In 1980, Ronald Reagan made the case that he was the only true conservative in the race. George H.W. Bush countered that he was the only one suitable to independents and thus the only one electable, given the high negatives that Reagan had garnered. Reagan, remember, had been out of office for almost six years, after failing in presidential bids in 1968 and 1976.
Romney, at least implicitly, is now making the same sort of argument Bush did, that only he can win the coveted middle, while Santorum, by sheer force of personality and political conviction, will have to make the case that he can make those otherwise uncomfortable with some of his positions comfortable enough to go along with him.
While Romney can play Bush, whether 1980 or 1988, can Santorum adopt Reagan’s sunny optimism and flair, which convinced many to ignore what the media said about Reagan’s extremism and trust instead their instincts that he was a good and reasonable man? Santorum is a nice guy, but he must somehow lighten up and stop seeming petulant and irked at the unfairness of it all. I think most are dubious on that count, but we have a long way to go.
Meanwhile, the Obama-ites face a paradox. They have made the case so far that all the non-Romneys have been amusing unhinged extremists. Soon they must flip back and make the argument that it was really Romney, the former flip-flopper, who was all along the true-blue nut.
While the Obama press explains to us the poverty of the Republican candidates, Obama simply plays rope-a-dope, makes unnoticed recess appointments (which he condemned as a senator) and new releases from Guantanamo — while in the Middle East, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and the Strait of Hormuz, bad actors are starting to think they have only one more year to act up.