Washingtonpost.com: GOP Sees Gephardt as Toughest Rival for Bush. You have to admire the Republican ability to stick to the talking points. There is no way that Gephardt is the candidate they worry about the most in the White House, and yet “nearly two dozen Republican strategists, lawmakers and state chairmen across the country, including several close to the White House,” managed to stay on message in the hope of maybe doing a little damage to the Democrats.
Gephardt is not a fresh face. (Indeed, he violates Jonathan Rauch's rule of 14 [link will stop workig soon], leadinig Rauch to say that he he's past his elect-by date.) Gephardt's anti-free-trade message can be caricatured as unrealistic; indeed, even I — a person deeply suspicious of the small army of devils lurking in the details of recent and proposed trade agreements — can't bring myself to buy into Gephardt's protectionism.
Gephardt's health plan is not something he could get through Congress.
And even the much-vaunted union support is of limited value — the unions are being fairly cautious this year. They want a winner, and are not themselves sure that he's it. And they, like so many Democrats, will turn out for whichever of the major candidates get the nomination.
But of those major Democratic candidates, Gephardt — who they will say is bought and paid for by the unions — is surely the one the Republicans most want to run against, not the one they fear. The very unanimity of this Republican block (is not one of them the least teensy tiny bit worried about Clark or Dean or even Edwards?) demonstrates to me that the fix was in. Admirable party discipline indeed.
As for this “midwest is key to the election” stuff, well, there's some truth to it. But I think I know where the key to election is. Right here in Florida.