Most of us at Red State are political junkies to an extent, some more so than others. All of us are deeply interested in the unfolding contest for the GOP nomination. Erick has already started to handicap the race, giving us his take in the weekly "Morning Line." In looking at recent polling, which appears to suggest that a majority of Republicans aren't happy with the candidates who have so far declared they are running, I'm starting to come around to the view that this is a very good thing for conservatives, and portends good results next November. Indeed, this primary season is unlike any we have experienced since the end of WW II.
First of all, I think the MSM is inaccurately depicting Republican voters so called "displeasure", or "lack of enthusiasm", for the candidate field. Rather, we all know there are several potential late entries: Palin, Perry, and Ryan are the most obvious.
The Dems/left/MSM have an obvious interest in the GOP coalescing around a likely nominee as soon as possible: it will give them more time to destroy him or her. The 2012 election will be a referendum about Obama and his policies, and he will lose that election. His only possible path to victory is the political assassination of his opponent, and to divert all public attention from the failing economy and the dangerous foreign policies of hsi administration.
Consider the GOP voter as a hand in a bridge game. We're dealt 13 cards, but we're only allowed to pick up 10 of them, and yet, our opponents expect an opening bid from us.
We're not inclined to play along. However, I'm still surprised at myself in that I haven't begun to at least hone in on a preferred option at this point. And I wonder how many more are there like me out there, and more importantly, why so?
So I reflected on past presidential elections, and my own political evolution. I grew up in the Bronx, lower middle class, back when NYC was overwhelmingly white, and Democrat. In 1960, at age 13, I actually shook JFK's hand when his motorcade stopped outside my temple on a Saturday morning. ( Three years later, I recalled the open car, and walking up to it for the handshake.) I'd probably have continued the family tradition of a lifelong reliable Democrat voter, like 99% of everyone I knew, were it not for a high school English teacher a few years later who lent me his copy of National Review. That was the beginning. NR, Firing Line, and reading every book mentioned in each issue of NR. And so I learned.
In 1964, as a college freshman, I spent several weeks handing out Goldwater literature at NYC subway stations. That was a very scary experience. You'd think I was passing out copies of Mein Kampf. Even those Republicans I knew wanted nothing to do with Barry. My parents couldn't understand.
A year later, I was at NYU, and was able to put in some time as a 'gofer" (FYI, that's what they used to call interns) on Bill Buckley's mayoral campaign. A truly amazing experience. Words cannot do it justice. And in 1970, as I was overseas in the Marines, I missed the chance to help Jim Buckley win his Senate seat.
But let's briefly recap the history of the GOP candidates post WW II. Academia has pretty much expunged Eisenhower from the national consciousness. History, in their view, skipped from FDR to JFK. Eisenhower didn't do much except play a lot of golf for 8 years ( OOPS..gotta watch that; could be problematic). And history CAN be erased. Just talk to any NY Yankees fan.. 2004 never happened. The GREATEST collapse ever in professional sports..losing the World Series to the hated Red Sox,and after leading 3-0..it's never mentioned.
Nixon resurrected the GOP, and himself, won a landslide, and then managed to destroy both himself and the party, giving the Democrats institutional control of the federal government for decades to come. In 1976, I wanted Reagan. I admit, I agonized a bit, early on, about the idea of dumping the sitting, albeit it "unelected" president. Ford was "midwestern" conservative, but when he chose Nelson Rockefeller as his VP..well, being from NY, I'd seen first hand how that'd worked out. Reagan almost pulled it out in 1976, and we started preparing for 1980 the day after Carter won.
Reagan was "the man" for conservatives. We had two great terms. In 1988, we had every reason to believe that GHWB had learned something after 8 years with Reagan. Not quite. he made mistakes. Several. Some were real beauts. But he had no serious opposition in 1992. And again, history gets reshaped by the left. Clinton didn't "win" the elecion. Perot handed it to him. Absent Ross, Bush wins easily. But the myth of the boy genius politican was thus born, and will be ever with us.
