Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Republicans should spare us 2012

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I am what many folks would consider conservative. I did not vote for Obama in 2008 and was more or less pleased with the results of the 2010 midterm elections. It is from this perspective that I offer a plea of sanity to the Republican party.

The current Republican field of known or talked about presidential candidates is perhaps the weakest I've ever seen from either party since Walter Mondale in 1984. There are the usual entertaining but afterthought candidates like Cain and Paul who command an enthusiastic 5% of the electorate. And then there are establishment candidates like Gingrich, Romney, and Pawlenty, all of whom have problems and none of whom have demonstrated an ability to unify the party or build momentum for a serious challenge to Obama. Others like Huckabee have wisely stayed out, knowing they can't win. Palin and Bachmann, if they have any sense at all, will do the same.

Even all the recent pep talk surrounding Daniels is illustrative of how uncompetitive the Republicans are. Daniels only attracted decent interest because the present field is so abysmal. If Republicans had a good electable candidate who was generating any enthusiasm at all, Daniels would be an afterthought. The fact that he was recently anointed as a potential savior in certain Republican circles prior to staying out speaks volumes about how terrible the field is.

Put simply, the Republicans have virtually no chance of winning in 2012. None of the current candidates can beat Obama or even seriously threaten him. And this is despite the fact that Obama has weaknesses and vulnerabilities that the press and Hollywood won't be able to completely disguise despite what is certain to be their best efforts to do so. Romney and Pawlenty have both been unofficially running for president for 2 years now. To be at it this long and have so little voter enthusiasm to show for it really oughta tell them something. I suppose both Giuliani and Christie could provide needed gravitas and enthusiasm, but both have significant problems as well, and Christie has repeatedly said 'no way' to getting in. Many Republicans have been pining away for Paul Ryan to get in. But Ryan, as a true believer-type, is absolutely right in saying that his ability to make the most impact is right where he is, in a safe congressional district that won't punish him for sincerely trying to address titanic problems that most politicians are too scared to touch. He'd be a fool to get into the presidential game right now, and my bet is he's smart enough to know it.

The 2012 math simply doesn't work for the Republicans. Obama isn't riding high, but he's in better shape than he was a year ago, which means the ground that was so fertile for Republicans last year is a bit less hospitable now. The ground is likely to be even less hospitable next year as a result of Republicans in Congress embracing (needed) spending cuts that voters often like in theory, but dislike in real life. The Republican presidential candidate will likely be facing an electorate that is far less enthusiastic about the budget slashing message in 2012 than they were in 2010, and facing a big enthusiasm gap at the base level. Not saying this is right or wrong; just saying it is. When we throw in the "fact" that the Republican candidate will be a lightweight in comparison to the battle-scarred but press-propped-up Obama, I leave it to somebody who's either a whole lot smarter or a whole lot more delusional than me to figure out how a Republican is giving a presidential victory speech on election night.

If such calculus is correct, the best thing Republicans can do is spare the country (and themselves) a costly and mostly meaningless campaign season. They're not going to win. Their victory was in 2010. The 'Republican wave' has come and mostly gone. Forget about 2012.


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