Long before we on the right can worry about defeating President Obama in 2012, we have to come up with an electable — and presidential — candidate, one who, if elected, will run the country according to traditional, conservative economic and foreign policy principles.
And the key to that task is to find a candidate who can unite all the disparate factions and groups on the right and also appeal to the all-important independent voters, especially the tea partyers who have become disgusted with both political parties.
In other words, this first 2012 primary is the race to be anointed Mr. Conservative.
This is, in sum, a difficult task.
To illustrate: Yes, Sarah Palin is the champion of many on the right. In fact, they adore her. And she is exciting and good on TV.
But more people view her negatively — a lot more. She is even more polarizing than Obama! She cannot unite the right and the independents. Instead, she drives many voters away from what could be a winning message in 2012.
Mitt Romney? Can he be Mr. Conservative?
Can a man who ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts by saying, “I don’t want to go back to Ronald Reagan” but who then campaigned at the Reagan Library in a pathetic attempt to become a Reagan disciple, truly become the heir to Reagan?
Can the man who actually implemented Obamacare and now wants to run against it be seen as a true conservative?
He cannot. And he will not.
There is something insincere about Romney.
So who is the new Mr. Conservative?
Well, we do not yet have one.
In fact, we haven’t had one for quite a while. We have had several poseurs for this position: Newt Gingrich for a while when the 1994 Republican Revolution burst on the scene. He was brilliant during this period; he does come up with some innovative ideas. But his massive ego subsumed the movement, which then morphed into the Gingrich Revolution and soon petered out.
Then along came G.W. Bush, campaigning as the son of Reagan — i.e. cowboy motif, gaudy belt buckles and cowboy boots, a ranch (with no animals, by the way) instead of the Son of Bush. It took people a long time — delayed by 9/11 and Iraq and his hiding behind the courageous troops he was using as political cover — to figure out that the Bushes are fraudulent conservatives who pretend to be on the right but in reality are closer to Rockefeller Big Government Republicans.
In 2007-2008 various other poseurs for this position of Mr. Conservative surfaced: Fred Thompson and then Mike Huckabee. But after a few weeks’ exposure, they faded into weekend TV shows and little-heard radio commentaries.
John McCain won the 2008 GOP nomination by default. The right was unenthused by McCain. Obama won. It was inevitable after the Bush years, Katrina, the crashing financial situation, and two wars.
But 2012 could be the Year of the Conservative, depending on the jobs situation.
If it is to be a big year for our side, then Mr. Conservative needs to lead the way.
He has not appeared yet.
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