A realistic view from another smart Republican

To elaborate on my theme that smart Republicans know that unseating Barack Obama will be a tall order (something that the fringe people, such as those who think the Tea Party is the “voice of the people,” completely miss), I point you to this piece by Daniel Henninger.

He blames, interesting enough, new media. He says GOP candidates who start this early will be cut down to nothing by the time the campaign is over by the constant drip of criticism on Twitter. It’s related to what we spoke of four years ago as Romney’s YouTube problem.

Strangely, he doesn’t see this as a problem for Obama, and his explanation of that is odd:

Meanwhile, it’s good to be president. With his opponents determined to spend a year and a half telling each other why “no one” is worth supporting, turning off contributors and independent voters, Barack Obama floats below the radar vacuuming up campaign cash at fund raisers.

He does make a legitimate point in the next sentence, however:

Every GOP candidate’s utterance is wholly political, but the Obama fundraisers and “policy speeches” are submerged in the presidency.

But he got the metaphor wrong. A president doesn’t fly BELOW the radar, but in a way above it. He’s fully visible, but can cloak his political statements in doing the job. Yep, that’s an advantage of incumbency. And always has been.

What Henninger ignores is that Obama has been thoroughly tested by new media, and not found wanting. There is nothing that can be thrown at a candidate via Tweets that hasn’t been hurled at him millions of times. And he sort of dropped the Big One on those flak sites a couple of weeks ago with the long form of his birth certificate, and his well-tempered scorn at his most imaginative critics. And, you know, by killing bin Laden. And, more substantially, by not being the extremist that his most extreme critics would paint him as.

If the GOP wants to prevail, it needs to come up with a candidate who can likewise endure the thousand slings and arrows. But the ones with that kind of substance are increasingly reluctant to get in.

In the end, Henninger rightly assesses the situation thusly, given the field as it stands:

A Republican candidate committed to running this gauntlet has to believe that come November 2012, the party will have nowhere else to go but to the polls to pull the lever for the last one standing. This assumes that the messaging power of electronic networks will magnify them. I believe the opposite: Given this much time, the medium eventually will melt them. The president, head ever up, will hold his ground.

The message in this for Republicans is that they need to come up with a candidate who, after being whittled at for 18 months, still has some substance left.

Oh, and by the way. I don’t know how Henninger votes. But if he isn’t a Republican, he missed a good chance.

4 thoughts on “A realistic view from another smart Republican

  1. bud

    Normally I’d say the choice of the GOP candidate is irrelevant to the Republican’s chances of winning the White House. It generally boils down to the economy first and foremost with perhaps a bit of foreign policy stuff thrown in. In other words it’s a referendum on the incumbent.

    This year may be different. Perhaps I’m getting caught up in all the early political hype but it seems like the Republican could still lose even if the economy tanks badly. The GOP field is just so weak. And I don’t think that’s the fault of the new media. Heck these folks are shooting themselves in the foot so often you have to believe they’re trying to stimulate the economy by increasing shoe sales.

    With that caveat I still believe this will be a referendum on Obama. There are a couple of candidates that have so far remained sensible: Daniels, Pawlenty and perhaps Huntsman. Romney has a few problems but I’d still rate him as the favorite.

    There is so much analysis going on that to me seems premature. I would have to rate this as one of those. In a few months though it will seem more relevant.

  2. Karen McLeod

    Is there a sane person running for the GOP nomination other than maybe Romney? I know of Bachman and Gingrich. Who else since “the donald” and Mr. Huckabee quit?

  3. Brad

    Karen, Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker addressed your question this way (before Huckabee and Trump dropped out):

    It’s hard to say in which category Newt Gingrich, who on Wednesday formally announced his willingness to be President, belongs as one of the fifteen (by our count) declared, undeclared, and mulling-it-over candidates on the list of G.O.P. hopefuls. Is he one of the Respectables, to be classed with the group of gubernatorial grownups that consists of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, and Jon Huntsman? Or is he among the Eccentrics, who, though more or less presentable, are a bit too passionately intense about some ism, as in the cases of Mike Huckabee (too much Christianism), Rick Santorum (ditto), Gary Johnson (too much libertarian maximalism), and Ron Paul (ditto, WAY too much)? Or should we place him among the Implausibles? This category, the largest, most entertaining, and most alarming, takes in Donald Trump, the reality-TV star and man-about-town; John Bolton, the mustachioed warmonger; Charles Elson Roemer III, who once lost an election to David Duke, the Klansman; Herman Cain (no relation to Herman Kahn, John McCain, or Abel), the pizza Godfather, whose poll numbers are sufficiently high that, unlike “Buddy” Roemer, he was allowed into the first-of-the-season televised “debate” on Fox News; Sarah Palin, from Alaska; and Palin’s stunt double, Representative Michele Bachmann, she of the glassy stare, fixed smile, and curiously even intonation. But where to place Newt?

    Now, setting aside the gratuitous slap at Huckabee for being Christian (interesting that he would seem TOO Christian to a New York ear, when he just sounds average in these parts), which is my way of saying he should have been in the first category, those are pretty sound categories.

    So I guess his answer to your question is Pawlenty, Daniels and Huntsman.

  4. Karen McLeod

    I can’t seriously vote for a guy who’s willing to insist that something other than science be taught in science class (if he’s willing to dump the theory of evolution, what else might he be willing to withold in the name or religion (or is it politics?)? Other than that, I’ll have to check out Pawlenty, Daniels, and Huntsman’s position statements.


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