Friday, October 7, 2011

The Remaining GOP Field

The news that Sarah Palin is not running for the presidency does not surprise me--after all, the minute she dropped out of the governorship of Alaska without finishing her only term this signalled that she had no real interest in serving in public office. Keeping speculation going as long as reasonably possible was also a smart move, since it got her plenty of attention for a while and this woman thrives on attention. In fact, actually jumping in the ring might have popped her bubble early--once she sank in the polls as Republicans reject her, as they surely would, that would close the chapter on the Palins and her strongest supporters would lose the ability to speculate that she might have won it all. The decision not to run was the best one for her and ultimately the Republican Party.

Now, as I predict, Mitt Romney is going to go ahead and take the nomination, even while a lot of Republicans arent' thrilled with him. For that, there's a good reason and a bad reason for the GOP to reject the former Massachusetts governor--the good reason being that in his heart of hearts Romney is no hard right winger. He is very much the son of his father George, who was an automotive executive and moderate Michigan governor (and one wonders how history may have been different if he'd run better in the '68 primary and beat Nixon), and looks to have the temperament more of the elder President Bush than that of Bush the Younger. While this makes him more "electable", the Tea Party wing doesn't want "electable". They want red meat! Whether or not it is wise for the right to reject him, it's at least a valid reason.

The bad reason of course is his Mormonism. And if the GOP rejects Romney for that then they frankly deserve another four years of the Democrats holding the White House.

Romney has been playing it safe in the race so far, not making big errors as his opponents seem to be, but he is missing some good opportunities to put them away and set himself up for the general election. While he may be wary to have a "reverse-Sister Souljah moment"--that is, when he rejects his own party's extreme to signal his own stance in the political middle, as Bill Clinton did in the '92 Democratic primary by rebuffing Jesse "Where's My Money?" Jackson--he should be able to do this safely now and still not drive away the party's base. Here are some missed opportunities:

1) Shameful moment in the debates. During the most recent GOP debate, a gay soldier serving overseas asked a question to Rick "Why am I here?" Santorum regarding gays serving in the military, and some clown in the audience booed the servicemember. This would have been a prime moment for Romney--as the "grown up" in the race--to simply point out that whatever one thinks of gays serving in the military, no one who is serving this country and putting their life on the line should be booed, and whoever did that ought to be ashamed. That would have been easy points.

2) Easy put-downs of the other candidates. He could just go down the line: "Mr. Cain--I tried Godfather's Pizza. If I were you, I'd take that off your resume. Gov. Perry--Shouldn't you be electrocuting some innocent people right now? Mr. Santorum--Have you tried googling your name right now? Gingrich--if I promise to buy a copy of your book will you just go home? Bachmann--if you say anymore nonsense about vaccinations I will slap you silly. Or in your case, slap you more silly. Ron Paul--the 1890s called and they want their political platform back." Doing that would end the primary in minutes.

That said, I still think Romney's going to take the nomination, because ultimately the GOP wants one thing over all--to get the White House back, and they don't care which horse they have to ride in on.

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