I had a conversation over the weekend with a friend, a lifelong conservative republican, about the republican nomination process. I’m not really sure who he ideal candidate was, but he’s willing to get onboard with Team Romney. (Romney, of course, is not a lifelong conservative republican.) His problem with the process, however, was not that it was too long, or that the candidates were spending too much and needed to save for the general election against Obama, but rather, “That we look like fools.” This man has never voted for a democrat, moderate or otherwise, in his life.
Herman Cain. Seriously? Bachmann. She left the race today, but how did she make it so far? The average independent is not inspired by the republican field, much less the republican party right now.
What allows Gail Collins to have so much fun with her Quiz for all Seasons?
VI. Match the candidate with a high point from his book:
1) Mitt Romney
2) Herman Cain
3) Rick Perry
4) Ron Paul
5) Newt Gingrich
A) He’s “the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”
B) Tells the reader how to become the C.E.O. of Self.
C) “Chicken-hawks are individuals who dodged the draft when their numbers came up but who later became champions of senseless and undeclared wars when they were influencing foreign policy. Former Vice President Cheney is the best example of this disgraceful behavior.”
D) His daughter and co-author tells about the time she averted a meltdown during a TV makeup session by begging her father to “Close your eyes and go to a happy place.”
E) “I love jokes and I love laughing.”
Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the “so-called Palestinians”, to use Mr Gingrich’s term, can do no right; that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and others whose names you do not have to remember should be abolished.
These fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr Romney). Several promisingly pragmatic governors, including Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, never even sought the nomination. Jon Huntsman, the closest thing to a moderate in the race (who supports gay marriage and action to combat climate change), is polling in low single figures.
As I wrote earlier today, I believe the nomination is Romney’s to lose. The question remains, however: how much was the average independent swing voter – who will decide this election, in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, et al. – dismayed by the circus that is this process? If this election is a referendum on Obama, republicans should have the upper hand… if they haven’t shown themselves to be “fools” in the run-up.