Mike Allen reports on the current mental health of the Republican Party establishment. Nickel version: it's not good:I don't think 2012 is going to be a Republican 1972 or 1984. It's going to be a replay of 2008.Interviews this week with longtime party activists and strategists made clear that many in the Republican establishment are unnerved by a field led by Mitt Romney, who could have trouble confronting Obama on health reform; Tim Pawlenty, who has yet to ignite excitement; Jon Huntsman, who may be too moderate to get the nomination; and Newt Gingrich, weighed down by personal baggage and a sense that he is a polarizing figure from the 1990s.So the question is, will 2012 be the Republican version of 1972 or the Republican version of 1984? They could nominate a base hero like Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich and go down in epic flames. Or they could nominate a worthy timeserver like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty and go down in flames.
Despairing Republican lobbyists say their colleagues don’t ask, “Who do you like?” but instead, “Who do we back?”
“It’s not that they’re up in arms,” said a central player in the GOP money machine. “It’s just that they’re depressed.”
Or, of course, they could pray for some kind of gigantic global disaster — maybe an economic collapse, an oil spike, or a drawn-out hostage crisis — in which case they can win with anybody. That seems like a pretty weak hope, but right now the fever dreams of the GOP base are so debilitating that it's hard to see them coming together and beating Barack Obama any other way.
The Republicans have no winning candidate and the rest of the party is running on issues that work locally in rural areas but which have no chance of winning the Presidency. They are going to lose the Presidency in 2012 unless the economy goes south in a really big way and Obama takes the blame for it. The major problem for the Republicans is to avoid the disaster that the Goldwater loss in 1964 inflicted on the Republican Party. They have to nominate the least broadly offensive secular Republican who can get the extremist base to accept him.
The chosen nominee will then choose a social conservative to be his Veep in order to attract the social conservative vote. This is a traditional Republican move which explains why Ike chose the right-wing Nixon as his Veep. It kept the party together. The social conservative Veep nominee will come out of left field as someone the media does not have records on, much as Palin did. The central point of Republican strategy is going to be to minimize the down ballot damage of another Presidential loss.
Neither the secular Republicans nor the social conservatives have a winning candidate. That (and the cost of giving up his FOX contract) is why Huckabee is not running. No social conservative can get the money from the money Republicans, nor can they win the Presidency.
The down ballot disaster of 1964 is what they must avoid at all costs. That was why McCain (the least offensive secular Republican) chose Sarah Palin in 2008. He was going to lose, but he had to hold the secular - social Republican alliance together for the sake of the party. (I'm not sure John McCain knew that was why Palin was chosen, but his handlers did.) Karl Rove's great genius prior to 2000 was in finding George W. Bush, a man who could hold both the secular Republicans and the social Republicans together in the same party and getting both to turn out to vote. There is at this time no Rove - Bush partnership who can perform the same magic That only worked because George W was the son of the previous Republican President as well as someone who could pass for a born again christian. .
The only two Republican potential candidates who might get the secular Republican vote and the money Republicans checks are Pawlenty and Romney. But the Social Republicans won't accept Romney because he is Mormon (I think he could finesse the Massachusetts health care program if he could actually look like he might win the Presidency, but that isn't the case. Besides, Romney is an older loser. So Pawlenty is the best bet right now. And as I say, the social Republican will be named as Veep at the nominating convention and come from left-field as far as the media are concerned.
No, I don't think Huntsman or Mitch Daniels will break out of the background unless they suddenly get Koch and Rove money behind them. If I'm wrong this seems to be the most likely point of my analysis that would allow it. After the Republican nomination I want to come back and look at this analysis and see where (if at all) it went wrong.
Addendum - May 21, 2011 9:22 AM
Changes made above to clarify the language and improve readability.