Has there ever been a scenario in modern presidential politics where the only person to have a shot at knocking off an incumbent is considered to be a pariah by much of a party’s base? I speak, of course, of Mitt Romney, who is the only genuine contender in a field of Republican wannabes who range from loons to mediocrities, but despite his furious tacking to the right is far too moderate for today's Grand Old Party.
There are only two comparables in the last five decades, and both are a stretch. Neither George McGovern in 1972 and Barry Goldwater in 1964 were considered pariahs by much of their base, McGovern merely was somewhat to the left and Goldwater somewhat to the right of their bases.
Other candidates who had shots at unseating an incumbent president during this time frame were John Edwards and John Kerry in 2004, Bob Dole in 1996, Gary Hart and Walter Mondale in 1984, and Hubert Humphrey in 1972, and all were personifications of the mainstream of their parties in those years.
Presuming that Romney get's a D or an F on his party purity test because his passage of health-care reform in Massachusetts while governor is both his greatest accomplishment and greatest curse, how will the eventual Republican nominee commit suicide?
I see Newt Gingrich doing it by poison, Ron Paul by asphyxiation, Sarah Palin by slashing, Michele Bachmann by immolation, Rick Santorum by drowning, and Tim Pawlenty by boredom. And Mike Huckabee by crucifiction had he not decided to stay home, although his tacit endorsement of also-ran Donald Trump tells you everything you need to know about the fitness of both men for higher office.
This is a shame because Romney is the most solid Republican challenger to come down the pike since . . . uh, let me think about that.
Romney has loads of executive and government experience, raises tons of money, has a strong religious background, good looks, hasn't claimed that he invented the Internet, and is scandal free if you don’t have a problem with putting your family Irish Setter in a car carrier on the roof of a station wagon.
In elections past, the GOP often has turned to the party’s maid of honor, as it were, to be the nominee.
There was Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H. W. Bush in 1998, and John McCain in 2008. Even McCain would have stood a chance of winning had he not had three formidable obstacles: The legacy of George W. Bush, the lousiest running mate since forever, and a wunderkind by the name of Obama.
As it is, health care is likely to be the biggest Republican issue in 2012 and no matter how you look at it, that works to the incumbent’s advantage because despite all the bloviating over health-care reform and Romney's efforts to distance himself from it , most of its provisions are tremendously popular.
But wait, there's more! The other wannabes have an even bigger problem because they will have to explain to voters why they want to take granny’s walker away by gutting Medicare.