The Republicans' dwindling options - THE WEEK: The GOP is a party of orderly succession. Ronald Reagan finishes second in 1976, wins in 1980. George H.W. Bush finishes second in 1980, wins in 1988. Bob Dole finishes second in 1988, wins in 1996. John McCain finishes second in 2000, wins in 2008. This succession will be complicated in 2012 by the unusual fact that two men can plausibly claim to have finished second in 2008: Mitt Romney... Mike Huckabee.... So how to choose? Republicans have to worry that Huckabee -- like Palin -- cannot win a national election, even under the most favorable circumstances. Romney? That’s a more open question. There are two Romneys: the pragmatic, results-oriented candidate who got himself elected Republican governor of Massachusetts -- and the phoney hyper-ideological ex-candidate who addressed the Republican convention in St. Paul in 2008:
For decades, the Washington sun has been rising in the east -- Washington has been looking to the eastern elites, to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post, and to the broadcasters from the coast. If America really wants change, it's time to look for the sun in the west, cause it's about to rise and shine from Arizona and Alaska!
Last week, the Democrats talked about change. But let me ask you -- what do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative? Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights? It's liberal! Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? -- It's liberal!
Is a Congress liberal or conservative that stops nuclear power plants and off-shore drilling, making us more and more dependent on Middle East tyrants? -- It's liberal! Is government spending - excluding inflation - liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? -- It's liberal!
Twenty years of Republican presidencies since 1980? Eighteen years of Republican majorities in the Senate? Twelve years of Republican majorities in the House? Seven of the nine Supreme Court appointments? Never happened! And for that matter, Massachusetts isn’t in the east either. The big question for Republicans is: which Romney will show up in 2012? The electable or the unelectable, the serious or the cynical, the commanding or the pandering? All Republicans have to hope that Romney brings his best self to the next election cycle -- if only because after this week, we are seriously running out of alternatives.
It's also going to get seriously ugly in Republican primary time in 2012. Remember this from Huckabee at the end of 2007:
Libby Quaid: Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming article, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" The article, to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, says Huckabee asked the question after saying he believes Mormonism is a religion but doesn't know much about it. His rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a member of the Mormon church...
The problem is that for Romney to actually be a president who might be worth electing he has to be a Jack Kemp-style Republican starting now: it takes quite a while to build up a policy and governing apparatus that can function well. And right now all of Romney's political advisors are telling him that he dare not be a Jack Kemp Republican.