part is relatively new, what we have, in fact, is a national primary on 5 February. What does that mean? The candidate with the best organization, enough money to mount a campaign in 23 different venues and an appealing message that transcends a few specific locales will secure the party standard.

In other words, gone are the days of concentrating on a specific state (e.g., Iowa, NH or SC) and making a big splash and gaining momentum from an unlikely victory. That is, Jimmy Carter-style insurgencies are now impossible.

The candidate with the best national organization? Democrats: Advantage Mrs. Clinton. Republicans: we'll see.

2. The role of Texas in the general election? If Texas is in play for the Democratic candidate in October and November, it means a national landslide. Over the last few state election cycles, no Democrat has been elected to statewide office. There is no redder state in the Union that the Lone Star State. Having said that, nobody knows anything. Looking down the road, I would not bet the house on any outcome this time around.

3. Pandering to the base. For most of American political history, it has been necessary for candidates to craft positions that attract true-believers who make up the base of their parties early on, and then tack to the middle for wider appeal in November. Campaign 2008 is no exception. Candidates who skip the first step do so at their own peril.

Mrs. Clinton spent an entire senate term positioning herself as a moderate (even as a hawk on defense and terrorism) so that she might win the hearts and minds of movable security moms. Now she is paying the price and trying to appear just enough of a lunatic to propitiate the left wing of the Democratic mainstream. She will not make it with the "nutroots"--but, thus far, she seems to be striking an acceptable balance among her party stalwarts, who, for a number of reasons, want to vote for her in spite of her uncomfortable Iraq history.

John McCain, perhaps a viable general election candidate, never found a way to overcome the suspicions (even hatred) emanating from the conservative base of the Republican Party. Immigration was the final nail in his coffin.

What of Rudy? Thus far, Rudy has defied the conventional wisdom that a pro-abortion, soft on gun control, double-divorcee cannot appeal to the Republican base. The base is not attracted to his liberalism--but they are considering forgiving his apostasy because they admire his bravura in the aftermath of 9-11 and his sincerity. Rudy is a straight-talking, hardliner and pragmatist. It is an attractive combination, and he continues to lead the national polls among Republican primary voters.

Of course, the advent of Fred Thompson changes everything. All bets are off until we see if Fred is the "Mr. Right" the GOP is searching for.

4. How big is immigration? The grassroots rebellion over immigration is huge. It is more than powerful enough to preclude any reform legislation in the near term. However, immigration has not played a large role in recent elections. No Democrat lost a job in the last midterm election over a stance on immigration. But some hardliner Republican challengers failed to gain traction concentrating on the issue, at least one hardliner incumbent, J.D. Hayworth, lost his seat in Arizona, and the jury is certainly still out as to how this volatile issue will play in a national election.

I don't expect immigration to be the issue that saves Republicans in 2008.

5. The defining issues of 2008? All roads seem to lead back to Iraq. Currently, our frustration in Iraq has cast a pall over the American people. Huge numbers of Americans voice disapproval with the President. The ongoing lack of success in Iraq permeates all other programs, initiatives and governance with an air of incompetence and impending doom. No matter how encouraging some of the traditional economic indicators appear, voters continue to complain that we are on the wrong track in overwhelming numbers.

All roads lead back to Iraq, which is why 2008 could be a disastrous year for Republicans. Although recent polls indicate that Americans are also frustrated with Congress, we generally hate Congress but love our Congressman. Don't look for those numbers of general disapproval to presage a massive turnover on Capitol Hill.

On the other hand, voters quite often punish a President and his party for poor decisions and leadership. Get ready to get punished.