Republicans go through presidential contenders like Newt Gingrich goes through wives.
Faster, in fact.
The GOP had two years to find, mold, and polish a top-notch Republican challenger who could mount a strong and maybe even successful offensive against President Obama in 2012. They found ten candidates, but, alas, not one of them fits the bill.
Like most subjects Thomas takes on,
Republicans' dissatisfaction with the current pool of candidates is
more complex than their unrealistic expectations, or their "messiah
complex," as he puts it.
has a point, but he misses the underlying problem and the recent
historical context that's necessary for making such a comparison between
Democrats in 2008 with the current field of Republican presidential
hopefuls. While Democrats were united in 2008 against the eight-year
reign of George W. Bush, the partisanship in Washington, and the
do-nothing attitude of Republicans in Congress, today's GOP candidates,
in contrast, are competing for support from a "Republican base" that is
split between the ideological conservatives of the Tea Party, who play a
large part in determining the outcomes of primary elections, and the
moderate or right-leaning independents, who determine the outcome of
problem is electability, and electability cannot be defined when part
of the base is so staunchly anti-government that the only candidate
worth supporting is the one who believes, as they do, that negotiating
with Democrats is treasonous – even when "negotiation" means keeping the
government from shutting down or preventing the U.S. from defaulting on
is the reality of the political divide within the Republican Party
today, and that is why no one candidate has what it takes to beat Obama.
a Catch-22 between sane Republicans and Tea Party astroturfers. If the
candidate isn't conservative enough, he won't win the Tea Party
endorsement needed to perform well in enough primary contests to secure
the nomination. If he's too conservative, he will lose support among the
more moderate Republicans and perform poorly in the general election.
But if he performs well among moderate Republicans in the primary but
loses the support of the Tea Party in the process, he will lose the most
vocal, most active, and most media-hyped demographic within the GOP.
Given President Obama's edge as an incumbent and a powerful campaigner, Republicans may need a
messiah to have any chance of defeating him. But that isn't the cause
of Republicans' dissatisfaction. They aren't so ardently searching for
someone – anyone! – to step in and be the savior of the party. They
don't even know what that savior should stand for, because, thus far, it seems impossible to earn the endorsement of the Tea Party and have a chance at defeating Obama.
We've seen it happen already with every "frontrunner" who's entered the race and every "potential" candidate who hasn't.
Bachmann was the first "chosen one" to announce her candidacy. For the
most boisterous band of conservatives, she was "it" – the founder of the
Congressional Tea Party Caucus, a patriotic Constitutionalist, an icon
of the Christian pro-life/anti-gay value system, a sexy, Sarah
Palin-esque rogue of "Don't Tread on Me" right-wing populism, and a
true-blood anti-government conservative who capitalized "Founding
Fathers" not only in writing but even while orating.
And then suddenly she wasn't.
When the media's "profile season" launched – when Newsweek put her life-sized, wrinkled, very unsexy face
on its cover; when the rumor mill started churning out (purely
speculative?) hit pieces on her (gay?) husband; when mainstream pundits
began analyzing this alleged Constitutionalist's alleged "knowledge" of
American history (about how our Founders "worked tirelessly" to end
slavery, about John Quincy Adams being one of those "Founding Fathers,"
about "the shot heard 'round the world" in... Manchester?) – her
presidential prospects crashed. The question that came to haunt Bachmann,
and her White House ambitions, was best summed up by the question asked
in the syndicated TV show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?
