Looking to the Future
I can remember the exact moment I stopped listening to Sean Hannity. In was in November of last year; he was discussing the presidential candidates. Evidently, he felt he was being too hard on one of them, because he blurted out the opinion that the whole group were a great bunch of candidates and that he would happily support whichever one won the nomination. It was, of course, obvious to any rational observer that the GOP was running an absolutely dismal crop of candidates (the three frontrunners at the time were Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and [cringe] Mike Huckabee), and that the winner would be the best of a bad lot.
Fortunately, the best man, at least from an electoral point of view (can you really imagine Mitt Romney competing with Barack Obama?), won the nomination, but John McCain didn’t have much competition. Mitt Romney must be the most uncharismatic man in history—he managed to get the entire conservative punditocracy on his side, but still found a way to lose convincingly. Mike Huckabee never ran a serious campaign; besides, as Frank J. at IMAO pointed out, his name sounds like that of a cartoon family’s dog. Rudy Giuliani was a less likeable, liberal version of John McCain, and his campaign really did (as Joe Biden pointed out—he has his moments) consist of a noun, a verb, and 9/11. And Fred Thompson, though staunchly conservative, and my favorite candidate, never ran a real campaign either. The Republicans ran a weak slate of candidates this election, and it is a miracle that they actually have a real chance of keeping the White House.
Fortunately for the GOP, its prospects in 2012 look much brighter. There are a great many talented young conservatives who will be of the right age to run in 2012—as well as some veterans who may be able to use four years experience to become stronger candidates.
Sarah Palin is the obvious choice for the 2012 nominee—she is attractive, smart, and conservative, besides being the next in line for the GOP nomination, which is important. It’s hard to imagine a scenario—unless McCain decides to run again, which is unlikely—in which she isn’t the nominee. And she would be a good, maybe even brilliant—choice.
Bobby Jindal would be another excellent choice. He is, perhaps, the most intelligent governor in America, and he conservative credentials are second to none. He’s competent, too—thankfully, Hurricane Ike wasn’t as damaging as was originally feared, but his response to the crisis was exceptional. And like Palin, he is telegenic (if not as good-looking as Palin is) and articulate, both of which are advantages for a candidate following the incoherent Bush and the mumbling McCain.
In fact, Jindal may be the GOP’s best hope for the future. His conservative credentials are probably stronger than Palin’s, and his experience is much greater. Rush Limbaugh has called Jindal the “next Reagan”—and he could be right.
Mitt Romney just couldn’t get anyone to like him in the primaries—moderates thought he was too conservative, while conservatives thought he was too moderate. Both were right—Romney had distinctly moderate views through most of his career, then exhibited an abrupt rightward shift when he ran for president. Nobody anywhere ever got excited about Romney (except, apparently, Michigan voters). But if he spends the next four years actively promoting conservative causes, and building conservative “street cred” (a term which somehow sounds so incongruous when associated with Mitt Romney), he could very well become a formidable candidate in 2012.
Mike Huckabee might have been the candidate most hated by conservatives—with good reason. He was never a very serious candidate; he based his campaign around a smile and a shoeshine, a combination that somehow very nearly got him the nomination. True, he has his conservative lapses, but like Romney, four years spent pushing conservative causes could endear him to many conservatives. And given Huckabee’s immense charisma, he could do in 2012 what he couldn’t do in 2008—take the Republican nomination, and maybe even the presidency.
There is, of course, one more possible GOP nominee in 2012—John McCain, provided he wins in 2008. True, it’s hard to imagine a 76-year-old man deciding to run for reelection—but then, John McCain has always gone against the odds. And if his approval ratings are high…well, he might as well go for it.
Jindal and Palin would be fantastic nominees, McCain would be acceptable, and Romney and Huckabee have promise. It might seem premature to start thinking about 2012 before the 2008 election is even completed—but the people involved are thinking about it, and conservatives should be as well. If it is anything like 2008, the process will begin in just a couple of years, and conservatives should be ready.