“It is hard to dislike a guy who can filet his opponent with a smile and a side of fava beans and a nice chianti.”
As you wake up this morning, however hard it may be to believe, we are actually three weeks away from the first votes being cast in Campaign 2012. Three weeks from today, in the Iowa cold, people will gather and support their man.And three weeks out is perhaps the perfect time for me to ask this. Have conservatives entered a suicide pact? Has the Republican Party, as a whole, done the same?We got a preview of Mr. Obama’s campaign strategy in Kansas. He intends to make the moral case for government and wealth redistribution. The campaign will be about the morality of government picking winners and losers and will be presupposed by a belief that the free market has failed.Scoff all you will that this will be successful, but know that lots of people in the great mass of the undecided are not so sure Obama isn’t right. They may not like him, but they aren’t sure the Republicans are the people who can fix the problems.The reason to me is rather simple. We do not have anyone on our side making the moral case for the free market. And this is where it gets tricky.
If you were to look at the candidates on the Republican side, I suspect you might agree with me that the best person to put up against a man arguing that the government should pick winners and losers is the guy who grew up dirt poor on a farm without indoor plumbing who joined the military, served his country, became a farmer, and then got into government culminating in the most impressive job creation record of any Governor in America at this time.The problem is that candidate, Rick Perry, has failed to convince people he is capable of the task at hand, though he still has the time, money, and poll trends in an upward direction in Iowa to do it.Another candidate you might want to put up against a man hell bent on making, in effect, the moral case for socialism in America is the guy who worked for Ronald Reagan and, in the private sector, made his money making things and building things and whose family company invented things, i.e. a man who not only prospered in the free market, but who helped other people prosper and work and earn a living in the free market.The problem is that candidate, Jon Huntsman, decided to launch his campaign by giving conservatives a middle finger as he raced to get on The View.You might decide that the guy to put up against Obama is the History Professor who has a real sense of history and can articulate bold ideas and is one hell of a debater.The problem is that candidate, Newt Gingrich, talks a great talk, but actually is not the conservative you might think he is.Now, if you are foolish, given that the President intends to campaign on a moral case against success and a lot of people are receptive to it, you might want to put up a candidate who made his money doing leveraged buy outs, laying off people, and restructuring companies. That’s precisely why Mitt Romney is such a terrible fit for the zeitgeist of this election season.Right now conservatives have decided to go with the good talker and good debater in Newt Gingrich. I get it and I don’t blame anyone for doing so. I just might. I’m warming up to the idea.But before we go down that road, I really think we probably do need to take another look at the other candidates first. To be honest, a President spends the least amount of time debating and giving speeches and it seems conservatives are about to pick their guy based on the job criteria at the bottom of the classified ad and not the top.I say this having re-read Tom Coburn’s Breach of Trust. I am surprised the Romney campaign is not buying copies wholesale and sending to voters. It paints a discomforting picture of Newt Gingrich.I think, given the direction the Obama team intends to head with their campaign theme, we would be crazy not to reconsider Perry, given how effective his biography and life story would be combatting that theme. If not Perry, perhaps Huntsman does deserve a look given his private sector and Reagan administration experience. Both men, however, have things they must show conservatives in order to get conservatives back on board for Perry or on board the first time for Huntsman.I do know that a lot of people are ready to sign off on Newt Gingrich because of his debating prowess, not his conservative bona fides. If people know what they are getting going into this, so be it. But I think a lot of people don’t.I do know. And if I must choose between Mitt and Newt, I would choose Newt in a heart beat. It is hard to dislike a guy who can filet his opponent with a smile and a side of fava beans and a nice chianti. But are we sure he’s the guy? We’ve only got three weeks to be sure. The future of conservatism as a political force is at stake.