Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Forlorn conservatives contemplate the 2012 contest

Politico writes that conservative intellectuals are still pining for someone else to enter the 2012 primaries now that they (and I) have been disappointed that Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Paul Ryan have all decided not to run.
The problem, in shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud.
Yup. That's close to my feelings. This reminds me a bit of the Democratic nomination fight in 1992 when the stars of the Democratic Party decided not to run perhaps because they feared running against George H.W. Bush after the Gulf War. So they ended up with Bill Clinton whose personal background and "New Democrat" language must have grated with many of the previous Democratic elites.

It seems as if none of the candidates whom conservative elites would like to see in the race are going to get in. Instead we get rumors of the entrance of George Pataki. Please.

Tim Pawlenty might have been an acceptable second choice to Daniels, Christie, or Ryan. But he never caught on. Perhaps those stars wouldn't have either. We won't get the opportunity to find out.
But now with Pawlenty out of the race, Ryan still not budging and Perry surging, conservative elites are left with few agreeable options.

“It becomes a Perry vs. Romney race,” said Ponnuru. “A lot of conservatives are going to find that unsatisfactory. You’ll probably have more people staying neutral than ever.”

And some conservative thinkers have very specific concerns.

“I would hope that whoever the Republican candidate is, he or she will not tell us that creationism or intelligent design is the equivalent of evolution — just another theory about the origins of the biological man,” said the syndicated Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who declined to weigh in on specific candidates, though Perry was recently recorded telling a young boy on a rope line that Texas schools teach both theories. “To put intelligent design on that level is like offering grade-school children a choice between astronomy and astrology,” he said.

Krauthammer said he had been hoping Ryan would run to win not just the White House but the national debate.

“If Republicans are serious about changing the course of the country, they should win on a serious platform of ideas that I think a Ryan-like candidate could present,” he said. “Then you’d get a mandate.”
Of course, when have these conservative intellectuals had the candidate that they could fully endorse since Reagan? Neither of the Bushes would have fit their criteria. Bob Dole? I don't think so. And definitely not John McCain.

Allahpundit wonders
why these guys aren't more excited about Jon Huntsman. Well, he doesn't seem to truly support conservative policies and is much too fond of winning the anti-Republican votes within the Republican primaries. That isn't the strategy of a winner.

I'm just resigned to once again having to cast my vote in my version of the Buckley rule: for the least objectionable candidate who also has the best chance of winning. And then hope that some election in the future will feature a candidate whom I could wholeheartedly support. It's rarely happened in my lifetime. Perhaps it never will and I shouldn't wish for it. Look what happened to the liberals who thought that Barack Obama would be their ideal messiah.

Just for a refresher, Jim Geraghty reminds us that the 2008 Obama was a fantasy and links back to the "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?" blog with the images from the campaign of the rather ecstatic images that the hopes of Obama engendered in the more credulous of his admirers. Geraghty posts this montage of idolatrous Obama magazine covers from 2008.

Conservatives don't need a messiah and shouldn't want one. But it would be nice to have a candidate we don't have to slightly cringe over our support.

Yuval Levin says that Politico misconstrued his true opinions on the GOP field.
I imagine that’s my fault, not his, but for what it’s worth I actually think Republicans have a pretty strong field this year, and a top tier very well suited to this particular election.

It looks likely that the Republican nominee will be either the current governor of the nation’s second largest state (a job he has held for a decade, during which his state was among the most prosperous in the nation) or the former governor of a blue state who also has a great deal of private executive experience (much of it turning around failing ventures thanks to good management instincts and a strong command of economics). Both of them seem to be reasonably solid social, fiscal, and national-security conservatives (which is actually very unusual for Republican nominees), even if they have not always been so. Both have more relevant experience than most presidential candidates tend to have, and each in his way has a great story to tell in the kind of election we’re likely to see. There is no better preparation for the presidency than a governorship (except perhaps a vice presidency), and voters clearly like electing governors to the White House.

Obviously, each also has some very significant weaknesses and problems. Every candidate always does. Winners look in retrospect like they were always winners-to-be, but they never look that way in advance. Remember the first-term senator with no executive experience, a very liberal voting record, disturbing radical ties, and little ability to connect with the working-class voters who are essential to winning elections? He was met with some favorable winds, and there we are.

This year’s field, and its top tier, are certainly stronger than the field Republicans had in 2008, when there was really only one reasonably plausible president in the field (and he didn’t win the nomination). I think it’s also somewhat better than the field Republicans had in 2000 or 1996. That doesn’t simply spell a Republican victory, of course. Incumbent presidents have some enormous advantages, and whoever the Republican candidate is he will surely bring with him some serious disadvantages. But going into what so far looks like an eminently winnable election in a time when electing a conservative president is more crucial than it has been in at least a generation, Republicans should feel reasonably good. Yes, the field could certainly be better. Yes, there are impressive people in the wings who are not running. Yes, the Midwestern wonk slot is (as always) empty. But the people with the greatest chance of being nominated also have a very good chance of being elected. It could be much worse, in other words, and it has been—even in some years in which Republicans have won.
What do you think?