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Opinion

Opinion

GOP may turn to Texas governor

July 7, 2011

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“If he popped up in the pinch he should of made a base hit and the reason he didn’t was so-and-so. And if he cracked one for three bases he ought to had a home run, only the ball wasn’t lively, or the wind brought it back, or he tripped on a lump o’ dirt, roundin’ first base.”

— Ring Lardner, “Alibi Ike” (1915)

The Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee will run against Alibi Ike. Lardner, a Chicago sportswriter, created that character (“His right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for ‘Excuse me.’”) who resembles Chicagoan Barack Obama. After blaming his predecessor for this and that, and after firing all the arrows in liberalism’s quiver — the stimulus, cash for clunkers, etc. — Obama seems poised to blame the recovery’s anemia on Republican resistance to simultaneously raising the debt ceiling and taxes.

So the Republican nominee’s campaign theme can already be written. In 1960, candidate John Kennedy’s theme was: “We can do better.” In 2012, the Republican candidate should say “Is this the best we can do?”

In the contest to determine who will wield those words, there have been three important recent developments: Michele Bachmann’s swift ascent into the top tier of candidates, Tim Pawlenty’s perch there becoming wobbly, and Jon Huntsman’s mystifying approach to securing a place there.

Bachmann has been propelled by three strengths: Her natural aptitude, honed by considerable practice, has made her formidable at the presentational side of politics. She has perfect pitch for the nominating electorate’s passions. And she has substantive private- and public-sector experience, as a tax lawyer and as a legislator on, among others, the House Intelligence Committee.

But she also has a deficiency — indiscipline — that can, if not promptly corrected, vitiate her assets. Unprepared for the intense scrutiny presidential campaigns receive, she trustingly repeats things told to her (confusing Concord, Mass., with Concord, N.H., and John Wayne with the mass murderer John Wayne Gacy), and she plunges into peripheral and utterly optional subjects she has not mastered (e.g., the Founders and slavery). Her staff, which is not ready for prime time, is not serving as a filter to protect her from eager but misinformed supporters, and from herself.

Pawlenty, a more ardent than discerning admirer of John McCain, is suddenly echoing McCain’s unhistorical and nonsensical canard that skepticism about nation-building in Afghanistan and opposition to the intervention in Libya’s civil war constitute isolationism. “America,” Pawlenty says, astonishingly, “already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal. It does not need a second one.” The Democratic Party supporting a Democratic president’s plunge into Libya is devoted to “withdrawal”? If only.

Occasionally there are Democratic presidential candidates who appeal to people who really do not like Democrats (e.g., former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt in 1988), and Republicans who appeal to people who think Republicans are among nature’s mistakes (e.g., Illinois Rep. John Anderson in 1980). Huntsman seems to be auditioning for this role, which is puzzling, because such people are not nominated.

Huntsman’s campaign manager, John Weaver, a former McCain man, believes the Republican Party “is nowhere near being a national governing party” — a view usually held by people called Democrats — and that the “simple reason” is: “No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Many of the cranks are called: The Republican nominating electorate.

Announcing his candidacy near the Statue of Liberty, where Ronald Reagan began his 1980 post-convention campaign, Huntsman promised “civility” because “I don’t think you need to run down someone’s reputation” when running for president. Actually, you do.

You must say why your opponent deserves a reputation for inadequacy. So Reagan at that spot said Jimmy Carter’s “whole sorry record” was “a litany of despair, of broken promises, of sacred trusts abandoned and forgotten.” Reagan said Carter’s “cynical” proposals had produced “human tragedy, human misery, the crushing of the human spirit.” Reagan’s forthrightness was neither uncivil nor, in the electorate’s November opinion, untrue.

Who will carry the “Is This the Best We Can Do?” banner? So far, the serene front-runner, Mitt Romney, has nothing to fear from Huntsman’s politics of high-mindedness. Bachmann’s saliency with social conservatives, and the lurchings of Pawlenty’s campaign, threatens Pawlenty’s all-in wager on Iowa. And the potential fragility of Bachmann’s campaign turns attention to the last piece of the Republican puzzle — Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry, a high-octane social and economic conservative whom nobody could confuse with Alibi Ike.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email is georgewill@washpost.com.

Comments

Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

"neoconservative christian fundamentalist party" sighting! Way to go, merrill!

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BrianR 2 years, 9 months ago

Of course the GOP may turn to Texas governor, it worked out so well for the country the last time.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Paul will never be a candidate. The neoconservative christian fundamentalist party does not want any person that does not subscribe to their thinking on the ballot. The media will follow along like sheep.

