THE SECOND TIME AS FARCE
Yeah, this Dave Weigel post is clever:
Haven't We Lived Through This Primary Before?
I'm thinking of a Republican primary. It starts with a candidate (John McCain/Mitt Romney) who ran once before, came in second place, and won over the party's elite class without winning over its base. Other candidates, understandably unwilling to accept this, line up: An under-funded social conservative (Mike Huckabee/Rick Santorum), an elder statesman who's walked to the altar three times (Rudy Giuliani/Newt Gingrich), a libertarian who wants to bring back the gold standard (Ron Paul/Ron Paul).
The conservative base is displeased. In the year before the primary, it pines for a perfect candidate. At the end of summer, on (September 5/August 13), it gets him: (Fred Thompson/Rick Perry). The dream candidate immediately rises to the top of national polls, but collapses after lazy, distaff debate performances. When the primaries arrive, he's in single digits and reduced to attacking the front-runners. But in Iowa, he does just well enough to justify staying in the race....
This goes on, all the way to "The Republican base looks at the wreckage and shudders. It can never allow this to happen ever again."
BooMan tries to continue the story past the primaries:
... Which means that Mitt Romney will be looking for a running mate that can create the same kind of excitement as Sarah Palin without all the downsides....
Well, I agree with that -- I've long felt that Romney is going to pick the most right-wing, Fox-viewer-exciting, probably Jesus-y candidate he can find who doesn't alarm the millionaire mainstream pundits. Which means not Allen West or Michele Bachmann, though quite possibly Marco Rubio or Chris Christie. (My long-shot pick? Santorum. Really, don't rule him out: he has some neoconnish foreign-policy chops, he's a favorite of the God-botherers, and he doesn't have to be all that exciting because he'd be matched up against Joe Biden. And a Santorum pick would say to the wingnut purists, "Do you think I'm ideologically suspect? Hey, suspect this, schmucks.")
And then the question ultimately becomes: But didn't that strategy fail for McCain? So will Romney go in another direction? Or is the continuation of the parallelism inevitable, all the way to November?
Here's what worries me: The '08 election took place with voters thinking everything sucks in America. The '12 election takes place with voters thinking everything sucks in America. The '08 election took place with Democrats controlling Congress, and Republicans bottling up everything Democrats want to do from the White House. The '12 election takes place with Democrats controlling the White House, and Republicans bottling up everything Democrats want to do from Congress.
But voters always blame the party in the White House when they think everything sucks -- don't they? Is that where the parallel breaks down? Or can Obama really run against Congress and make the real parallel 1948 -- especially if there are multiple third-party candidates?