Mitt Romney will not be the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2012. Ron Paul will not be the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2012. Sarah Palin – definitely – will not be the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2012. Neither will Newt, neither will Pawlenty, neither will Huckabee. In a recent “straw poll” taken at the SRLC last weekend, these were the big winners, Romney and Paul coming in first, Palin and Newt coming in second, and the rest an obscure third. All of these potential nominees have one thing in common, one fatal flaw that has essentially sealed their collective fates as permanent, unsuccessful presidential hopefuls: despite their undeniable name recognition, they are all really bad politicians. Each and every one of them is really bad at something: Mitt is really bad at having charisma or a personality; Palin, a brain; Paul, strength; Newt, likeability; Huckabee, leadership. This bevy of potential candidates wouldn’t even be the most impressive Republican candidates running for president of the Young Republican Party, not to mention the actual Republican Party, not to mention the Presidency of the United States – not to mention running for the Presidency of the United States against the most formidable politician since Jack Kennedy.
So who’s going to win the Republican Nomination? To answer this question, it’s helpful to first understand how one gets elected nominee to the highest office in the land. You do not become president by being the smartest in the room, or the most experienced, or even the guy or gal who has the most name recognition. If the election of Barack Obama has taught us anything, it’s that name recognition, experience, and intellect are not sufficient conditions to become president – in fact, the possessor of these qualities is often hurt more than helped by standing out in such ways. Hillary had by far the most name recognition; Biden had the most experience; Kucinich, in my opinion, had the best policies and best ideas; yet none of these guys won. And they all didn’t win for one reason and one reason only: they lacked the big it.
They all lacked that essential salient characteristic that each and every modern presidential nominee who made his way to the Oval office possessed. The characteristic is hard to sum up in “one word”; it’s a mix of different attributes, tied into one. For the sake of this post, let’s call it “mojo”. It is a characteristic that is best constituted by a mix of strength, leadership, and charisma. It’s the characteristic that someone has, and you know they have it, when you look at them and say, “I could picture that guy being president – in fact, I want that guy to be my president, even if I know nothing about him.”
Can you really picture Mitt Romney as president? The guy is a better looking, reincarnation of Dan Qualye. More importantly, can Republicans picture him as president? Are they really going to waste all of their anger, all of this pent up energy against destroying the socialist, communist, wannabe Hitler, first black president, Ivy-league elitist on Mitt Romney? The guy who used to be pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-universal health care? Really? Can you really picture Sarah Palin as president? Newt Gingrich? Mike Huckabee? These people aren’t presidential – and by “presidential” I mean they don’t possess the big it.
So who does? I have been thinking about this a lot lately, because, quite frankly, while the Democrats are spiking the football and doing victory laps in anticipation of winning 2012, I am far more cautious. In fact, it’s highly likely that if the economy does not turn around and the Republican’s nominate someone who is relatively charismatic and likable, they could have a shot. Just remember: all the Republicans have to do to win is carry all of the states that Bush won, which isn’t that hard for a Republican to do (think winning Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Virigina, and North Carolina). So when I suggest someone, think to yourself: could this person win Florida? Could he win North Carolina? Could he win Ohio? If the answer to such questions is yes, we ought to be on the lookout.
3. Sen. John Thune
The senator from South Dakota, Conservative darling, and evangelical John Thune is a huge underground candidate who is likely to run and, in my opinion, highly likely to stun a lot of us Democrats. He is a fairly ideological guy, but hides it well so as to not alienate Independents (something that someone like Jim DeMint never learned the art of). The guy is fairly good looking, very well spoken, and would send the conservatives coming out in droves in 2012. He has a conservative rating of 100, which (to put in perspective) even a guy like Tom Coburn can’t reach. If nominated, being a farm boy from rural South Dakota, he would create a huge contrast between his urban, black opponent, and divisions usually help the party of regression. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, he has displayed an amazing knack for fundraising, something that, as we all know, is of vital import in presidential contests.
2. Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush
This one might be a stretch, given the fact that it will only have been four years since his brother was in office and was destroying our country, but I know for a fact that the Republicans are holding out for Jeb Bush. Known as the “smart brother” or “the one who should have ran,” if this conservative can shake his brother’s bad reputation – which is no easy hurdle, but I really don’t think it’s impossible – then he has a good chance of winning the nomination. He has a Latino wife and speaks Spanish, which will be highly appealing to Latinos; he is, unlike his brother, very well spoken, and he exudes strength and confidence, which will be very important if our economy doesn’t improve and we are still mired in two wars.
1. Gov. Bob McDonnell
This guy scares me. He really does. In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb right now and say that by the end of our lives – if not by the end of Obama’s first term – this guy will become the presidential nominee for the Republican Party. He is smart, good looking, highly charismatic, and a strong leader as Governor and former AG of Virginia. He is an arch-conservative, yet is appealing and non-threatening to moderate suburban voters. While the liberals were dismissing his speech after Obama’s State of the Union Address back in January as boring, I was highly impressed with his rebuttal. Although some will claim that he has some baggage – his misogynistic senior thesis, leaving out slavery from Confederate history month in Virginia, etc – I would argue that the “baggage” he has will either be forgotten by 2012 or will be stuff that most independents care little about. These missteps are far less serious than Bush’s DWI or Obama’s pastor – things the American people were willing to look past. But the most important quality that this guy has is electability: there is just something likable about him, something that makes independents want to see him in the oval office. It is hard to explain, but I think if you watch him on TV or see him in action, you will know exactly what I mean.