I look for something close to a rerun of the 1912 presidential election in 2008.
President William Howard Taft was the incumbent Republican. Ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, a good big-government progressive, was unhappy with his successor, so he decided to challenge Taft in the Republican primary. Roosevelt lost. He was popular, but he was also controversial within the party.
Roosevelt then bolted the Republican party, formed the Bull Moose party, and, of course, ran for president.
Woodrow Wilson wound up the unexpected nominee of the Democratic party. Wilson won the presidency with 42 percent of the vote, with Roosevelt coming in second in the popular vote, and Taft last.
John McCain fancies himself another Teddy Roosevelt. He invokes TR’s name all the time to justify his anti-free-speech, anti-free-enterprise liberalism. I am convinced that his media schtick (which the press loves) is part of McCain’s strategy to eventually lead his own revolt, at which time he’ll need and receive their help.
And look at the rest of McCain’s behavior. He campaigns for George Bush, but he will not criticize John Kerry. In fact, he says Kerry would be a good commander-in-chief, which no Republican believes (except, perhaps, for David Gergen). He has positioned himself as a so-called independent and progressive, and a self-proclaimed figure of unity and bipartisanship. And McCain has spent years in the Senate attacking the structure of the political parties–the primary target of the so-called “reforms” of the McCain-Feingold bill, which undermined severely the parties’ ability to raise funds (specifically, “soft money” contributions).
I believe McCain is and has been planning another run for the presidency. He cannot win the Republican nomination, which is a lesson he learned in 2000. But he is far better positioned to run as a third-party candidate than Ross Perot was, and Perot got 19 percent of the vote in 1992. My prediction: McCain will either seek the Republican nomination in 2008, or bolt from the party and announce an independent candidacy (like his hero Teddy Roosevelt)–or he will skip that process altogether and start out as an independent (which I believe is less likely). In any event, in 2008 McCain will run as the unity candidate. Republicans, beware.
–Mark R. Levin is host of a nightly radio show on WABC 770.