Who Can Win In 2012?
Over at Stephen Green’s “Vodkapundit” section of PajamasMedia, there’s a lively debate (which I participated in) about who could be the GOP nominee in ’12.
Rather than take up Stephen’s space, and take the chance that it’d get buried under the 200+ other comments, I decided I’d share my own expanded thoughts here, since I do have this handy forum for doing that. 🙂
The theme I want to take up today are the extremely popular Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. To start off, I want to make it clear I have no personal animus against either of them… some of Paul’s policies I disagree with on philosophical grounds, but I am not a “hater” of either person. Unfortunately, that disclaimer is necessary due to the fanaticism of some (note: I didn’t say all) of their fans.
However, I think it extremely unlikely that either of them can capture the nomination, and, if they did, they almost certainly wouldn’t be able to beat Obama in 2012. The reason is simple: They may rally the base, but they lose the majority of the middle.
By “the middle,” I don’t mean dedicated moderates (isn’t that a bit of a contradiction in terms?), I mean the people who only pay attention to politics between Labor Day and the First Tuesday in November in even-numbered years. These are the people who, though they may have right-of-center leanings, get most of their political news from the three Dinosaur Media broadcast networks and CNN, or from their own–probably left-of-center–local newspaper. They might have heard of blogs, but probably have seldom if ever read them, even the biggies like PJM, and much less a small effort like this little corner of the blogopshere. In fact, if they have heard of blogs, it was probably with a negative connotation, as in “look what those whackos on the right are doing now!” Fox News probably faces the same dynamic as blogs do, though to a lesser degree… more people have heard of Fox, and might watch it from time to time, but for many non-political-wonks, it’s still filtered through the lens of “those right-wing-nuts at Faux News” (using the pejorative term for Fox as an illustration, not because I believe that myself).
I think that a large portion of the blog-reading public forgets that there’s a huge mass of people out there who just don’t follow political news that closely, and that these peoples’ perceptions of candidates are largely filtered through the Dinosaur Media lens. Unfortunately for Ron and Sarah, as good a President as they might make–and I’m making no judgments on that at this time–they would have to convince the great unwonkish center that they deserve the nomination, because, by definition, about half of the center is gonna vote in the GOP primaries, and let’s face it, they probably outnumber either the Paul base or the Palin base.
The situation looks even less rosy if one of them does manage to capture the GOP nomination somehow. Despite the ongoing train wreck that is the Obama Presidency, if the center isn’t convinced that the GOP candidate can do better, they won’t vote Republican… they’ll either stay home or vote for “the devil they know” in the Oval Office while voting in a Republican Congress to ride herd on him.
We also have to face facts… both Ron and Sarah have made statements that, well… the center would find somewhat… unusual. You can bet your last dollar that the Dinosaur Media would trumpet those as loudly as they could, while (wink, wink, nod, nod) hiding Obama’s many gaffes.
So, while the passion of the Ron and Sarah camps is admirable, I really don’t think either candidate has much of a shot. I do hope, for the future of the party and the nation as a whole, that those passionate folks will be just as passionate about whoever the GOP candidate is, even if it’s not Ron or Sarah. For my part, I promise to support Ron or Sarah to my utmost should they happen to capture the nomination. Now, that’s fair, isn’t it?