Three Presidents at Once?

Today I was listening to the podcast of NBC's Meet The Press from Sunday. They were discussing the 2008 presidential race. Somebody, I'm not sure who, said that we're going to have three competing presidents for about nine months next year. How can this be?

First there will be President Bush, of course. Meanwhile the front-loaded primary season makes it likely that the nominee of both parties will be decided by early February 2008. From then until November (and maybe longer if we get into another recount fiasco) the two nominees and the guy in the White House will all be claiming national leadership. Obviously Bush will still hold the nuclear keys, but in other ways he will become increasingly irrelevant.

The loser in this scenario has to be the GOP. Unless Bush's approval ratings go up dramatically, the Republican candidate will be forced to distance himself from the current president as much as possible. That means all the party leaders and activists will have to take sides. Few will choose the guy who already has one foot out the door. Meanwhile the Democratic candidate, whoever he/she is, will be free to exploit all the fissures on the GOP side.

Bush likes to say he doesn't make his decisions according to polls. He will probably lose that luxury for his last year in office, unless he wants to hand over the White House to a Democrat.

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