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Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain Republicans

By John McIntyre

Two critical moments of the 2004 campaign were the party's nominating conventions and the momentum - or lack of momentum - they generated for their respective candidates. On the Monday morning of the Democratic convention in Boston, John Kerry held a 0.9% lead in the RealClearPolitics Average. Ten days later on August 5th Kerry had moved to a 1.5% advantage, for a paltry convention boost of 0.6%. In contrast, on the Monday morning of the Republican convention in New York, George Bush held a 0.4% lead in the RealClearPolitics Average. Ten days later on September 9th he had moved to 7.6% lead, for a bump of more than seven points.

The RCP chart below illustrates the huge advantage President Bush netted coming out of the Republican convention with Kerry effectively spending the remaining eight weeks of the campaign whittling away at the Bush lead only to come up short by 2.5% nationally and 2.1% in Ohio.

04rcpavg.gif

Conventions matter and convention bounces, or lack of bounces, particularly matter in very close elections. Who did Karl Rove and the GOP strategists chose to put front and center on prime-time television for the American people?

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Zell Miller.

These prime-time speaking slots were not an accident.

For a President who was struggling with sub-50% job approval ratings (ratings that many pundits felt would ensure his loss) these four speakers were meant to send a clear message to Independents and moderate Democrats that they were welcome - and wanted - in a big tent, majority Republican Party.

Starting Tuesday in the state that delivered George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 and in California yesterday and today with the Giuliani and Schwarzenegger endorsements, the Bush/Cheney baton has been passed to John McCain.

Many on the more conservative side of the Republican Party are balking now that the Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, McCain faction looks likely to be the standard bearer in 2008. But with President Bush's approval ratings hovering in the low 30's (as opposed to the high 40's of 2004) and after the wipe out in 2006 where the GOP was annihilated in the Northeast and basically everywhere outside of the South, the Republican party is putting forth - either through luck, serendipity, or design - its most competitive general election candidate, by far.

With the country screaming for change and very ready for a Democratic president, George W. Bush would not win a third term. But if the Democrats nominate the divisive Hillary Clinton over the inspiring Barack Obama, John McCain will be in a very strong position to keep the White House in Republican hands, with one caveat.

Without Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and McCain voters in 2004 George Bush would have lost to John Kerry and without Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and evangelical voters in 2008 John McCain does not have a chance against Hillary Clinton.

John McIntyre is the co-founder & President of RealClearPolitics. Email: john@realclearpolitics.com

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