Frank Rich, now writing for New York magazine, has a spot-on analysis of the GOP and its radical shift to the right, and how the Beltway magic of Mitt Romney may not be good enough for the 75% of the party who want someone else.
That lopsided majority of the GOP is so angry at the status quo that it has been driven to embrace, however fleetingly, some of the most manifestly unqualified, not to mention flakiest, presidential contenders in American history. The 75 percent is determined to take a walk on the wild side. This is less about rejecting Mitt—who’s just too bland a figure to inspire much extreme emotion con or pro—than it is about fervently wanting something else.
So even if Mr. Romney is able to pull off the win in Iowa — and he’s running neck-and-neck with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum this morning — and he wins New Hampshire, he still has South Carolina, Florida, and a host of other places where he will still have to win over the hearts and minds of the evangelicals who think Mormons are cultists and the last time they were faced with a former governor of Massachusetts, it was Michael Dukakis.
So now we are getting down to where the institutionalized Tea Party gets to do more than ride their Rascal scooters to the town halls. Unlike the mid-terms of 2010 where it was all local, this time the primaries are for the big prize, and they have to find The One for them. All of the candidates that have peaked and cratered — Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann — each had a piece of the puzzle: Mr. Cain was the financial guy, Gov. Perry was the white alpha male Bush clone, and Rep. Bachmann had the social butinsky issues of abortion and gays covered. But they couldn’t come up with one candidate that embraced them all. Newt Gingrich was so full of himself and such a caricature of the typical IOKIYAR hypocrite that even his hard-core stances and moment of tears couldn’t save him.
Ron Paul, who embodies the most orthodox elements of the Tea Party in nearly every aspect — government along the level of Somalia, fetal monitoring by drone aircraft, a Pat Robertson-view of gays, and thinly-disguised racism — is the closest the 75% gets to the one they really want, but even he can’t close the deal because, well, he’s Ron Paul.
The GOP establishment of Karl Rove and the remainders of the Bush administrations will do everything they can to make sure that Mitt Romney is the nominee, but that will not quell the 75%, especially if he loses. The re-election of Barack Obama will re-energize the radicals to the point that in 2016 there won’t be a viable Republican to the left of Michele Bachmann that will get a chance. They’ll be out for blood, and people like Karl Rove and the GOP establishment will be the ones they’ll go after.