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An Heir to Bush

Here's E. J. Dionne Jr. on "The GOP's Looming Battle." (linked on the main page)

He's certainly right that Bush has no heir. And right now, with Bush's poll numbers where they are, nobody really wants to be his heir. The closest thing Bush has to an heir, as Dionne points out, is Sen. John McCain. McCain is really the only Republican who benefits right now from tying himself to Bush. He's already known as Bush's antagonist, so he won't be tied to the administration's failures. But by demonstrating a (suspiciously newfound) loyalty to the president, he can perhaps assuage the concerns of those who despise him for what they see as his serial treachery against W. and the GOP in general.

The most anti-Bush candidate is probably Newt Gingrich, who has been highly critical of the administration recently. (If his candidacy should become serious, look for him to paint the Bush years as a betrayal of the 1994 Republican Revolution.)

Rudy and Mitt are both somewhere in between. Both support the president intensely, but both stand ready to paint themselves as "problem solvers" who (by implication) will actually get something done in Washington, D.C., where Bush has failed.

It's interesting, also, that none of the candidates being taken seriously right now are from the South [with the exception of Gingrich, who a) isn't a typical southern candidate and b) isn't being taken that seriously yet].

I have a piece up today arguing that the GOP has to rebalance itself between its western and southern wings. I think Rudy or McCain (despite my objections to Mr. First Amendment) would do that. Romney, on the other hand, despite being a northerner, seems to be running in a southern Republican mold, heavily emphasizing religion and values.

The only certainty: With such an open field, it's going to be a real battle.