Maybe we are missing the larger picture with respect to the GOP’s preparation for the 2012 election. They are going to lose. They know it. Romney is their only credible candidate, although his candidacy could still be butchered by the selection of another inept vice presidential candidate, the same way that the McCain campaign did. How else can one explain the rise and fall in such short order of the so-called top tier candidates? It is as if each gets a turn at the top.
There is something wrong with the picture and I suspect that it is something so simple that the best and the brightest of pundits cannot see it for what it is. It is the axiom that anyone can become president of the United States. No, just anyone cannot. The GOP suffers from Palinization, rifle scopes and all. As a result the party suffers from dumb-it-down candidacies.
I buy into the idea called dumb-it-down as it applies to communication. Conceptual complexity and argument abstraction that are academic or philosophical are pretty tough to communicate. Just ask President Obama. If an audience gets the bulk its information from television, anything requiring a degree of sophistication comes across as haughty. It will defy the understanding of the middle-of-the-bell-curve. It will not make good sound bites.
As a sitting member of Congress, Rep. Michele Bachmann should not be just anyone, but she might as well be. She has been the darling of the Grand Old Party for at least a few months but goes out of her way to demonstrate her lack of competence with such hubris one wonders how she got elected to Congress in the first place. As the leader of the congressional Tea Party caucus and as a token candidate, Bachmann pre-empted Fox commentator Sarah Palin from contending and stubbornly spends money in a losing cause – a realistic bid for the Republican presidential nomination. However, as a vp nominee she could effectively incapacitate a Romney bid, just as Palin did McCain’s.
Herman Cain, on the other hand, is another anyone. He has twice run for but never been elected to a public office. He also has been a party dandy, glib and funny. Unfortunately, he compounds his lack of competence with such narcissism and lack of organization that he will successfully fail in his third attempt at an elected public office, which is incidentally the highest such position in our government. Cain’s Tea Party affiliation is as phony as his bogus 9-9-9 economic proposition. Like Bachmann he is also a token candidate who happily spends other people’s money on a losing proposition. However, he too could incapacitate a Romney campaign if given the vp slot.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is a frightening anyone. Perry entered the GOP contest at the top and has raised almost as much money as Romney. What puzzles me is that no one bothers to point out that under his leadership Texas “faces a projected deficit of $15 billion to $27 billion for the two-year spending cycle” that began in September, according to Bloomberg News. He is proud of his mediocre education and expects to stand pointed-toe to toe with a Harvard law professor, the incumbent. Beavis and Butthead say “knowledge is stupid.” Perry covers his demonstrated laziness with swagger.
Fellow Texan Rep. Ron Paul is a Libertarian who wants to do away with the Federal Reserve. It is easy to come up with stuff like that in the knowledge that most of the electorate does not know much about the Fed except that conservatives are wont to demonize it. The 76-year-old physician has run for the presidency before, as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008. He has money and a loyal following, but he is not just anyone. His views aside, the present GOP is stuck in its anyone-can-be-president rut, so Paul’s is a voice in the wilderness.
Not being just anyone especially applies to the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He is the present polling star of the GOP slate, but his baggage will become burdensome as his rise attracts more attention, especially from the right. I remember interviewing Georgia Congressman Gingrich on WJCL-TV, Savannah, after his second reelection. He had successfully graduated from what is called congress’ knife-and-fork-school. He knew how to be interviewed and both dressed and sounded like an elected public servant, then. He is strictly a Gingrich servant now.
As for former US Senator Rick Santorum and former Obama Administration Ambassador to China John Huntsman, you cannot call either of them “anyone.” They suffer a paucity of money and organization. Like Gingrich and Paul, they won’t make the cut in the primaries and will deliver inevitable concession speeches.
That leaves Mitt Romney all alone as the someone who can become president. He could be “anyone” except for the fact that he is the son of a former governor, George Romney of Michigan, a former governor himself, and he has been running for president for five years. Romney takes a lot of heat for obviously changing his positions with regularity but it is not lonely at the top when one is running for the presidency.
Romney is the personification of the completed axiom that anyone can become president of the United States. The problem with the axiom is the understanding of what “anyone” means.
Anyone who is committed to public service, who is diligent, who is well financed, well informed, well prepared, well backed, self-possessed, and at the right moment in time may become president of the United States. That cannot be dumbed down by populist rhetoric. Mitt Romney has most of those attributes, which his competitors lack. That is why he will become the GOP standard bearer next year. Unfortunately, the right moment for the Republican Party in 2012 is as much wishful thinking as a Bachmann-Cain ticket. The moment belongs to the incumbent.