The National Review editorial board’s endorsement, as some readers have reminded me, is not only an “anybody but Newt Gingrich” manifesto; it is also an “And don’t pick Perry either” statement. The editors write:
Gingrich is not the only candidate whom we believe conservatives should, regretfully, exclude from consideration for the presidency. Governor Perry has done an exemplary job in Texas but has seemed curiously and persistently unable to bring gravity to the national stage. Republican presidential candidates have not been known for their off-the-cuff eloquence in recent decades, but conservatism should not choose a standard-bearer who would have to spend much of his time untying his own tongue.
While Perry fans may hope that their man can pick off voters from Gingrich’s descent, the National Review editors remind us that going from Gingrich to Perry doesn’t provide the GOP with a disciplined, impressive voice to articulate conservative ideas. The point here is well taken: If the election is about the flub-prone Republican, President Obama can win. Moreover, Perry’s own flirtation with crony capitalism would deprive the GOP of one of its best issues against Obama.
In that regard, I find it unfair to also lump into the “none of these” category Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). National Review’s editors cite only “her casual repetition of false anti-vaccine rumor” as grounds for finding her lacking in judgment. Really, that’s it? She’s been gaffe-free in the last batch of debates, on point in her indictment of Gingrich and remarkably nuanced on foreign policy. It seems premature to write her off.
Matt Continetti has a more compelling argument on Bachmann’s behalf. He argues:
Bachmann will be well positioned for the final weeks of the invisible campaign. She’s an energetic and dogged activist for conservative causes. Her flirtation with vaccine conspiracy theories is behind her. She’s against bailouts and has consistently made the repeal of Obamacare the focus of her campaign. No one will ever doubt her social conservatism.
She has had no “brain freeze” in debates. She, unlike Perry, can talk fluently on the budget, health care and national security. She didn’t offer goofy ideas, as Perry did, on a no-fly zone over Syria or on zeroing out foreign aid.
From my perspective, she deserves at least as much consideration as Santorum, about whom the editors wrote: “Senator Santorum was an effective legislator. He deserves credit for highlighting, more than any other candidate, the need for public policies that topple barriers to middle-class aspirations. Weighing against him is a lack of executive experience.” Very true, and one could argue that Bachmann also deserves recognition, along with Santorum, as the most consistent conservatives. She also has shown tenacity in fighting for votes in Iowa. That should count for something.