The Corner

The Wide-Open Race for the GOP Nomination

Washington Times reporter Ralph Hallow may be delivering readers old news in a piece today exploring the wide-open race for the Republican presidential nomination. But that doesn’t make the situation any less remarkable, or Hallow’s summation any less worthy of a read.

A compilation of recent polls shows former governors Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin with the most supporters in a Republican field also thought to include Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and several others. But as many GOP insiders and conservative commentators see it, Romney has the resources and time to mount a campaign but can’t get the nomination because of his dalliance with Obamacare-like policies in Massachusetts. Huckabee may not have the resources, time, or drive to mount another campaign. And Palin has, fairly or unfairly, been so maligned in the press that she is unelectable.

For what it’s worth, my own view is that unless Romney completely repudiates his health-care program, the general public doesn’t really know the Republican nominee for president yet. I think it will be a state governor who has a personal record of competent management and conservative reform that contrasts favorably with Obama’s abysmal management and liberal dogma. I think it will be a governor who can bring the various strands of the conservative movement into a motivated electoral coalition without allowing his campaign to lose its focus on the highest priority of swing voters: economic recovery.

No wimps, blowhards, or transactional leaders need apply. Defeating Obama will be a very difficult and expensive task. It can’t be done without assembling tremendous resources, not just money but millions of people mobilized and inspired by powerful, transformational ideas.

Can’t think of anyone who fits the bill? Then get used to the idea of a second Obama term. As I wrote on NRO at the beginning of the 2008 presidential primaries, conservatives should be the last people to substitute wishful thinking for political realism. Our movement constitutes an alliance of those who accept unchangeable facts rather than trying to wish fantasy into reality, remake human nature, or avoid economic tradeoffs. Traditionalists embrace timeless morals, even when they deny one immediate gratification. Libertarians embrace the sovereignty of consumer demand and the sometimes-disorienting effects of technological change, even when the result isn’t to one’s personal liking. And hawks embrace the reality that America lives in a dangerous neighborhood, one full of bullies, pirates, and fanatics who respond to gestures of goodwill with contempt, larceny, and brutality.

Any successful GOP presidential candidate must be trilingual — speaking in all three of these languages of the Right — as well as diligent, likable, and disciplined. There are plenty of potential nominees with some of these characteristics. They may be fine folks, but they won’t win. That’s just reality.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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