Sunday, August 14, 2011

Random thoughts on the GOP presidential field

Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll. I understand that it's an important indicator of how a GOP presidential contender might fare over time. I get it. Although the fact that she barely beat Ron Paul, who is a perfect example of a crazy fringe candidate, doesn't exactly make the results unequivocally useful, as far as I can tell.

I understand that this will make it easier for her to raise money and to get some wind in her sails (and any number of other metaphors you might be able to think of).

But she is not going to win the Republican nomination. Conjuring up Dana Carvey's brilliant George Bush senior impersonation: "Not gonna happen."

It's still probably going to be Romney. I guess Texas Gov. Rick Perry's announcement complicates things, though I was intrigued by the assessment of a few pundits who thought that we would be able to tell very quickly if he was the real deal or not.

I'm not sure I know what that is supposed to mean. Does it mean that either all of the Tea Party /social conservative energy in the campaign comes to him more or less immediately, in which case he becomes the consensus choice anti-Romney? Or that a number of candidates continue to share the hard-right constituency, in which case his campaign never really takes off?

Maybe that's their point.

I must say that I loved Paul Begala's description of Perry as "the perfect candidate for those Republicans who viewed George W. Bush as just a little too cerebral."

But is that a problem?

Unkind as this may be, I could modify that famous H.L. Mencken quote to say that "nobody ever lost electoral ground overestimating the intelligence of the average Republican voter." So maybe being duller than George won't be a bad thing for Perry.

Judging from Perry's campaign launch speech, which contained every standard fare Tea Party / social conservative speaking point, he will not be doing anything to alienate the radical right and he will not be forcing anyone on that side of things to think outside the box they've made for themselves. No, no, no.

And as I suggested yesterday, if you base your campaign on pandering to the radical right, you might be able to win the GOP nomination, but the general election would be a much harder nut to crack.

So here's the radical prediction of the day:

Perry's candidacy will eventually force Bachmann out. They appeal to the same constituency and he's going to be a better standard bearer.

Palin will endorse Perry. She has been saying all along that she will only run if no one meeting her criteria steps forward. Perry will be her guy and that will matter.

Most importantly, this will become a Romney - Perry street fight and the campaign will move decidedly to the right as Romney attempts to counter claims from Perry that he is not sufficiently conservative.

And, the prefect storm for the Democrats will have just gotten perfecter. The Tea Party and fellow travellers will have found their candidate. And, even if Romney is the eventual nominee, as I still think he will be, he will have had to tack so far to the right that independents will no longer be available to him.

In the short term, the Democrats have needed one effective, theoretically electable, Republican presidential contender to force Romney to the far right. Bachmann was never that contender. She's not that serious. Perry is.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • Nice post -- I agree. This may be Bachmann's Queen for a Day episode, but she's unlikely to get too much further without making a damn fool of herself and perhaps with her husband's help.

    If Romney becomes the Great White Hope, I look forward to the "discussion" of the merits of Obamacare Vs. Romneycare. I really do.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:28 AM  

  • Thx for the post. The crowd of candidates has thinned since this was first posted. Looks like Romney is going to get it. So glad Bachmann is out.

    By Anonymous lv political consultant, at 1:21 PM  

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