At this month's presidential debate in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Republican presidential hopefuls struggled like 10 puppies trying to climb out of a box to prove who among them is the next Reagan. In future debates, or when they are campaigning individually, expect to hear each of the GOP candidates continue to assert that he is the one, true heir.
Of course, none are. With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, and possibly former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, the seven second-tier candidates are generally more conservative if not more reactionary than Reagan. The deeper problem for the Republicans, as everyone on stage and viewing audiences well know, is that the troika of major candidates -- former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- are perceived, fairly or not, as too liberal to stake any legitimate claim to the Gipper's legacy.
So allow me to dispatch with all the "it's way too early" disclaimers and offer a bold prediction about the 2008 presidential contest: Rank-and-file Republicans are going to throw the fight. Rather than make electability their primary criterion for selecting their nominee, GOP primary voters will opt to send a protest message to the party's establishment and Beltway insiders by nominating a statement candidate who is none of the Big Three.