Today’s Courier Herald Column:
The GOP nomination continues according to script, albeit one that seems increasingly bizarre but seems fitting in today’s reality TV culture. Herman Cain, once the darling of the TEA Party/Anti-establishment Republicans, has made an exit equally unique with the history of his campaign. Rick Perry continues to make headlines that are often unintentional. Paul, Bachmann, and Santorum continue to play their roles as the supporting cast. The race, however, appears to be locked as we spend the next few weeks with Hanukah, Christmas, and New Years.
Then – surprise – Iowans vote on the 3rd of January and the real race begins. Most likely, the nominee will be decided between Iowa’s vote and Super Tuesday on March 6th when Georgians will go to the polls. At least by this time, a clear and most likely inevitable nominee should have emerged.
Public opinion polls now seem to be settling in with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney as the two primary front runners in both early primary states and national surveys. Newt now firmly holds the “Not Mitt” space that the members of the GOP field who do not have the surname of Romney have been sparring over for months. Buying into his potential as the GOP nominee, the entirety of the inside baseball crowd is taking their second look at Gingrich and his history of well documented flubs, flaws, and assorted other baggage. Many, as is usual with such a big purchase, are having buyer’s remorse.
Erick Erickson, editor of Redstate.com and Atlanta radio host, has admitted taking a second look at Gingrich expressing concern over his personal history, while still being Anti-Romney in the primary. Karl Rove, writing for the Wall Street Journal, laments Gingrich’s level of organization in Iowa and his ballot status in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Missouri. “True” conservatives, in a desperate search for purity, are even finally taking a first look at Jon Huntsman, a man who spent most of the early primary period showing open disdain for the very part of the base that is now appearing to consider him.
In a move exhibiting the cognitive dissonance that we have come to expect from primaries, some of the very people who believe Gingrich can’t win the nomination because he didn’t organize early enough are again floating names of people who may enter the race at this hour. Many who earlier passed on the race are having their names recycled, with random pundits attempting to add the names of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint or Former Florida Governor (and brother and son to former presidents) Jeb Bush to the mix.
This, despite that access to ballots in most early primary states has already been closed. Those on the never ending search for the perfect “generic” Republican that so easily beats Barack Obama in public opinion polls are even willing to float the idea that somehow the strategy should be to go for a brokered convention, and that somehow this process will do what Republican voters can not: That they will identify and nominate an ideologically pure successor to Ronald Reagan who excites the base, appeals to independents, has never flip flopped on any position, and has no past history of elective or personal failure. These people may as well include as part of their plan that the same convention will nominate a unicorn for Vice President, because finding either of these candidates for the perfect slate is equally implausible.
The fact of the matter is, Republicans will not be able to nominate their perfect candidate because no such human being exists. Intellectually, this is easy to prove and accept. Emotionally, a party driven by a search for purity will continue to thrash about lamenting the negatives of each potential nominee while continuing to ponder who ultimately offers the most of what they want to see in the next President. Voters must eventually decide who closest represents their personal values, and who offers the best chance of delivering them some of what they want, then 4 more years of everything they do not want.
And in this lesson, perhaps, the same base who insists on “no compromise” from their Republican Congressman and Senators will begin to relate to what will have to happen during the session of Congress that will begin in January 2013. Status quo is no longer an option if the fiscal issues facing the country are to be fixed. Even if in the majority in the Senate and with a Republican president, there is likely to be a lot in legislation presented next year that base Republicans do not like, along with much of what they will insist upon.
Congress, like voters in the current Presidential Primary, will have to use core beliefs while deciding how much of what they want they can get, and how much of what they don’t want they can live with. If there is to be change, absolutes are not an option in the real world, nor in Washington.
Republican voters are publicly and painfully coming to grips with this in the Presidential primary. It is possible, though less likely, they can do the same when it comes time to support their Congressmen when the tough decisions of implementing a corrective agenda will occur a little over a year from now.