Wake Up, GOP: It's Time to Put the Varsity on the Field

At the approach of an election that's likely America’s most important since 1864, many Republicans are acting as if they’re content to conduct tryouts for the jayvee. One wonders: where is the sense of urgency, the recognition of the acute need to get the best possible candidates into this defining presidential race?

The comparison with 1864 is not overwrought.  Then, victory in the Civil War, and hence the fate of the Union, hung in the balance. This time around, the fate of ObamaCare and, with it, the fate of limited government -- not to mention fiscal solvency -- hangs in the balance. Congressman Paul Ryan put it beautifully here.

No one in decades -- perhaps a century -- has done more (however inadvertently) to promote the citizenry’s interest in America’s founding than the overreaching Obama, who subscribes to its ideals less than any president since Woodrow Wilson (and probably ever). As a result of his efforts, we now face the very real prospect of a reengaged citizenry leading America toward the higher horizon of liberty -- or of an enervating consolidation of money and power in Washington the likes of which this country has never seen.

Thanks to Obama, advocates of limited government and liberty now have more hope than in ’08 -- and than we would have had, with all due respect, under a President John McCain. But we are now playing without a net. One electoral win -- just one win -- and ObamaCare and the Progressive agenda could be here to stay.

But President Obama is clearly beatable. A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans don’t give him a 50 percent approval rating on any of the eight issues on which they were asked to rate him. A recent CNN poll showed that far more voters definitely plan to vote against him than for him.

Look at the recent reelection patterns. Jimmy Carter lost convincingly to Ronald Reagan. Reagan beat Walter Mondale in a rout. George H. W. Bush lost pretty convincingly to Bill Clinton (likely because Bush’s profligate spending motivated Ross Perot to run). Clinton beat Bob Dole convincingly. And George W. Bush beat John Kerry narrowly.

Notice any common trends? Of the past five presidents, three sought reelection against weak opponents, and each won. Two sought reelection against strong opponents and lost. In four of the five races, the determining variable seems to have been the quality of the opposition. Only Reagan, who won 49 states versus the hapless Mondale, would almost certainly have beaten a strong challenger.

This time around, candidates who inspire similar levels of enthusiasm as Dole or Kerry (or McCain or Dukakis) won’t beat Obama. But a strong candidate would. It is essential that the best candidates enter the race.

The class act of the Republican congressional delegation (House and Senate alike) is clearly the bold, articulate, personable Congressman Ryan. The most well-liked and respected Republican governor is Chris Christie. Both are dynamite in one-on-one confrontations. Both would shred Obama in a debate. Christie doesn’t look the part, but as Noemie Emery has noted, there are advantages even to that. Ryan, a true believer in the founding ideals, is presidential timber. The question is whether either man will seize the opportunity at the perfect, needful time to reclaim those ideals -- or whether they'll only step forward once we’ve already passed the tipping point.

Too many Republicans fail to grasp the urgency of the moment. In addition to Ryan and Christie, Mike Pence, a telegenic, presidential-looking conservative, who would also appeal to both Tea Partiers and more establishment types, should reverse his decision and opt back into the race. Any Republican who thinks he or she might be the best, most electable, candidate should run.