Observations

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Here's my U.S. News column for this week. And here's Robert Kagan's Sunday Washington Post column, arguing that the surge is succeeding.

1996 and 2008

Here's an interesting comparison of the 1996 and 2008 Republican presidential fields from frequent E-mailer Ironman:

I think the present GOP race is shaking out [like] the last time no Bush was running

Putative Frontrunner: Charismatic warrior hero with no DC political experience. Very popular with voters outside traditional Republican base. Has image as can-do, no nonsense man of action. Political insiders discount his chances due to a litany of issues where he has been at odds with standard party positions. Remains to be seen if these issues deflatethe early enthusiasm for his candidacy.

The in-the-wings mainstreamer: Innovative former Governor runs as most electable candidate and one able to bridge party divides. Lacks either the establishment edge of "OF" or thegeneric popularity of "PF". Critics think this candidate is running a gimmick laden campaign appealing to recent fashion.

The new ideas candidate: This candidate is staking his campaign on one issue he believes the other candidates are not addressing and is advocating a new solution for this issue. He lacks the experience or popularity starting the race of his opponents.

The grievance candidate: This candidate hopes to round up enough angry white men (and women, even) to get nominated. His candidacy is based on the inadequacies of the other candidates in the race regarding conservative social issues, reducing taxes and spending, and protecting working Americans from a flood of foreign products and immigrants. On an experience basis this candidate should not be in the race.

So, my read is:

McCain = Bob Dole

Giuliani = Colin Powell

Romney = Lamar Alexander

Gingrich = Steve Forbes

Hunter, Brownback = Pat Buchanan

Your thoughts? We know at the end in 1996, the Putative Frontrunner did not make it to the primaries, and the Original Frontrunner barely survived because the party establishment would never permit a grievance candidate to be the nominee. What is somewhat forgotten is the analog to Romney (Lamar) nearly finished ahead of Dole in N.H., and entertained the live expectation of becoming the "Stop Buchanan" candidate had that happened.

Of course, GigaTuesday will greatly compress the decision process for anyone interested in a tactical nomination, as opposed to the partisan true believers.