Republican front-runner Rick Perry is polling behind President Obama in the most recent Rasmussen polls — 45 percent to 39 percent.
Everyone in the GOP field, in fact, except Mitt Romney (winning by 3 percentage points, 43 to 40), Ron Paul (a statistical tie, with his 38 percent to Obama’s 39 percent) and someone called Generic Republican, whom the party ought to recruit as soon as possible.
If only he were easier to pin down.
The Generic Republican is one of those mythical beasts, like the Unicorn or the Yeti or the Basilisk. He glowers at you and corporate tax rates freeze. He emerges from hiding, bellows, and entitlements wither, at least in theory. Every four years, some believe they see him. Others doubt it. Newt Gingrich once managed to lasso one during the Clinton era (or, as Gingrich likes to call it, “the Gingrich era”), and he still won’t stop talking about it.
If only we could capture a Generic Republican, GOP pollsters and pundits murmur, we'd have a real chance this election.
But where to find one?
It's like the Hunting of the Snark, but less snarky, or the quest for the Holy Grail, but with more religious hoopla. The Generic Republican is visible to only the chaste and holy, which makes most of the establishment incapable of discerning him.
Mitt Romney is as close to generic as he can be without finding himself stocked at CVS. In fact, he has been attempting the somewhat unprecedented feat of branding himself as the Most Generic Of All. At one point he quipped to David Letterman that he was the guy who came with your picture frames. This is not a joke you make to demonstrate your abundance of pizzazz. (“I have a PowerPoint about pizzazz I can show you later!” Mitt suggests.) That is why he is polling so well. You have the sense that his parents used to promise him that, if he behaved himself, they would read to him from the encyclopedia later.
But the field has been unkind to Mitt lately: “Well, sure, you can win in the general. But can’t we vote for someone more pizzazz-y in the primaries?”
“That’s not how the electoral process works,” Mitt begins, patiently. “Here’s a PowerPoint on the subject I prepared earlier.”
And then there's the Totally Non-Generic Republican. Consider Ron Paul. Dr. Ron Paul, the Libertarian gold bug who actually named his son Rand. Ron Paul, who attempted to explain al-Qaeda’s reasoning at the most recent Republican debate, Ron Paul, who believes that a silver dime can pay for $3 of gas— this man is losing to Obama by only one point. And that could be a rounding error.
Dr. Paul is anything but generic. In fact, to say that he is “not quite generic” is an understatement up there with “Herbert Hoover did not particularly enjoy the Great Depression.”
But say what you will about him, Ron Paul is undeniably real, an advantage he currently retains over the Generic Republican. That is the biggest trouble with the Generic Republican at present. Some seem to doubt that he exists.
A legend? A myth? Would he be winning by 5 points if he weren’t real?
Well, yes, actually. In fact, that’s exactly why.