The resounding answer, among both Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans, was an emphatic No.
there was Rick Perry, the three-term governor of Texas, the
anti-Ivy-League, state-university-educated athlete (cheerleader); the "Texecutioner" who's overseen 235 executions as governor (impressive, but less per year than his predecessor, George W. Bush);
the self-admitted "kind of guy" who packs a "Ruger .380 with laser
sights loaded with hollow point bullets" and creates "mulch" out of "wily creatures" by blowing coyote brain fragments all over the Austin
outskirts when he's out jogging (also athletic).
soon as Perry announced his candidacy, the "Bush-on-steroids"
three-term Texas governor rose to the top of the polls, making Bachmann
look like a bleeding heart lib-rull in contrast.
then suddenly his macho man persona met reality – in the form of live
television. The media critics judged his first three debate performances
as "dismal," "toxic," "inarticulate," and "amateurish," and the hype
surrounding Perry faded quickly. After going from zero to 32 percent,
leading the pack by as much as 12 points soon after his campaign
announcement, Perry's approval rating was halved, his temporary
frontrunner status lost, in less than three weeks.
course, Mitt Romney's been there all along. For whatever (probably
purely personal) reason, he's still in the race. And he's still a
Mormon. The "objective" mass media won't make an issue of his religious
faith because that wouldn't be fair, but they can't help talking about
how the other Republican candidates, the incumbent, and the press itself
won't touch "the Mormon issue" with a 10-foot pole for fear of being
castigated (by the media – ironic?) for pulling the religion card.
Romney's faith is a sensitive subject, and Mormon-bashing isn't much
different than attacking a candidate's family, but everyone knows it's a
valid subject if only because Republicans don't have a history of
religious diversity in their presidential nominee selections.
elections of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, and the
first black president, Barack Obama, were historic. But both these men
were Democrats, nominated by the Democratic Party and elected by Democratic voters. Republicans have no precedent to speak of when it comes to party diversity.
of going straight at Romney, the media have highlighted "the Mormon
issue" by talking about how it's not an issue. This sort of "reporting"
is considered safe, a politically-correct Green Zone for reporters
covering the campaigns, because they aren't advocating that anyone
actually make an issue of "the Mormon issue." But by talking
about "the Mormon issue" they're nonetheless making an issue of "the
it's possible for Romney to win the nomination in spite of his
religion, it won't be for lack of want or lack of hesitancy over his
still very controversial personal faith. And until conservative
Christians make a public spectacle of Romney's Mormonism – which they
will, soon, as already 20 percent of conservatives say a Mormon
candidate won't get their vote – it's not as if the mainstream media's
assault weapons cache is empty.
Gov. Rick] Perry's campaign is targeting Romney's already well-known
and highly publicized record of flip-flopping – on abortion, gay
marriage, health care reform, the assault weapons ban, auto industry
bailouts, stem cell research, campaign finance reform and spending
limits, immigration reform, "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the provisions of
the American Jobs Act... – from "Is Romney's Campaign Seeking a Texas-style Death Penalty?"
Romney has never been the favorite, and he won't be even if he wins the nomination.
interesting, though, is that every candidate who was seriously
considered as a potential victor in the 2012 showdown has decided not to
enter the race. (For clarification purposes, I'm definitely not referring
to Sarah Palin, who's repetitious delays in announcing a potential
presidential bid, I believe, were meant purely for publicity purposes.
See "The Tragicomedy of Sarah Palin.")
There was Mitch Daniels, who proclaimed he could beat Obama both before and after he
announced he wouldn't enter the race. There was Mike Pence, who
was considered one who could flatter Tea Partiers and secure the support
of establishment Republicans.
a spell, Donald Trump basked in the limelight of a potential
presidential bid, but his insistence on Obama's falsified birth
certificate blew whatever support he may have had from sane Republicans
right out the window.
|William Perlman / The Star-Ledger|
recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the source of inspiration
for those left so desperately wanting in this GOP presidential race.
what Christie doesn't have is the motivation to lose. Similar to
Daniels and Pence, Christie saw the writing on the wall – which was also
scribbled in a third-grader's handwriting on a protest sign at a Tea
read: "We hate you unless we love you, and if we love you, our
endorsement will make you look like a radical in the general election
and you'll lose."
(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)
Labels: 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Barack Obama, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Michele Bachmann, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Republicans, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Tea Party