By ROGER J. STONE JR. Public recognition that the war is a colossal blunder maybe the key to both a Democratic and Republican nominations for President in 2008. Sophisticated polling that I have reviewed among suburban Republicans outside Philadelphia, Newark, Sacramento, Tampa, New York City, Chicago, Columbus and Phoenix show extraordinarily high disapproval ratings for President George W. Bush and growing opposition to the war in Iraq. Averages of 58% now say the Iraq war was a mistake. With eleven Republican candidates for President locked at the hip to the war policies of George W. Bush, there is a vacuum in the Republican Party for an anti-war voice. While this group of Republican voters who have soured on the war are not a majority they would be a strongly and growing plurality. It continues to be true that only a conservative or in the case of George W. Bush, a candidate pretending to be a conservative1 can be nominated at the Republican convention. The candidate must be pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax and favor limits on stem cell research. Enter Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a rock-rib Reaganite. His recent press conference to announce that he had decided to decide, notwithstanding, Hagel remains a dark-horse who could still bring a Eugene McCarthy-like fervor to the race and harness bipartisan discontent with the war. Hagel is a decorated Viet-Nam war hero and skilled communicator as a former radio and TV broadcaster. His record passes muster with the religious right on social issues. Supply-siders like his tax cutting votes and traditional Republicans are comfortable with his efforts to put the brakes on Federal spending. In a recent New York Times poll, 58% of voters said they could be flexible about a candidate's position on the war if they agreed with them on most other issues. Hagel's potential will soar as the surge fails. It is a certainty that our entanglement in Iraq will be even less popular at the end of this year than it is today. A late breaking-war issue driven candidacy will require less money than the front-running campaigns that are burning through big campaign dollars in March of 2008. John McCain has 160 people on the payroll today. Some believe that mega states like Florida, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York and New Jersey moving their Primary to February 5th means that a campaign must have adequate campaign funds to advertise in all these expensive media markets. On the contrary, these States moving to February 5th merely puts a premium on performance in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. An insurgent Hagel candidacy needs to be able to bank-roll a break through by funding campaigns in these States. A third place finish anywhere will keep Hagel and the war issue alive. A second place finish will allow him to ride a free media wave that could galvanize the discontent with the war among suburban Republicans and coax Republican-leaning independents into the Republican primary in states like New Hampshire which is worth more than a thousand paid 30-second TV spots. Hagel must not repeat the mistake of Gary Hart who failed to file Delegate slates or gain ballot access in the second wave of Primaries. In short, Hagel must start late, hit hard, score in Iowa and New Hampshire, pass on South Carolina and then score with an anti-war message on February 5th having qualified to win delegates in every state that moves to that date. The long two year campaign that started in January puts extraordinary pressure on the candidates who are out front. How does a candidate sustain public interest and freshness for 2 years? The campaigns of Clinton, Obama, McCain and Giuliani will be stale and will have lost the public imagination by this fall. More Americans will realize that the war in Iraq is folly and the stage will be set for a new Presidential candidate.
1 'Impostor' - By Bruce Barlett. Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.