1996 was the first time where we had the possibility of a serious contest for the nomination. Fresh off the incredible 1994 congressional victories, and disgusted with the Clinton scandals, the WH was in the cross hairs. We could taste it. This was the time of the BRGs..the Broken Glass Republicans...those who couldn''t wait to vote for ABC..Anybody But Clinton. Sadly, we lacked a real conservative who could reach out to the American people, give them an effective reason to vote for him. I liked Phil Graham and Steve Forbes. From the start. But they were too academic, too cerebral..to be effective campaigners. Buchanan was too..angry. Dole was too bland, too tired..( And lest we forget, if you look at the list of those who were interested in running in 1996...Arlen Spector was right there)
2000 was interesting. For lots of reasons. Didn't know that much about Bush initially. Wasn't sure how conservative he actually was. And I didn't like the "dynastic" implications of another Bush in the WH. Just knew I didn't want McCain. But given what happened on 9/11, it turned out to be the best possible result for the country.
Two points we should remember, and which are rarely considered:
1. Had the Democrats done the right thing, and forced Clinton to resign, Al Gore would have been elected by a substantial margin in 2000. The economy was booming ( , remember, the dot-coms hadn't yet imploded) the world was apparently at peace, and Gore would have stepped in to save us from the constitutional crisis of impeachment. Hollywood couldn't have written a better script. And as a bonus, Tipper would be FLOTUS. Wow!!!
2. McCain is disliked ( OK, detested) by most conservatives, for a great many reasons. Many recall his loathsome campaign against W. especially in the South Caroilina primary. However, I think that ultimately helped Bush win the general election. Remember, he was pretty much unknown outside Texas. True, he'd learned from his race against Ann Richards that "politics ain't beanbag," but I had my doubts that he could stand up to the rigors of a national campaign. I think that the primary contest toughened him for the 2000 race, made him far better prepared to face Gore. McCain gave him a dress rehearsal, and Bush learned well.
2008 was, for me, in some ways, anticlimatic. My initial inclination was to support Rudy. To some here that may seem heretical, but I felt that the War on Terror was the overriding , and defining issue that we faced, and I had no doubt that he would ably defend the country. And I didn't see a real conservative in the race that appealed to me. McCain..no way. Huckabee..well, I couldn't see the country electing yet ANOTHER governor from Arkansas. After Rudy dropped out early on, I was looking hard at Mitt, but in August I got to meet him personally, and hear him speak at a rally in Tampa, and I wasn't impressed. There was no sincerity. He seemed canned, blow-dried..So, I went for Fred, and got dumped. I worked hard for McCain, but not FOR him...rather..because he was Obama's opponent.
So now we are here, preparing to choose our nominee for 2012. And I think I understand why I, and so many others, are undecided at this point. Yes, we all have our "faves" and probably have several that we'd happily support. But we're waiting, withholding our support, and our dollars, for the most part. And I'm starting to develop a theory as to why that is.
Romney, though he leads, will NOT be the nominee. The majority of GOP voters don't want him. He has support, (for various reasons), lots of $$$, and a solid organization. But he won't get the brass ring. He's already running like a presumptive nominee, targeting Obama, ( and doing so very effectively) while the rest of the GOP field has yet to start to distinguish themselves from Romney on the issues. And that's OK..actually, that's good. Now, especially so as we go through the great debates on the nation's financial crisis, all our efforts should be directed against Obama. We can define him, and weaken him, and pretty much guarantee that by early next year, the economic disaster he has caused makes him unelectable.
Romney, by that time, will have peaked. Rememebr, as the front runner, he HAS to win the majority of the primaries. 2nd place, for him, is not an option...and over the next 6-8 months, more may enter the race, and many will decamp. ( Buddy Roemer, your 15 seconds are up...Gary Johson..you're next..and 99% of Americans outside of Utah never heard of Jon Huntsman, until he became the Dems', and the MSM's "choice" for the GOP nomination.
The 2012 election is without a doubt, the most crucial the nation has faced since 1980. Our enemies then were external, they wanted to bury us, destroy our way of life. Today, we face enemies both abroad, and also inside our borders, committed to the destruction of this Republic, as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
We will find" our next Reagan",( or perhaps "our next Thatcher" is more appropriate). So I'm content, for now, to sit back, and observe, and encourage, and critique, and see what, and who rises to the top. For the first time in decades, I'm open to be won over, I'm waiting to be sold, and when that happens, that candidate will have the benefit of my time and my financial contribution. I know now there are tens of millions more like me out there.