The GOP: Growing panic on the Right

Do the Republicans really have a candidate who can beat President Obama?

“As a Republican, I am panicking,” said Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle. With President Obama’s approval rating mired in the low 40s, conservatives seem to be certain that whoever the Republicans nominate will beat him next year. This is exactly how Democrats felt about George W. Bush going into the 2004 election, and we all know how that turned out. Voters next year will be looking for a serious candidate with practical solutions to the nation’s economic, budget, and other policy crises. But the best Republican candidates didn’t run, and we’re stuck with a motley “flock of salesmen,” each blithely guaranteeing that their plans to fix all that ails us will be “easy peasy.” I hate to say this, but the GOP field of Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, et al. “is incredibly weak,” said Philip Klein in The candidates are variously “uninspiring, unserious, unprepared, dishonest, unreliable, inexperienced, inconsistent, or ideologically malleable,” and not one of them “seems up to the task at hand.”

The field may be weak, said Peter Wehner in, though “what matters in the end isn’t how strong the field is, but how strong the eventual nominee is.” The Democratic Party’s field in 1992 included such candidates as Jerry Brown, Paul Tsongas, and Doug Wilder. In the end, though, Bill Clinton won the nomination, and the next two presidential elections. The last man standing this year will likely be Romney, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. His rivals are all self-destructing. While the conservative base doesn’t like Romney’s “political pragmatism” on issues like abortion and climate change—some would call it flip-flopping—his background in business and government gives him real credibility on “the main issues of this campaign: economic growth and budget restraint.”

That’s wishful thinking, said George Will, also in the Post. Romney has been just as slippery on economic issues—from the auto-industry bailouts to ethanol subsidies to the merits of a flat tax—as he’s been on everything else. No, this man is a bone-deep prevaricator, “a recidivist reviser of his principles.” For conservatives, it is demoralizing in the extreme to think that this Republican version of Michael Dukakis is the best our movement has to offer at this critical juncture in history. Has conservatism really “come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?”

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