While the President’s cabinet may be loyal to Mr. Bush and may be focused on the tasks at hand, it is troubling that the administration has pushed out those most talked about as contenders in 2008, and has replaced a largely pro-life Cabinet with a Cabinet not bothered by the issue. With the exception of Elaine Chao, whose husband, Mitch McConnel, is a conservative powerhouse in and of himself, no remaining cabinet member really has a prominent base of support beyond Dr. Rice.
The Republicans are right to trumpet unprecedented historic gains in the 2004 election. With a Republican in the White House, Republicans were still able to make gains in three consecutive federal elections – a rare feat for either party. But, in doing so, many of the Republican farm team in the state houses and governors mansions are now in Washington. On the state level, Republicans were dealt a bad hand in places like Minnesota and Colorado and now have fewer local candidates ready to make the jump to the national scene.
Having both a weak bench in the states and a weak bench in the Cabinet will make it hard for Republicans to find a competent candidate in 2008. Congressmen, as this last election reminds us, do not make good candidates, and have not since John F. Kennedy ran. Mr. Rove, according to legend and rumor, wants a long lasting national Republican party. He and his boss will have to share some blame if the Republicans subject themselves to a bloodbath in 2008, for want of a competent, credible, foreseen nominee.
History shows that, more often than not, when one party has a clear frontrunner going into a Presidential election year and one party does not, the party with the frontrunner tends to win. Pundits expect Hillary 2008. Conservatives, who are the majority in the Republican primary, do not much like Guiliani or Pataki who both tend to be pro-abortion and anti-traditional marriage. A weak cabinet and a week farm team only exacerbate a latent, looming problem for Republicans.