On the Record

Examining the Presidential Nominating Process

E.J. Dionne and David Brooks

Brookings Expert E.J. Dionne and David Brooks of the New York Times discuss the presidential nominating process.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: Now, to our regular political commentators.  Welcome back to you both.

Mr. E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.

Mr. DAVID BROOKS: Good to be with you.

BLOCK: And we’re going to talk about the Democratic race in a few minutes.  But first, let’s talk about the Republicans. Do you think there’s anything approaching a frontrunner on the Republican side. E.J.?

Mr. DIONNE: McCain is a modified, limited frontrunner right now – because of his victories, because of his lead in the national polls – but he faces a real challenge in the coming primaries. The two primaries he won in South Carolina and New Hampshire were places where he got a lot of his vote from moderates, from liberals, from independents, from pro-choice voters, even though John McCain has long been pro-life, anti abortion. And he now goes in the primaries – including Florida on January 29th where independents won’t be able to cross over to help him. In South Carolina, he barely – he actually narrowly lost according to the exit polls, those who identified themselves as Republicans. It was independents who saved him.

So this is a really challenging period for him, and he’s gong to have Giuliani, at least in principle, challenging him for some of those moderate votes. If he can get out of Florida, if he could win Florida, then we could declare him the frontrunner. But until then, I think it’s a very limited role he’s got.

BLOCK: And David Brooks, at the same time, it seems like knives are really being sharpened for John McCain. You had Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, telling Fox News, John McCain had done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of.

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