December 11, 2012

Of all the hysterically contrived stories that Politico has come up with — and there are oodles of them — this certainly takes the cake: “Battleground Poll: No obvious 2016 GOP leader.”  Really, people haven’t made up their minds yet !? How can this be? I mean we’re just over three years away from the Iowa caucuses (if there are any and if they still lead the primary process), so pity the poor souls who haven’t decided yet.


Sen. Marco Rubio at 2012 CPAC gathering. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Then Politico trots out Democratic pollster Celinda Lake who intones: “The Republicans are in real need of a leader. The Republicans need a new spokesman. They haven’t got a popular voice out there. They’re hard-pressed to put [Rep. Paul] Ryan forward because of his positions on Medicare and Social Security.”

Nearly everything in that pearl of wisdom is junk. There is no need (and no mechanism for choosing) a single “leader” at this point. There are lots of leaders among governors, obvious 2016 wanna-be presidential contenders and on Capitol Hill. This exact criticism was raised after the 2008 election, just two years from the GOP blowout of 2010 and two big GOP wins in gubernatorial races in 2009. Not having a single leader a month after losing a presidential election is reflective of, well, nothing.

“They haven’t got a popular voice out there,” Lake said. Really? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has an eye-popping approval rating. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell isn’t far behind. And as for Rep. Paul Ryan, there is no evidence his attempts to reform entitlements make him “hard” to put forward. The GOP ticket won among seniors, as you may recall.

And if that weren’t enough, the poll Lake co-ran finds Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) not very well known but with a strongly or somewhat favorable total of 33 percent and only 15 percent negative. Oh, and Ryan has a total of 47 percent positive and 33 negative. Actually, these politicians are pretty popular especially for two guys not very well known by a large chunk of the electorate.

To say this entire line of argument (No leader! Doomed for 2016! Ryan is ballot poison!) is fictional would be an insult to (at least well done) fiction, which requires a plausible plot and well-drawn characters. This unfortunately is the state of much political “reporting” these day — a silly story line, unfounded conclusions by partisans and the same old dreary message (GOP doomed!).

Let me see if (using the actual poll data Lake and her GOP cohort Ed Goeas found) we can construct an analysis that is sensible. Here goes:

We are almost four years from the 2016 election so it is not surprising that GOP voters have no preference for their standard bearer. There are a bevy of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates who have ratings more favorable than not, but surprising to pundits, large numbers of Americans have no idea who they are. The poll, however, did not include Gov. Chris Christie, who is widely known and has high approval ratings in the deep blue state of New Jersey. None of this should be surprising given that in 2004 Barack Obama (the same distance from the 2008 election that we are now from 2016) hadn’t even been sworn into his U.S. Senate. While Hillary Clinton presently has very favorable ratings, potential foreign policy crises, her role in the Benghazi scandal or simply the passage of time make it impossible to predict how viable she will be, if she runs in 2016. Other than Clinton, the Democrats have a flock of nobodies, who (one suspects) are much less known than, say, Sen. Marco Rubio. Given that we have no clue what the most pressing issues in 2016 will be (a nuclear armed Iran? an 8-year-old recession?) we have no way of evaluating the pluses and minuses of any of the candidates.

Now that would be a sober and honest evaluation, clearly not what gets Politico clicks.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.