Did Mitch Daniels “win” the debate last night, as Bill Kristol suggests? Well, let’s be honest here: Daniels on domestic policy might be a more desirable candidate than Newt Gingrich (for example), but Daniels didn’t have the nerve to run before. Do we really think he’d now decide to run? Moreover, I don’t think Republicans want a reluctant candidate. I personally would prefer someone who doesn’t regard defense spending as an entry on an accounting ledger. (Besides, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) pretty much has the isolationist vote locked up.)
That is not to say it is impossible for someone to get into the race. But in all likelihood it would need to be someone who hadn’t led the voters on for months, perhaps a figure like Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) or Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio). If such a person could be rounded up, that person would then be dividing up the vote with other candidates. So the net result of bringing in a new figure might be to assure victory for one of the current crop, the opposite effect intended.
I don’t want to pour cold water on the prospect of a dream candidate, but we should agree the prospects are slim for such figure to emerge, especially after Florida when one of the candidates will get a second wind.
I know it is very fashionable to declare all the current choices non-starters. But this does a great disservice to Rick Santorum who is in the race, has a consistent conservative record and would be in a two-man race if either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney falter. It is the height of arrogance to declare, as Bret Stephens does, “But Messrs. Santorum and Paul are two tedious men, deep in conversation with some country that’s not quite America, appealing to a devoted base but not beyond it. Sorry, gentlemen: You’re not going anywhere.” No wonder so many loathe the media. Santorum is not having a conversation with blue-collar, middle class America? Puleez.
Much of the “woe is us” is driven, of course, by an anti-Romney derangement syndrome on the right, the depths of which I don’t quite understand. Really, he’s not fit to run because he muffed the release of his tax returns? (“Mr. Romney has demonstrated his unfitness by. . .where to start? Oh, yes, the moment in last week’s debate when Mr. Romney equivocated about releasing his tax returns.”) Oh, for Pete’s sake. You would think no candidate for president has had a near-death experience or that President Obama is so warm and fuzzy the electorate won’t go for Romney.
There are plenty of reasons for hard core conservatives not to like Romney (although the individual mandate, which was his great disqualifier, seems not to be a problem for Gingrich), but do Republicans and the country at large “deserve” to get four more years of Obama should Romney be the nominee?
It’s quite telling that conservatives who merrily went along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an American hero but arguably the worst GOP candidate in decades, are angst ridden over selecting an overly-prepared Romney and are ignoring the consistent conservative (Santorum) for whom they pleaded.
The candidate in the field who wins the most delegates will have proved his mettle and will have shown his ability to connect, at least with Republican voters. Maybe it’s time to go about picking the best among flawed candidates. That’s what politics is, isn’t it?