In a comment to my last post, Dan reminds me that I never got around to elaborating on my metaphor about Bush breaking all the Reeps' eggs. He points out, and I agree, that the Dems running Hillary in 2008 will provide the Reeps the best chance of holding on to the White House. But I don't get the impression that even that will help them much (and we seem to be in agreement on that as well).
Before I explain, let me run down the Reep likelies.
Giuliani is a favorite of the money people, which is a bad sign because he's not only badly out of step with the theocratic right, he's got a bad case of foot-in-mouth on foreign policy issues and a history of terrible judgement on security issues (supposedly his strong point) which will plague him if he becomes the candidate.
McCain has broad appeal that would pull him support from across the spectrum, but the political tightrope he's been walking has left everybody doubting his credibility and sincerity, and he's suffering for it. I've officially leapt off the McCain bandwagon in the wake of the Iraqi market stroll debacle, and won't be the least bit sorry to see said bandwagon roll flaming off a pier in the not-too-distant future.
Romney is an unknown quantity. Are the Colorado evangelicals going to embrace a New England Mormon? His career as governor is bound to have left some traces that will open up questions, but I don't know if it will hurt or help him overall. Even so, he might actually be their best shot.
Fred Thompson is in a similar boat -- he's considered a good solid conservative, but he's also an actor and Pope Dobson has already questioned his faith, which could torch him in the primaries. If he makes it to the general, though, his chances seem decent.
Overall, though, the big problem any Reep candidate faces is Gee-Dub.
A highly unpopular sitting President is a millstone around his party's neck, as candidates will inevitably be placed in a position where they'll have to decide (or weasel out of deciding) whether to criticize the President and offend party loyalists, or defend the President and offend the country. Either choice will hurt them, while the Dem candidate gets to please party and country by ripping Bush a new one and promising to take America in "a new direction" (without even having to explain in any meaningful way what direction that will be).
That's why I think that barring some miraculous poll bounce between now and the election -- and we can never count that out, things always look much different around election time then they do in off-years -- the Reeps may already be hosed.