Sunday, March 06, 2011


Does George Will still need to ask an intern to help connect him to the Internet? Does he still have rabbit ears on his non-cable-ready TV? Does he get most of his news from his equally out-of-touch colleague David Broder, in conversations that take place on rotary-dial phones?

I ask because Will writes today about the Republican presidential field. He chides Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich for believing that Obama is a Kenyan/Indonesian Mau Mau anti-colonialist (no, says Will -- Obama's a fifth columnist from academia!), and he seems to have asbsolutely no clue that Huckabee and Gingrich actually improve their standing in the eyes of GOP primary voters with pronouncements like these.

Will then goes on to write:

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

Haley Barbour? Haley Barbour?! Let me say this again: There was a poll this week of GOP voters in the South, and Haley Barbour was outpolled by a black man -- Herman Cain, the former pizza magnate. That's among Republicans in the South. Why? Cain gets kudos in the GOP for having critiqued Bill Clinton's health care plan back in the '90s. Cain has mastered wingnut/tea party shibboleths. Cain speaks Modern Republican. Barbour absolutely doesn't. Barbour doesn't even try. And Will doesn't get that.

(Cain's lead over Barbour was slight, but he had a lead over Barbour. That's shocking enough.)

Daniels? Well, he's a deficit denouncer and a union basher, but he went wobbly on right-to-work and he's called for a "truce" in the GOP on social issues. Next! Huntsman just spent two years working for Satan. Next!

I'm starting to wonder whether Huckabee (who led that poll of the South by a wide margin, and who leads or comes a close second in many other polls) is going to sit this race out, even though he could probably win the nomination, just because he sees Romney as his White Whale and he doesn't think he can raise enough money to challenge Mitt. I'm also starting, at last, to question Palin's interest in the race. (Fox's failure to suspend Huck and Sarah when Gingrich and Santorum were suspended is the first sign I've really taken seriously that Palin might sit this out.)

I think it really might be down to Romney, Pawlenty ... and whichever fruit loop gets traction beyond those two. (Bachmann? Bolton? Gary Johnson?) I'm not sure anyone's truly plausible, at least for the general election, because the only way you get cred in the modern GOP is by making yourself implausible to the non-crazy. Pawlenty's working really hard on that; Romney's hoping the non-crazy remnant in his party is enough to get him the nomination (which worked for McCain, but look how much it helped him in November).

I can't tell what's going to happen, but trust me folks -- you can bet the house that Haley Barbour is not going to be on the ticket.

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