Maybe one thing we’ve proved in all this is that presidential candidates can seem more mysterious than they really are. Even when Bush first ran for governor and he was a complete unknown, there weren’t the pondering articles in the local press about who he really was. Nor have there been since—he was always pretty visibly there as governor—until he began to cast his eyes on the White House.
That the money and the endorsements came so quickly and so easily probably made him think that it was going to be easier than it has turned out to be. And I have always thought that his self-proclaimed hesitancy about running was real. I think he may have thought it was all coming a bit too early, that he wasn’t ready yet or that he wasn’t ready to do what he would have to do to be ready. But he is enough of a politician to know that timing is everything, and there was a moment when the money was flowing in and Steve Forbes was the only one to beat. The stars must have seemed all in alignment for him then, and he got into the race.
This is grossest speculation, but he may have thought, as Paul suggests, that he would have something like a coronation. But he can’t think that now and I think the campaign in the future will show that. He didn’t run for governor the first time expecting a coronation, and he fought hard enough to win. We’ll see that again in this campaign.
But what’s he going to fight with exactly? And what’s he going to fight about? That’s what we’ve been scratching our heads trying to figure out. I predict it’s going to be straightforward meat and potatoes issues: education, guns, the environment, competence, and character. A couple of those issues—guns and the environment—he hasn’t paid much attention to before but he will have to now. The rest, especially competence and character, are what he prides himself on. He’ll try to convince us his pride is justified. That’s how he ran his first campaign and that’s how he conducted himself while he was in office. He’ll do it all again and he won’t seem so mysterious after all.
And when will all this start to happen? The big moment will be his acceptance speech at the Republican convention. His dad’s acceptance speech in 1988 helped turn the tide against Dukakis, and George W.’s speech will be the moment when he started toward victory or defeat.