Bill Frist's switch on stem cells has alienated the Right enough that it may seriously damage his presidential candidacy. This should help Senator George Allen of Virginia, who has many of Frist's strengths -- fundraising skills (Allen once headed the NRSC, as did Frist), acceptability to almost all elements in the party (doesn't apply to Frist anymore), ties to key GOP insiders -- plus a much more affable personality and closer ties to conservative activists.
This spring, National Journal's "Insiders Poll" (of consultants, interest group staffers, etc.) surprised many by rating Allen as the favorite for the GOP nomination, ahead of McCain and Frist. Here's what they had to say:
"Rare mix of legislative and executive experience." (Allen has served as governor of Virginia)
"Allen is a bit of a wild card but is said to be hiring good people and, as a former governor, has a bit of a non-D.C. angle to play. Plus, people who know him say he does a great job of connecting with everyday folks."
"Allen is the real dark horse who should not be underestimated."
"There are very few potential candidates from the South who have the experience and the charisma to become a national candidate. Allen is the Southerner to watch."
"Wins more on style points than candle wattage."
"Connects with conservatives, [has] appealing personality, broad political experience (state Legislature, Congress, governor, Senate), tough campaigner -- remember Mary Sue Terry and Chuck Robb? He is Reagan-like in his appeal to GOP activists. The national media underestimates him. Political pros do not." (Allen beat Terry by a huge margin to win the governorship in 1993; he defeated Robb narrowly to win his Senate seat in 2000).
Plus Allen's jock connections (his late father coached the Redskins and the Rams, while the senator remains friendly with the likes of Roger Staubach) may help him raise money (it worked for Bill Bradley).