Today’s David Brooks column (behind the TimesSelect barrier) has a couple of interesting points about the presidential race.
Then there’s the issues. Iraq will still be a shooting war in 2008. Health care is emerging as the biggest domestic concern. This is natural Democratic turf. So as I travel around watching the Republican candidates, I’m looking for signs that they’re willing to try something unorthodox. Eighty percent of the time, what I see is the Dole campaign: Republican candidates uttering their normal principles – small government, military strength, strong families – and heading inexorably toward defeat.
I suspect his encouraging words for John McCain and Mitt Romney will be greeted by both candidates’ camps with, “well, he’s right about us, but how can he praise him so much?”
In Washington, the McCain campaign is considered dead, but somebody seems to have forgotten to tell the people here [in New Hampshire]. A man at one packed event rose to vent his outrage at Washington. He ignited something in McCain, who started talking about what he’d learned from the failure of immigration reform. McCain worked himself up, recounting one failure and disgrace after another, culminating finally with an angry bellow, “Nobody trusts us to do what we say we’re going to do!”
It wasn’t a Howard Beale “Network” moment, but it touched something. The crowd was with him all the way.
And on Romney:
At the Lincoln Financial Group in Concord, Romney had slipped away from the policy chunks of his stump speech and was talking about his success in business and in running the Olympics. He was talking about how you assemble a team of people with complimentary skills. How you use data and analysis to replace opinion. How you set benchmarks and how often you should perform self-evaluation.
It wasn’t impassioned or angry (he doesn’t do anger). But it was Romney losing himself in something he really cares about, and it opened up a vista of how government might operate.
I concur with Brooks that a standard-issue Republican campaign just ain’t gonna get it done this cycle.