The political winds are blowing against the GOP, to be sure, but the Democrats really have an extraordinarily weak field of leading candidates, and the Republicans seem to have an unusually strong one. If, come the real primary season early next year, Republicans are looking at Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney and the Democrats are looking at Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, who would you rather be? ~Yuval Levin
Is that a trick question? It is interesting to follow the observations of people on both sides. Progressives are convinced that they have a solid, impressive field and think the GOP is pretty hopeless; conservative observers have just the opposite view. I am of the opinion that both fields are laughable, but the GOP candidates are still in a weaker overall position.
If we assume that both sides are exaggerating the overall virtues of their respective candidates, as partisans and ideological allies will do, we can begin to gauge the actual strengths of the candidates. Right now, Giuliani and Romney are clearly more effective in debate formats than their Democratic counterparts, and McCain has started to do reasonably well, but viewed more objectively we see that the leading GOP contenders are an ex-mayor, a former one-term governor of Massachusetts and a Senator whom large parts of his party hate with a passion. There is virtually nothing about the experience of the first two that makes them obvious presidential material, and all three have serious political obstacles to winning the nomination. The Democratic candidates are not really objectively any better–they are less experienced in government, for one, and possess no executive experience whatever–but most of the energy, money and activism is on their side. Party identification and mobilisation of core supporters are going to be crucial factors, and none of the prospective GOP nominees from the Terrible Trio seems to have what is necessary to re-energise his party. Plus, all three of the Trio are committed to an enormously unpopular foreign policy, two of them are pro-amnesty and one is prominently associated with the amnesty bill. The Democrats have no such deep internal schisms and they are not as badly out of touch with the country on foreign policy. The Democrats are much more unified and will be able to unify around their eventual nominee much more easily. Even a weak Democratic nominee should be able to prevail in this environment, and the GOP would need an exceptionally effective nominee to get its act together in time. None of the Trio fills that role, and each of them actually has significant, well-known flaws that make their ultimate success in a general election very doubtful.