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On the GOP Menu for 2012 ^ | March 9, 2011 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 03/09/2011 6:36:07 AM PST by Kaslin

And so now we enter the mopey phase of the GOP presidential contest. The gloom takes many forms, but foremost is the fear that the field taking shape might be the one we're stuck with.

It's like that feeling you get when you're starving and you go into a restaurant. At first everything on the menu looks great, until you have to make your choice and you realize there's nothing you actually want to eat.

There isn't a German word for this sensation, but one that comes close is futterneid -- the envy one feels when somebody orders a better meal than yours. That's not perfectly apt, but it does capture the despair that the best dishes aren't on the menu.

Another source of dread can be found in the worry that the good candidates will be vanquished, or at least diminished, by the bad and the ugly ones. This is Washington Post columnist George Will's fear. "If pessimism is not creeping on little cat's feet into Republicans' thinking about their 2012 presidential prospects," the putative dean of intellectual conservatism warns, "that is another reason for pessimism."

Will, who's famously smitten with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, says only five GOP contenders are White House-worthy. The other four are Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and three ex-governors -- Utah's Jon Huntsman (who resigned as U.S. ambassador to China), Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

Will's sharp pen here is reminiscent of Jesus' "winnowing fork," which he used to "gather his wheat into the barn," leaving the chaff to burn with "unquenchable fire." Those Will would chuck into the flames are the "careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons." His exhibits A and B are Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Will's case wasn't hurt by the fact that both had a bad week.

Some Gingrich aides signaled that he would announce an exploratory committee; others said he wouldn't. The brilliant but tragically undisciplined former House speaker compromised with a website that would explore the idea of an exploratory committee. Or something.

Meanwhile, Huckabee thought the climate was ripe for a dissertation on Barack Obama's "Kenyan" childhood. Except Obama didn't grow up in Kenya, and the more Huckabee tried to explain, the worse it got. Oh, and Huckabee began the week by tongue-lashing Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman for being pregnant out of wedlock.

Will, who is not prone to overstatement, nonetheless exaggerates his case. But you can only exaggerate the truth, and the indisputable fact is that Gingrich, Huckabee and several potential contenders are deeply flawed.

Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses, but one common problem, as my National Review colleague Jim Geraghty notes, is the growing phenomenon of the pundit-candidate. Gingrich and Huckabee (also Sarah Palin, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and radio host Herman Cain to name a few) have created cottage industries for themselves as commentators. That helps with name ID (and book sales), but it also overexposes and diminishes them by forcing them to comment at length on subjects where silence would be golden. Huckabee's bizarre pandering to so-called birthers and to the Natalie Portman-haters' caucus is a perfect example of the problem.

Still, Huckabee and Gingrich's bouts of verbal incontinence notwithstanding, conservatives are united on the core economic and policy issues. That consensus will undoubtedly manifest itself in the primaries.

And isn't that what primaries are for? Let the voters use their own winnowing forks. It's not like the GOP has a history of nominating irresponsible firebrands. And the two nominees who were so labeled by the political establishment -- Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan -- are the soul of the GOP today, for "tea partyers" and establishmentarians alike.

Ultimately the election will largely be a referendum on Obama and the economy. The desire to order off-menu will abate over time. And Republicans will surely stomach the nominee, if for no other reason than they're ravenous to make Obama a one-termer. And, as the Irish say, hunger is the best sauce.

TOPICS: Editorial
KEYWORDS: 2012; elections2012; georgewill; jonahgoldberg; prescandidates

1 posted on 03/09/2011 6:36:09 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

I think the circle formation is taking place, all firing will be inward.

2 posted on 03/09/2011 6:42:29 AM PST by org.whodat
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To: Kaslin

With gas at 4 or 5 dollars/gal. the GOP could run a ham sandwich and win. They will back into it.

3 posted on 03/09/2011 6:43:55 AM PST by central_va (I won't be reconstructed, and I do not give a damn.)
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To: Kaslin

Almost anyone is better than BHO. At the same time, I would really like the opportunity to actually vote FOR someone rather than holding my nose and picking the lesser of evils. My last positive vote was also my very first vote for Reagan. Since then the establishment has been feeding us rotten candidates.

4 posted on 03/09/2011 6:58:27 AM PST by Armando Guerra
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To: central_va
With gas at 4 or 5 dollars/gal. the GOP could run a ham sandwich and win.

