It is hard to hear, what with the dog whistles, jingoistic rants, poisonously negative ads, and that ripping sound of cash coming off rolls of special interest money, but some desperate Republicans are talking about a brokered convention.
After the Florida, and Rick Santorum’s Midwest sweep, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Gingrich and Paul refuse to quit and Newt’s concession speech conceded nothing. He sounded more likely to shove Romney’s tax returns down the governor’s throat and launch an independent run from the stage in Tampa. Given the choice of Romney or Obama, the increasingly rabid GOP base might just follow Gingrich out of the hall, pitchforks in hand, stranding the establishment with a candidate who can’t win and whom they never wanted in the first place.
While a brokered convention would be a hell of a lot of fun, it is hard to see what it might accomplish. Who do unhappy Republicans, base or establishment, think they can broker for? For all the bragging from Coulter, McCain and others about the deep bench-in-waiting for 2016 it is unlikely even one of them can get up and hit a homerun this year. So far the bench has been unwilling to even take a turn at bat.
The collective decision of the dream candidates to pass in 2012 seems strange given the GOP mantra that anyone can beat Obama. Yet Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin, Mario Rubio, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour, Paul Ryan, John Thune, and maybe even some less memorable than Thune (come on, you know you thought “John who?”) – made their excuses early on and have stuck to them. Not this year thank you; sacrificial is not a good color on me, check back in four years.
The faithful, left to engage in serial infatuation with the second string, still cling to hope that an Anyone but Romney will emerge before September; someone who will not only transport Republicans of all stripes to renewed political passion but sweep up the hearts and votes of those pesky Independents as well.
Suppose that the current chaos devolves into a brokered convention and, with the prospect of a short and effortless shot at the nomination, the entire bench, with requisite displays of reluctance and pretty speeches about the good of the party, takes the field. What do the Republicans really have?
Forget Palin. The bloom came off of that particular rose shortly after she painted cross hairs over Tucson. She was never acceptable to the establishment and no longer thrills even the “real Americans” who imposed her grating presence on America in the first place.
Mitch Daniels tops establishment’s list, but like Nicky Haley, Rick Scott and Scott Walker (who aren’t on the bench – in fact I think they have been sent to shag foul balls in the parking lot) is very unpopular in his own state. He compounded that last week when he signed, contrary to a campaign promise, a divisive right-to-work law. Democrats can tag him out with his Indiana record, ALEC associations, and role as Bush’s Budget Director. Or they could loop a tape of his depressing response to the State of the Union when he inspired less enthusiasm than did Bobby Jindal, another bench warmer, with his cringe-worthy performance two years earlier.
Following his fond recollections of life in the Jim Crow South Haley Barbour’s nomination would drive the Black voter turnout higher than Obama ever could and his corn pone image won’t wear well outside of the South. Even his home state is still a little pissed off about his Willie Horton problem. One of those 200 pardons he signed last month, a convicted murderer, is still on the lam.
Mario Rubio is an attractive young man with Cuban ancestry that could be a plus, although being Cuban doesn’t always equate to being Hispanic. Opposition researchers, however, would be scrambling through video files for those four-year-old Republican snarks about the dangers of youth and inexperience. Then too there are lingering rumors about ethics problems and his pants-on-fire story about his parents’ “flight” from Castro’s tyranny.
Paul Ryan? Just watch what Obama’s people do with Medicare Voucher Boy and his extreme budget. The issue gave Democrats a victory in a solidly red New York Congressional district; imagine it replicated nationwide.
Bob McDonald, and to a lesser extent John Thune, have overtly been running for Vice President. In his youth McDonald could out-Christian most of the Republican field and left behind a legacy of anti-woman, anti-gay writing, handy should he raise his sights any higher than second place. As for Thune, Obama will be delivering his second inaugural address before Thune’s name is recognized beyond the Black Hills.
The mere mention of Jeb Bush makes Tea Party and establishment Republicans alike grow weak in the knees. Fortunately the rest of America is blessed with a longer memory. Nominate him and the contest will be Obama v Bush. The hapless son and younger brother of two ineffectual presidents will never be called by his given name, and will never stand a chance.
And then there is Chris Christie; rather an appealing candidate in some respects. He is smarter by far than most of the field, maybe even smarter than Newt thinks he is and has an air of self-awareness that can be very engaging. However, Christie will not wear well with women. He is a bully unable to restrain his impulse to hector anyone who disagrees with him, no matter how many cameras are trained in his direction. Women are already pretty angry at Republicans’ messing around with health care; Christie is a massive gender gap waiting to happen.
So that is the Republican’s deep bench. Despite his flip-flops, gaffs, and awkwardness, Mitt may be the best they can do. Rather than thinking about a savior in 2012, perhaps Republicans should be scouting for better candidates to fill that bench.