Monday, March 13, 2006

Straw Poll Results: Frist is Not DOA

A straw poll was conducted over the weekend among delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Tennessee to see who they would likely support for president in 2008--3 years before we get there. The result was that Tennessee's senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) won. And no surprise, as it was packed with locals from Tennessee. Following Frist was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the term-limited George W. Bush, and then John McCain.

What all of this means is that Frist is not dead on his home turf. Which as Al Gore will tell you can make the difference between a victory speech and an embarrassing effort to split hairs on votes in another state. If nobody else is going to say it, though, I will: the Bill Frist we see in the Senate is unelectable. He is possibly the second most ineffective Republican Senate Majority Leader, right behind his predecessor, Trent Lott, who never met a Democrat demand which he didn't try to meet, and who never learned after six years as Majority Leader that this crop of Democrats neither remember nor repay kindnesses, are only interested in accumulation and consolidation of power, and are only too glad to stomp those who get in their way. Frist seemed to have followed his lead, presuming that a 55-44 seat advantage was not enough to stand up to a minority party that offered no ideas, save failed tax, foreign and social policies.

So falling from that, how would a President Frist deal with a bullyish China or a crackpot North Korea? How would he deal with Putin's thwarting our efforts to hold the feet of rogue nations like Iran to the fire to preserve Russia's commercial dealings with those nations? And how would he deal with a nuclear-armed Iran? How would he deal with a direct attack on Israel? My experience in seeing him in action and word of mouth from those who know is that Frist doesn't stand up to opposition. He goes weak. And this is not an age for Neville Chamberlains. Maybe he'd be great, but I have zero reason to believe it.

And so while this allegedly conservative Senator may win a straw poll, it is little more than a straw-man. If it was conducted anywhere else, he wouldn't have stood a chance. And when Mitt Romney of Massachusetts comes in behind him with such a strong showing, it says much more about Romney's viability than it does anything positive about Frist.

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