Which is why I expect commodity trading as we currently know it to be dismantled if it gets that far.
5 posted on 03/09/2011 7:12:47 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Kaslin
There are several excellent options (and I don't care in the slightest about the "but the media have trashed candidate X so we need to accept a RINO" concern):

If the RINOs look at a field with Governor Palin, Congressman Bachmann, and Senator DeMint but they offer up Romney, Huck, or Newt instead, then they are trying to avoid winning. If we allow the media and the RINOs to do that and the Obama regime stays in power, then America deserves what it gets.

6 posted on 03/09/2011 7:13:16 AM PST by Pollster1 (Natural born citizen of the USA, with the birth certificate to prove it)
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To: Pollster1

I like all three, but my hope is for a Palin/DeMint ticket.

7 posted on 03/09/2011 7:20:24 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham

+1 for Palin Demint! Thou Palin Bachmann isn’t bad either.

8 posted on 03/09/2011 7:25:17 AM PST by Robbin (If Sarah isn’t welcome, I’m not welcome, it’s just that simple…)
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To: Kaslin
Generally, I respect George Will's writing. He knows baseball very well. Politics, much less so. I think most of his problem is his inside the beltway perspective as well as being the token conservative for the liberal media establishment.

But let's review his short list:

  1. Mitch Daniels: Decent record on fiscal issues which just got forgotten. While two governors in the region, Wisconsin and Ohio, our making courageous stands against the key root cause of huge state deficits, Daniels has opted to take a pass. This shows a clear lack of courage and spine, one of the key qualification of a president. DISQUALIFIED.
  2. Mitt Romney: Nice fellow, great hair, impressive career as a businessman but a political career than can be defined as mediocre at best. And mediocre is turning into godawful by his continued defense of mini-ObaMaoCare on the state level. This shows a clear lack of common sense, one of the key qualification of a president. DISQUALIFIED.
  3. Tim Pawlenty: Nice fellow who is learning to say the right things. He was barely elected to two terms as governor in one of the more liberal states in the union and promptly replaced by a fellow who could politely be described as the nation's dumbest governor. WHAT IN THE HELL IS IT ABOUT MINNESOTA VOTERS AND THEIR INFATUATION WITH MENTALLY CHALLENGED ELECTED OFFICIALS? Other than having no major screw-ups as governor, I can't point to any outstanding achievement of Pawlenty either. And given Minnesota's checkered electoral history, I seriously have to wonder about his major alleged asset, the ability to draw votes from the middle, is a genuine asset or just lucky timing. MARGINALLY QUALIFIED.
  4. Jon Huntsman: I really don't know much about his record as governor of Utah. To its credit, the Utah electorate is arguably the second most conservative state in the nation (after Wyoming, where I was born) and recently dumped two GOP members of congress (Bennett and Cannon) for being insufficiently conservative. But other than Huntsman's ability to speak fluent Mandarin Chinese (which might come in damn handy in renegotiating loan extensions), I really cannot think of a compelling reason to support him. MARGINALLY QUALIFIED.
  5. Haley Barbour: The only WELL QUALIFIED one of this bunch. The knocks on him are all pretty superficial-- he's fat (so is Chris Christie), he's from the deep south (so is Huckabee, Clinton and Carter), he has an accent (so does anyone who grows up more than 500 miles or so from the midwest) and he's a former lobbyist (so is everybody in ObaMao's administration). He did a bang-up job of running a poor state after Katrina and he has both his feet firmly planted in the worlds of common sense and courage necessary to do the job.

So George Will got at least one right.
9 posted on 03/09/2011 7:36:19 AM PST by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Robbin


10 posted on 03/09/2011 7:48:47 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Vigilanteman

He wasn’t just a lobbyist, but a tobacco lobbyist. It doesn’t really bother me but I know that I’m in a minority. He also doesn’t get good ratings from Cato. They rate Pawlenty much higher than Barbour.

11 posted on 03/09/2011 3:35:09 PM PST by conservativebuckeye
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To: Armando Guerra
Since then the establishment has been feeding us rotten candidates.

You've been eating?

12 posted on 03/09/2011 3:42:53 PM PST by lonestar (It takes a village of idiots to elect a village idiot.)
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