Who's Really Electable?

The presidential campaign has given Republicans quite the reputation for fickleness. What’s with these people, flitting like moths from one conservative flame—Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum—to the next? Why don’t they just settle on their one “electable” candidate and give us all a breather until the fall campaign? Perhaps it’s because they’re not fickle, but doggedly unconvinced that Mitt Romney has what it takes to win. This is a party, after all, that has suffered in recent election cycles with past-sale-date versions of Bob Dole and John McCain as its standard-bearers. Both were “electable” on paper, moderately conservative and presentable, but they stirred no hearts or minds among the rank-and-file of their party (or among independents). The truth that Republican voters seem to understand better than media pundits who crowned Romney “inevitable” is that presentability doesn’t win elections; inspiration does. Like Dole and McCain, Romney has given conservatives no reason to get fired up. Barring foreign catastrophes or an economic downturn, it won’t be nearly enough to be a “not-the president” candidate in November. Rick Santorum, for all his political liabilities, is more than a not-Obama: He’s a sword-wielding champion of Christian cultural purity with a working-class economic message. Does that make him electable? Maybe not. But any Democrat who’s been around long enough to remember cheering for Ronald Reagan to win the GOP nomination in 1980, because he was far too extreme to ever be elected president, will know better than to dismiss the idea altogether—even if Santorum’s angry bluntness on the stump is no match for Reagan’s sunny deceptions. They also know that Republican voters, who now support Santorum over Romney nationally and in the crucial late-February primary state of Michigan, have an enviable track record when it comes to picking winners. 


So They Say

“He described conservatism as if it were a disease.” 
Molly Ball at The Atlantic, on Mitt Romney’s CPAC declaration that he was a “severely conservative governor” 

Daily Meme: Inevitable Romney Storylines


What We're Writing

Patrick Caldwell reports on the revival of culture-war issues at CPAC. 
Paul Waldman maps the maddening quest for Romney’s soul. 

What We're Reading

  • Post-CPAC, Dan Amira interviews a D.C. cabbie who sums up the GOP almost perfectly. 
  • National Review says it’s Santorum’s turn to be the Romney alternative. 
  • William Kristol: Republicans’ indecision in 2012 is really a celebration of freedom. 
  • Childless singles are a big Obama base. But will courting them hurt Democrats in the long run
  • While Obama’s sitting pretty now, foreign instability and a fragile economy still threaten to darken his general-election horizons. 
  • Obama’s budget seeks to cast him as the middle-class champion, while Republican opposition offers a preview of the fall campaign. 

Polls of the Day

Santorum has vaulted into the lead in two polls of Michigan Republicans, who vote on February 28. 

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