Republicans Candidates Fear Drowning by Teabag
This may be the most interesting Republican primary contest in our lifetime. If you are not yet convinced that conservatives are driven by fear, witness the water’s-edge, tiptoe dance of their few viable presidential candidates. Everyone who has a chance of beating Obama is lingering on the sidelines despite an economy that should make him easy to beat. But it’s not the likelihood of winning that’s holding them back; it’s the high price of trying.
First, I’m not talking about meatheads like Trump or Gingrich, or lazy complainers like Palin or Huckabee. They have no chance of being elected. In the case of the candidates from FOX News, they have no interest in even running, much less in governing. They’ve turned out to be Rupert Murdoch’s worst investment (even worse than MySpace, if you can imagine that.)
What troubles the actual candidates—Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitch Daniels—is the crazy tea party dogma they will have to endorse to secure the Republican nomination. Because now, what you say lasts forever. “On the record” means in the permanent record. They’d all like to avoid that. Romney is even trying to skip the Iowa Caucus’. It’s the first place these guys can’t avoid the crazy talk. But those peculiar Iowans—they are a darned good argument for a two country solution, by the way—are already on his case. Romney might well be trapped.
For the first time in my memory, this year’s Republican presidential candidates are basing their decisions on whether they can win the general election, not simply whether they can win the nomination. The potential nomination winners (and some say Huntsman fits here, but I don’t) are asking themselves whether they can beat Obama, not just whether they can win the nomination.
It wasn’t always so. Nixon, famously, lost the presidential election eight years before he won. Reagan lost his bid for the Republican nomination twice before winning in 1981. To be the Democrat who lost a presidential election is generally career-ending. But in the Republican Party, it just means you got some good practice for next time. Until now, there was no price for trying and failing. Just the opposite was true. Winning the nomination had its own value, whether or not the nominee won the general election.
Not this time. If they beat the president, it was worth talking the nutty talk. But if they lose, saying all that stuff might prove to be the biggest mistake of a lifetime. If they win the nomination but don’t defeat the president their political career is over. No candidate will be able to pander to Dick Armey’s Tea Party™ and win any election after this one. Winning this nomination without winning the presidential election is a net loser. The tea party baggage will follow them forever. The tea party support only has value right now. Its value doesn’t even extend into the general election, much less further down the road. So goes the thinking anyway.Continued on the next page