A new ad begs Iowans to pencil in Sarah Palin when they vote next week despite the fact that she isn’t running. William Kristol keeps slyly begging someone not in the current field (cough Christie cough) to jump into the primary. Or maybe Paul Ryan or Allen West or Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal can jump in, so discontent are we with the current field.
Would any of these other folks be doing any better than the current field? Maybe, but I doubt it. If Gov. Christie were to jump in, two big issues would dog him from the start: His weak stance on border security, and his nomination of a problematic and possibly Islamist judge to the bench. If Palin were to jump in, she’s no less socially conservative than anyone else in the race, so for anyone who finds that problematic in Perry, Bachmann or Santorum, it will be a problem for Palin as well. Despite the fact that her resignation after less than two years as governor of Alaska was probably the best option available to her at the time, it would be held against her as evidence that she is a quitter. SNL would crank up the Tina Fey joke machine. The last time Bobby Jindal stood on the national stage to go one-on-one with Barack Obama, the conservative commentariat lampooned his lack of charisma and laughed him off the stage. He and Tim Pawlenty, another perfectly fine candidate who did not do well, are very similar in that they are successful governors whose lack of pizzazz hurts them. Paul Ryan is a fine congressman but his Medicare plan opens him up to the Democrats’ patented Mediscare campaign. And Americans don’t elect congressmen directly to the presidency. Marco Rubio is great, but only in his first term in the Senate. And Allen West hasn’t been on the national stage long enough to head a national ticket. See also: Americans historically don’t elect congressmen directly to the presidency. We tend to elect governors, former vice presidents, and war heroes, and very occasionally, senators. The latter tend not to make good presidents.
I’m not saying these are bad candidates or bad folks, far from it. I admire each one of them both for overlapping and different reasons. With a bit more experience and seasoning, Jindal, Rubio and West are potential game changers. Ryan is a sure leader, as is Jindal. Christie may yet work a miracle in New Jersey and see the light on the border. But if any of these non-candidates were our saviors they would be busy saving us. If they wanted the job, they would apply for it when it’s available. They didn’t. The current field did, and we owe them that much.
No one in the actual field is perfect (though I would argue that several are no farther from perfection than the sideline saviors). They have all sinned against the conservative canon or made a comment or backed a policy or blown a debate that is causing problems for them now. But whoever* turns out to be the nominee next year the GOP nominee will go into 2012 with two advantages: The awful Obama economy, and the population shift away from blue states toward red states. Whoever* turns out to be the nominee will be able to make four arguments against Obama’s record over and over again: He made the economy worse, he has spent us close to ruin, he is regulating business to death, and he is weakening America’s position in the world. Put the structural advantages together with the rhetorical advantages, and whoever* the nominee is isn’t a lock to win, but they’re not facing a formidable adversary either. They’re facing Jimmy Carter 2.o.
Now isn’t the time to quit or pine for candidates who have already quit you. Now is the time to pick a candidate and back your candidate until they win or lose, and then back the one that eventually wins, to defeat Barack Obama. Eyes on the prize.
*Unless the nominee is Ron Paul, in which case the GOP is toast and Obama will get four more years.