Mitt Romney has a Tea Party problem. He held the same office as Sam Adams. The similarities end there. The former Massachusetts governor—Romney, not Adams—looks like he could have owned a merchant vessel on Griffin’s Wharf. He doesn’t look like he could have passed for one of the faux Indians dumping 342 crates into Boston Harbor. The architect of the state model for ObamaCare winning the nomination from a party fixated on overturning ObamaCare seems about as plausible as one of those tea merchants winning the trust of the Sons of Liberty.
The good news for Romney is that all of his rivals for the Republican nomination for President are also out of step with the party they seek to lead.
Nineties Newt Gingrich appears as normal running for the 2012 nomination as fifty-something Magic Johnson running a Los Angeles Lakers’ fast break. The Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority may be defunct, but they have their own candidate in Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin, whose negative-positive ratio is in the red by 32 points, has watched her moment go in a moment.
This time, the GOP can’t make the presidency a lifetime achievement award. That manner of selecting Republican presidential candidates—think George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain—may work when the party has achievement to award. But the
achievements of the last Republican administration include a budget-busting new prescription-drug entitlement, a costly unpopular war, and a shameless banker bailout.
The Republican Party now runs from that, not on it. A candidate comfortable in yesterday’s GOP makes today’s GOP uncomfortable. Seniority hiring, as Republicans tell labor unions in Wisconsin, has no merit. Do as we say and not as we do?
“Conservatives rightly value tradition, but this GOP custom is one they need to rethink,” Jim Antle writes at the American Spectator. He counsels Republican voters to “abandon the hierarchal nomination habits and look far beyond the top tier. A major party presidential nomination during troubled times isn’t a retirement gift.”
Good advice. In political years, 2012 is half a century from 2008. Fewer than four years have elapsed, but the faces of the last go-around already have taken on a Harold Stassen look.
It’s not just that the starting lineup is weak. Their backups are incredibly strong. The names bandied about as attractive vice presidential options impress more than the presidential candidates who might select them. Might the party be better served by a sort of political double-promotion?
Republicans won in 2010 not by carting out retreads, but by infusing fresh blood into the party. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal—to name just four from a deep Republican bench—exhibit charisma, vigor, and likeability largely absent from those visibly seeking the presidency. Of greater importance, they have shown fidelity to the limited-government principles currently animating the Republican Party.
They are flawed. They lack experience. But remember that Romney served just one term as governor, Palin, not even that. And, as evidenced by the thin curriculum vitae of the 2008 Democratic nominee, voters, at least outside of GOP primaries, don’t cast ballots on experience. What the new bloods truly lack is familiarity. But even familiarity isn’t an unmitigated blessing. To know Newt or Sarah, particularly after the New York Times gets through with them, isn’t necessarily to love them.
One fresh face might upturn a stale race. Two would cancel each other out and ensure that an also-ran or running mate from yesterday’s loser party commandeers today’s winning party. The triumph of 2010 wasn’t Mike Huckabee’s or Mitt Romney’s triumph. It was Nikki Haley’s, and Allen West’s, and Susana Martinez, and Mary Fallin’s, and Rand Paul’s. Why shouldn’t 2012 belong to those who catalyzed a moribund party rather than those who left it for dead?
Republicans, like most Americans, want hope and change. The leading Republican candidates represent disappointment and the GOP’s molded age.
Politicians are more like milk than wine. Age isn’t kind to them. Republican voters deserve a choice between a fresh product and one past its sell-by date.