The search for an articulate and conservative nominee with little to no baggage has concluded and been found wanting. Republicans are left with their own version of the “lesser evil” vote in the primaries that begin in just over a month.
Some candidates are articulate and have little baggage (Huntsman, Romney) and some candidates are articulate and conservative but have too much baggage (Cain, Gingrich). Others come with little baggage and are pretty conservative, but are not articulate (Bachmann, Perry, Santorum), which shows why their poll numbers are lagging behind. And then there’s a lone wolf who doesn’t exactly fit into the conservative column or the articulate column, but instead resides in a magical column that the government certainly did not pay for (Paul).
In 2008, Republicans didn’t stand a chance. Up against a huge wave of anti-Bush sentiment, they faced an uphill battle. Couple that with the electricity of then-candidate Obama’s campaign, and it was almost over before it began. They played their ace by nominating Sen. McCain, who happened to be the most non-Bush candidate in the field. But even that move was not enough.
In 2012, Republicans have a much better chance of sealing the deal. President Obama’s approval rating has dropped to 42 percent, just ten percent above where Bush was a year from the 2008 elections. They’ve shown strength in recent elections, earning a House majority in 2010, as well as in sporadic elections; like those in Nevada and New York earlier this year.
Most of those elections were won by candidates who did not run as moderates. Yet, conventional wisdom says republicans should or will nominate Gov. Romney, who is widely deemed the most “electable.” As noted in a column a couple of weeks ago by Thomas Sowell however, moderate Republican presidential candidates have not been successful in the last few decades. Look to the campaigns of Sens. Bob Dole and John McCain, as well as the reelection bid by the first President Bush as examples.
That is why Republicans must capitalize on the opportunity in 2012 by nominating someone undoubtedly conservative, even if that person comes with baggage. Obama certainly came with baggage, in the form of a 20-year reverend and mentor that held sermons calling on African-Americans to sing “God Damn America” rather than “God Bless America,” and who also preached that 9/11 was a justified response to the terrorism committed by America over the years.
That could have been absolutely defeating, but instead Obama went on to run the most successful campaign in history; in terms of fundraising, organization, and use of internet and social media sites.
It can be done. What the science lab of a twelve-month campaign has NOT shown is that a moderate can win. It has shown willingness on behalf of the voters to risk sending strong conservatives to D.C. in the hopes of real change. So long as Republicans do not squander that public trust, they will win in 2012.