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Paul Hayden

For McCain and Thompson, It's Too Little Too Late

November 12, 2007

U. S. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, has spent the better part of the last decade running for president. He actively sought the office in 2000 and lost handily to George W. Bush. Since that time, he has done everything he could think of to antagonize the base of his own party.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-TN, acts as if the thought of running for president just occurred to him five minutes ago. Some days he acts as though it still hasn't occurred to him.

For very different reasons, these two men, with their totally different approaches to politics, have probably slammed the door on their chances for winning the Republican presidential nomination.

In 2000, McCain was the darling of the mainstream media. Back in those days, he was the anti-Bush, which appealed to them. This year his worldview is anathema to theirs because he has unapologetically defended "Bush's war."

But McCain's unpopularity within his party stems from two other issues: illegal immigration and campaign finance reform.

On immigration, McCain seems to have learned his lesson. In what radio host and bestselling author Laura Ingraham would call a "Power to the People moment," McCain (along with a lot of other members of Congress), has gotten the message loud and clear: border enforcement first.

"I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift," McCain said to reporters after being grilled by voters in South Carolina. "I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders."

Too bad it took a meltdown of the congressional phone lines last June to convince the senator of the common sense of the American people. Until he saw his poll numbers sink to single digits, McCain seemed absolutely oblivious to - nay, defiant of - the people's will. Nevertheless, those of us who have been incredulous to the deafness of the president and far too many members of Congress on this issue welcome Sen. McCain into the bright light of reason on this issue.

While "comprehensive immigration reform" (better known as "amnesty"), is dead, the legislation for which John McCain is best known is still alive and festering within our political system. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president will be haunting us for years, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has struck down certain provisions of the law. For that reason, it has left the base of the Republican Party with a permanent bad taste for McCain's brand of politics.

Fred Thompson's alienation from the GOP activists who comprise the nominating block of the party is much more recent. In fact, it unfolds like a wet blanket of sad disappointment day by day. Desperately seeking a candidate to rally around, social conservatives keep waiting for Fred Thompson to show them - something.

His recent underwhelming performance on "Meet the Press" did not help. Asked about his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, Thompson, who has a respectable record on both issues, managed to flub his answer. He told host Tim Russert he opposes to an amendment to the U.S. Constitution on either issue, preferring to leave these two crucial social issues to the individual states. As Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has pointed out, Thompson endorses the idea of fifty different definitions of marriage. The same is true, it seems, on the definition of life, since Thompson simply wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned and the issue returned to the states.

In addition, Thompson seemed muddled and indecisive about his opinion on water boarding as a technique for dealing with terrorist detainees.

With less than two months remaining until the Iowa caucuses, it is likely that Fred Thompson and John McCain will both continue to decline in the polls, while former Governors Mitt Romney (Massachusetts) and Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) will continue to gain on the current frontrunner, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. So be it.

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Copyright ©2007 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.