Frank Rich tells New York magazine that with Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell engulfed in scandal, a four-year-old Beltway Establishment dream is over:
It was just a little over four years ago that the simultaneous election of McDonnell and Chris Christie to the governorship in two states along the northeastern corridor -- the purple Virginia and blue New Jersey -- heralded the arrival of a pair of dream presidential contenders for the GOP: relatively moderate, bipartisan-minded exemplars of good governance rather than ideological warfare. In McDonnell's case, the moderation was a bit of a stretch: He's the governor schooled at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network University (since rebranded as Regent), whose tenure became synonymous with "transvaginal ultrasound wands" after he endorsed the idea of inflicting them on women seeking abortions. He's also the governor who left any mention of slavery out of his declaration of Confederate History Month because he wanted to focus only on issues that he "thought were most significant for Virginia." Now he will also be known for his close association with Rolex, Ferrari, Oscar de la Renta, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf, and all the other aspirational brands that he and his wife were able to harvest with the aid of a sugar daddy seeking a gubernatorial blessing for a pseudo-pharmaceutical product that sounds suspiciously like snake oil.I disagree.
... The one-two punch out of McDonnell and Christie has pretty much leveled the media and GOP Establishment fantasy that the Republicans might nominate a "centrist" conservative for president in 2016. As I've said before -- and before Christie's fall -- the front-runner for that nomination, at this early date at least, is Rand Paul.
McDonnell is out of the running and Christie may be headed for a similar fate, but if so, the press will graciously accommodate the GOP Establishment by describing Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush as "centrist" conservatives, based on nothing more than the fact that they're not Ted Cruz, and on the fact that each of them occasionally expresses a desire to decrease poverty, or reform the immigration laws, or curb the NSA, or do something else Roger Ailes wouldn't endorse. The fact that none of them will run on a serious proposal in any of these areas won't matter -- they'll be deemed to have earned the "centrist" label just because they're so gosh-darn concerned.
Rich acknowledges that the framing of Bob McDonnell as a centrist was ridiculous. So he should realize that the same thing will happen to one (or probably more) of the remaining GOP wannabes.
This probably won't help the candidates because they'll probably all tack extremely far to the right on most issues, just to keep up with Cruz. But until that rush to the right becomes too obvious to ignore, the Establishment will still try to paint the field as right-centrist -- and the press will comply.