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A Good Night for
the Republican Nominee

From The odds are getting better for the GOP.

12:00 AM, Sep 27, 2007 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Last night, for the first time this election cycle, I watched a Democratic presidential debate. It was appalling. But it was also, in a way, encouraging. Before last night, I thought it was 50-50 that the Republican nominee would win in November 2008.

Now I think it's 2 to 1. And if the Democrat is anyone but Hillary, it's 4 to 1.

Here, judging from the debate, is what the 2008 Democratic nominee is likely to be for. Abroad: ensuring defeat in Iraq and permitting a nuclear Iran. At home: more illegal immigration, higher taxes, more government control of health care, and more aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror. And this is only a bit of an exaggeration. Going into last night, I had no great expectations of the Democratic field. But the level of routine irresponsibility demonstrated throughout the debate was jaw-dropping. Bush may remain unpopular, and the Republican "brand" unattractive. But I believe the toughness of Giuliani, the sobriety of Thompson, the gravitas of McCain--any of these would be very difficult for the Democratic nominee to overcome.

Hillary Clinton is the only possible president among the Democrats. She did occasionally (though only occasionally) try to interject elements of seriousness into the evening. To someone like me, she's the only plausible nomineee. But that makes me wonder whether she's likely to be the nominee.

She's out of sync with her party. That means if she stumbles once, and the magic cloak of inevitability is torn, she could be finished. Obama and Edwards will pour everything they have into winning Iowa. The Iowa Democrats are dovish. What Obama and Edwards will say, over and over--when they go up with serious paid advertising--is that Hillary voted with Bush in October 2002 on Iraq (and has never apologized) and that on September 26, 2007, Hillary voted for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment that (allegedly) lays the predicate for military action against Iran. Hillary could well lose in Iowa. Then Hillary could well lose the nomination. And a Republican would then win the presidency. He probably will anyway.

--William Kristol