Monday, April 4, 2011

Out In Right Field

President Obama is set to kick off his re-election campaign today, and Ross Douthat is bemoaning the fact that there are no serious Republicans out there to challenge him.

A month from now, the contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination were supposed to appear at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., for the first of their primary debates. But the list of declared candidates is so pitifully short that last week the debate was postponed until September, to avoid the embarrassment of a stage potentially populated only by Tim Pawlenty and the pizza magnate Herman Cain.

The stage would be full by autumn, the organizers promised. While “too few have made the commitment thus far for a debate to be worthwhile,” the Reagan Foundation’s executive director declared, “there will be a long and impressive list of Republican candidates who eventually take the field.”

No doubt the list of candidates will lengthen. But Republicans shouldn’t feel too confident about the “impressive” part. When it comes to challenging Barack Obama for the presidency, the Party of Lincoln looks increasingly like a party of Mario Cuomos. Its biggest names and brightest lights are mainly competing to offer excuses for why they won’t be running in 2012.

He then rattles off his list of who he considers to be the “serious” contenders: Gov. Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Rep. Paul Ryan, before getting into the lesser lights such as John Thune and of course, Jeb Bush. And then there are the usual suspects:

None of this means that the Republican ballot will be empty come January. We know Mitt Romney is running: in fact, he never really stopped. We know Newt Gingrich is kind-sorta-definitely running. Pawlenty is in, and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi may join the field as well. There’s a long list of dark horses, potential spoilers and vanity candidates — Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, John Bolton and Ron (or Rand!) Paul, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump. And of course there’s Sarah Palin, who will presumably keep the media playing “will she or won’t she?” all the way to Iowa.

But if Romney is the front-runner and Pawlenty the freshest face, the Republican Party will have let both its own constituents and the country down.

What it comes down to is that the GOP has seen what happens when they actually win elections and try to put their policies in place: Wisconsin and Ohio come to mind.

And then there’s that little matter of the Tea Party. The GOP has sold their soul to this ragtag collection of cranky white folks who hate everything President Obama does because he’s President Obama. They’ll fall for any scam that they read on the internet about birth certificates and secret Muslim soshulists and then completely loose their collective minds when it is suggested that their animus might be racially motivated. Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar are too liberal for them. These folks aren’t going to settle for some candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty; they’re waiting for someone along the lines of Jefferson Davis or Nathan Bedford Forrest with Ayn Rand as their running mate.

Is it any wonder that the Republicans are afraid to run someone who might offer a serious challenge to President Obama? No, because they ran them all out of the party years ago.