Is the democratic party different. Not a lot. The media will follow along like sheep once again.

Any body who is running should be allowed in all debates no matter what. Notice how the parties and the media decide?

In reality the people are not deciding which is their own fault. Why. Because voters do not raise hell nor do they spend any time researching candidates, The lions share of voters let the parties,media and special interest money do the thinking.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

This post pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to describe a disappointed progressive.

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SilverShadow 2 years, 9 months ago

That he's even being considered shows the desperation of GOP/Teabagger Party

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Administrations with Texas republicans rob banks and kill economies.

For example:

  1. The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist(Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion) http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  2. Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers under Bush/Cheney http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

  3. Bush and Henry Paulson blew the $700 billion of bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

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riverdrifter 2 years, 9 months ago

If the GOP had a brain it would run Jon Huntsman. However...

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labmonkey 2 years, 9 months ago

The Republicans should be begging Chris Christie to run. He has the cut spending credentials to bolster a campaign, and he would definately have no problem with Obama in a debate. He isn't as presidental looking as Perry or Romney, but he has much less baggage.

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beatrice 2 years, 9 months ago

Another Texas governor would have difficulty overcoming some recent American history associated with former Texas governors being president. Not saying that is fair, but it is true.

The biggest issue on the national front right now appears to be the national debt. If we look at his record, Perry just isn't the guy to get us out of our current financial hole. A governor for 11 years working with a Republican majority, and Texas is facing a $27 billion dollar deficit! How is this what we need as a nation want or need right now? How?

Sorry, but "I'm not Obama" really isn't going to get anyone elected.

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Steve Jacob 2 years, 9 months ago

Perry would be a good pick. But I don't see anything in his record to get independent voters other then the economy, and with 11 years of governor, he has a long track record to go over and criticize.

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Doppleganger 2 years, 9 months ago

All Obama has to do is continue what he has been doing and he will win the next election with ease.

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smitty 2 years, 9 months ago

It's Texas..just allow them to succeed..US wins.

State Rep. Leo Berman of Tyler has already gained notoriety for introducing a birther bill in the legislature, but he's not done yet.

Now he's sponsoring a rally on the capitol steps that is calling for Texas to secede from the United States.

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2011/02/leo_berman_secession_rally.php

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 9 months ago

If Perry is elected you will see what is happening in Kansas happen on a national level. Don't think that people aren't watching what is happening in this state that has become the "laboratory" of the right; not just on a national but an international level. The internet has become mightier than the sword.

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jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

This is a frightening thought.

Texas has a projected $27 billion deficit, and executes the most people in the nation.

Right now, Governor Perry is planning to execute a Mexican citizen who wasn't informed of their right to see their consulate when arrested, which is in violation of international treaty, despite the warnings from those in the military that this will put Americans who get arrested in other countries at risk.

I suppose the only consolation is that I think it's unlikely that a Perry/Brownback ticket would win.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 9 months ago

Those who support Perry do so because he will pull no punches in taking it right to Obama on his failed record, especially if Obama is debating without a teleprompter to tell him what to say. Texas is perennially voted the best state in America in which to do business, and Perry has been governor there for 11 years. Pretty good credentials in my book.

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shovelready 2 years, 9 months ago

No matter who rises to the top on the GOP side, the msm will pounce on her/him and commence to trashing.

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Liberty_One 2 years, 9 months ago

On the Libertarian boards the theory is that the GOP wants Perry to run to make sure Paul doesn't win. Of course this relies on the rather rosy presumption that Paul has a chance to win the GOP nomination.

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scott3460 2 years, 9 months ago

Two recent editorials from Will on the exciting possibility of Perry saving the republicons from their inability to field a viable candidate.

I guess the checks from the Texas Seceder must be large and regular.

More of that good old liberal media bias we hear the right wingers complain so much about, but so rarely see.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 9 months ago

Having read "Alibi Ike" multiple times beginning when I was a teenager, I would posit that the attempted analogy between Barack Obama and that fictional character is slightly misplaced. Yes, Alibi Ike made excuses all the time, but only after he'd made a great play and would invariably complain that it should have been even better. That was the essential humor of the piece, which is one of the great baseball stories of all time. However,.since Barack Obama has yet to have accomplished anything of note that he wasn't forced to do as the result of the 2010 elections, his constant excuses are much more consistent with those most often used by failing politicians.

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