Two More Hopefuls Jump in the GOP Pool

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The crowded 2008 presidential race is getting two more Republicans. Sunday, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson joined the field. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado is expected to announce his candidacy Monday.


Joining us now is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And Cokie, the way the campaigns are spinning their fundraising totals you'd think they were talking about votes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Well, it's the closest thing they have to votes at the moment. And money does breed money. And if you don't have money it becomes an issue. Particularly if your message, as Hillary Clinton's is, that you are inevitable. If she had not raised this huge amount of money that she did, $26 million, it would be a real problem for her. And her campaign was out just absolutely beating the drums to get that money in before this deadline.

And, you know, we're talking about enormous amounts of money here for all of the top tier people though. So they can do anything they want by way of hiring consultants, by way of advertising, by way of organizing with the amount of money that they all have. But the truth is is that of course money is not enough. We can all point to candidates who've had lots of money and didn't go anywhere. Does the name Steve Forbes remind you of anything?

And we can go back to lots of recent campaigns - John Connally, Phil Gramm, both of Texas. And Gramm used to say, you know, money is the mother's milk of politics. Well, he became an orphan pretty quickly in his presidential campaign. So it's better to have it than to not have it, but having it doesn't mean you're going to win. Any more on this opening day of the baseball season should remind you that, you know, the Yankees didn't win the World Series and they pay a whole lot of money.

MONTAGNE: On the Republican side, Peter just made the point that there's not intense speculation about the candidate's fortunes, but new candidates do seem to be getting into the field.

ROBERTS: Because there isn't any excitement around the candidates that are there. The new candidates also all seem to be named Thompson. Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, former HHS secretary in the first Bush term, said over the weekend that he's getting in the race. And he has spent every weekend, he says, in Iowa organizing.

Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee senator and more important current actor, has talked about maybe getting in the race. And the minute he said so, he hit double digits in the polls. And today, conservative columnist Robert Novak gives him something of an endorsement.

It really is interesting what's happening on the Republican side. John McCain, who appeared for months to be the front-runner seems to be on something of a free fall. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, was doing very, very well for a while until more of his personal life became known and his political views on social issues, and he's fallen somewhat in the polls. Mitt Romney is expected to do very well in this money primary that we're talking about.

But the Republicans really have not fallen in love with the candidates. Some of the official conservative activists keep talking about Newt Gingrich, apparently forgetting details of his personal life. But they're still just threshing around on the Republican side.

MONTAGNE: And Cokie, that freefall that you spoke of that John McCain seems to be in - he's not doing so well in the early polls - is that due to his support for the war in Iraq?

ROBERTS: Well, that's certainly likely be part of it. And I suppose that people worry that that ardent support would be a problem for him in the general election. So far, it's not a problem among the Republican base. It still continues to support the war, according to the polls. But that base does not trust him for a variety of reasons: the 2000 campaign where he went after some conservatives, and he's tried to placate them in the last few years.

But his real problem with them is the campaign finance bill that bears his name. And, you know, Iraq could be a big problem in the general election and people could be calculating that. That he can't win because of his support. He's been in Iraq the last few days saying things are getting better and that the press is the problem there, that the media isn't telling the good news. That's a tried and true strategy for conservatives, to go after the press.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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