On the NBC-Ambien Debate post-game show on Monday, Andrea Mitchell shared this cryptic bit of gossip:
"I talked to a top Romney advisor tonight who said, 'Look, if Mitt Romeny cannot win here in Florida, then we're going to have to try to reinvent the smoke-filled room, which has been democratized by all these primaries and we're going to have to try to come up with someone as an alternative to Newt Gingrich, who could be Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels - someone - because there is such a desperation by the so-called party elites.' That's exactly what Gingrich is playing ag...."
David Gregory interrupted her, mid-sentence with, "Would you shut your pie hole, blond dingbat!" "Let's get back to the debate."
"Newt has taken the worst the media, Romney and the left can dish out, and he’s still standing and fighting with passion and eloquence. Sure, he’d probably be an erratic President, but right now Republican voters don’t care about his Presidency...."
"...Party leaders who have invested so much in Mitt Romney might want now to ride on to a brokered convention and find someone acceptable to everyone. Because this most divisive and bitter primary in years is going to wipe out the GOP’s chances to win in November. And while few of the Romney advocates of the past four years will admit it, it is because they have tried to foist onto the base a milquetoast moderate from Massachusetts as energizing to conservatives as a dead battery."
I hope that means the party establishment is sitting up and taking notice of the groundswell of anger springing leaks in the party boat and the imminent danger that portends for the GOP.
There are enough delegates in play that it is theoretically possible for a candidate to jump in at this late date, but can someone capture the hearts of the divided GOP?
Hypothetically, if a Dark Horse in Shining Armor were to ride into the race, who might it be? First, let's recognize that this person would need to pull off an extraordinary feat. This would have to be a horse on steroids.
Aside from what we would all absolutely agree are the minimum requirements of being a proven conservative and being able to competently run the country, I'd like to propose some qualities that I believe could potentially capture the imagination of the party faithful and set a campaign afire. Obviously, some of this is window dressing, but in this media-saturated age, our candidate must not only be conservative, but must be a conservative who can win. And that means winning the media battles. Our Dark Horse candidate must have the following (feel free to suggest more):
Ability to effectively articulate conservative thought in both concise soundbites and debate performances
Courage and poise in the face of the media, Democratic hacks, and the opposing candidate
An articulate, pugilistic debater; able to channel the righteous indignation of the Tea Party and other conservatives at Obama, the media, the GOP establishment, terrorists, low flow toilets, and Steven Tyler's rendition of The National Anthem.
No personal baggage (I will give a pass on an unpaid parking ticket)
A reputation for being steady; not erratic
National name recognition
Ability to roll out a campaign very quickly
Personal charisma; something more than the orange juice can Mark Levin is planning to vote for over Obama, but not Jim Carrey crazy-like charisma. You either have it or you don't
Immediately, we eliminate 90% of our current legislators just on the requirement of being a conservative (possibly the personal baggage as well).
I'd like to propose that the person in the best position to jump into the horse race at this late date is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
But getting back to rekindling the spirit of the Tea Party, uniting the party, and putting an electable candidate on the ballot in November, I think a strong case can be made for Ryan.
Obviously, after the "Throw Grandma from the Cliff" ad was widely circulated last year after Ryan rolled out his Roadmap for America's Future, he became the face of Republican Social Security reform, for better or worse. Moreover, he was our warrior—our pit bull—in the war of ideas between the status quo and long-term reform that will pull our country (and grandma) from the edge of that cliff.
And that's the beauty of it. Ryan has been in the trenches fighting the budget battle and taking it to Obama and the Democrats on our behalf. The problem is, the American people weren't watching CSPAN and didn't hear that debate and our side has yet to convince them of the necessity of these reforms. Paul Ryan can take that debate into this election and he can do it with the butt-kicking tenacity that the base is craving. If this election is about jobs and the economy, that's Ryan's wheelhouse. Who better to make the case for unabashed conservative economic policies?
At the same time, he possesses the steady, grown-up qualities of Mitt Romney. Ryan is an economic policy wonk—he's done the hard work of proposing detailed policies to reform Medicare, Social Security, taxes and healthcare in his Roadmap for Americas Future. Several presidential candidates who have already come and gone have not come close to matching the comprehensiveness of his plan. Incidentally, his tax plan is very similar to Rick Perry's, except it proposes a 10% flat tax under $100K (on a postcard!) or the option of the current system.
Let's not forget that Ryan, along with Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Eric Cantor did a lot of the heavy lifting to assure a House majority in 2010 with their Young Guns program, which raised over $10 million and saw 62 of their supported candidates elected. There are thankful Young Guns, many of them Tea Party candidates, across the country who ought to be eager to show their support for Ryan.
"It’s fundamentally a moral issue. I think that we can’t simply talk about numbers and figures. We’ve got to talk about the morality of our system, and how it’s superior to the doctrine of shared scarcity. We’ve got to talk about the moral difference between a philosophy that aims at equality of opportunity, and one that seeks equality of results. There is a huge distinction in outcomes–and principles. We need to speak to people in that way, to capture hearts, minds, and passions. I believe that President Obama is going to campaign on the idea that he offers the country a kind of security, that the Republicans will feed Americans to the wolves to help their rich friends. He’s going to use resentment, fear, and envy. We must reject that substantively–statistically and quantitatively, but also seizing the moral high ground. If we do that, we will have the kind of reaffirming election the country needs."
And if the nominee doesn't want to take on the issue in the same way?
"That’s not going to work. If we simply say we’re going to be better stewards of the economy than “that guy,” it’s not enough. It’s not enough simply to say, “This is a referendum on Obama; vote against him and we win by default.” We have to win an acclimation election. We can’t just be the lesser of two evils. We have to win an affirming election. We have to earn this thing."
To close, let me leave you with a couple video clips for those who think Newt is the only one capable of taking the fight to the MSM and Obama. The first is Rep. Ryan smacking down MSNBC's Katrina Vanden Heuvel and managing to do it without sounding like an angry ferret.
The second, is more significant. At the president's Health Care Summit in 2009, Ryan had the opportunity to share a few inconvenient facts with Obama. Ryan is fearless in a small room with Obama seated across from him, staring him down. Watch carefully Obama's face at 5:25. If that's not barely-controlled rage, I don't know what is. I don't imagine any scenario in which Romney could provoke that reaction and I suspect that if Newt is the nominee, the DNC will have him neatly marginalized and parodied by the time the debates roll around. We need to think long and hard about that. I hope Congressman Ryan will think long and hard about it as well and about whether his country desperately needs him at this moment in history.