Enter Stage Right

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Ross Douthat worries that the GOP is blowing it. His column made me more upbeat.

“When it comes to challenging Barack Obama for the presidency, the Party of Lincoln looks increasingly like a party of Mario Cuomos. Its biggest names and brightest lights are mainly competing to offer excuses for why they won’t be running in 2012.” Yes, and what a disaster for the Democrats it was that Cuomo didn’t run in 1992, ceding the field to some nobody from Arkansas.

Douthat’s conclusion: “Fifteen years ago, in the wake of the 1994 Republican revolution, conservatives were in a similar position — fresh from a midterm victory but politically overextended, struggling to persuade a wary public to embrace limited government in practice as well as theory.

“Out of a mediocre primary field, they ended up with Bob Dole as their standard-bearer. Their cause did not soon recover.”

Nobody could have beaten Bill Clinton in 1996, one of the best years in American history. Dole ran a truly awful campaign, true enough, but he inflicted no great damage. Maybe 2012 will turn out to be a can’t-win year, too, but I doubt it.

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