Given that the most obvious candidate to take on Obama – Sarah Palin – turned chicken on us, the race for the Republican nomination for US President has been coloured by a group of people who each have some traits that are likeable, but also traits which are huge drawbacks. I find myself thinking that it would be great to have a nominee with:
1. The composure, presidential demeanour and management skills of a Mitt Romney, without his awful flip-flopping record of saying and doing anything to get elected;
2. The intelligence, lateral thought, eloquence, courage and fighting spirit of a Newt Gingrich, without the mercurial temperament, ego, third wife and occasional brain-fart;
3. The libertarian staunchness of a Ron Paul, without the crazy foreign policy, crazy newsletters, crazy followers and a complete inability to master the art of political spin;
4. The solid record, charisma and ability to articulate conservative principles of a Rick Perry, without the laziness and lack of solid preparation;
5. The foreign and economic policy nous of a Jon Huntsman, without the tone-deafness and grouchiness;
6. I can’t think of anything I like about Rick Santorum.
Basically, the man who takes on Obama in November is going to be flawed and imperfect. All of them have some handicap. Ironically, I think the two men with the best records and the least handicaps are Huntsman and Perry – the two guys trailing the field.
The good news is that all of these guys, I think, can beat Obama. Even more encouraging is that they are all singing from the same Tea Party Conservative song-sheet, whatever their record and their past (even Jon Huntsman). Despite Santorum being George W Bush’s biggest cheerleader for “compassionate conservativism” big government, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to govern that way and he would still represent an improvement.
So what it then becomes about is – who can campaign the best? Who has the most composure? Who makes the least mistakes? Right now that man is Mitt Romney, although I don’t think Romney has been truly tested and held to account yet. If Romney can keep his teflon jacket on and wipe off the attacks that are starting to come his way, then he will stand a good chance of prevailing against the same attacks from Obama. He will be the best nominee.
Likewise, if Newt can drag Romney back into the bear pit and bloody him enough to come out on top, holding the GOP support despite his past failings and not making any mistakes, he will be worthy of meeting Obama as the best contender. If Perry can come through the middle and take the prize, applying himself and doing the work, then he in turn will prove himself the most worthy. So it becomes about who can campaign the best, and who has what it takes to win.
I only have one worry in all this. Santorum’s social conservative rhetoric may play well to flyover Republicans, but has no hope of getting the votes to win in the general election. If he was the nominee, he would need to stay on message and focus all his energy on the failed economic policies of the Obama regime. The minute he veers off on a tangent with social issues, he loses. One only has to look at the campaigns of George HW Bush in ’92, and Bob Dole in ’96 to realise that approach is not going to get votes. But I’m not sure Santorum will last anyway. His Senate record is lousy, and he has the ignominy of being the Republican Senator to suffer the greatest defeat of any incumbent in that party’s history.