I think we need to take a step back from the horse race and think about why we have so much trouble getting a good conservative GOP nominee every four years. Consider these factors:
1. Voters seem to prefer a governor, who has a positive image of executive experience, who has been in charge of something big, rather than a Representative or Senator or business man. A Representative also has the deficiency of never having run a statewide campaign, and in a sense has not been vetted with respect to the ability to manage a large campaign, deal with the media above the local level, etc. Business men running for POTUS seem to be “treating the office as an entry level job” and are viewed as being on either an ego trip or a quixotic quest.
2. The bigger the state, the more impressive it is to voters that you were governor of that state.
3. The biggest states in the U.S.A. have the most problems with immigration demographics. Immigration over time has made California (recently) and New York (a century or so ago) highly unlikely to elect a conservative GOP governor. Texas suffers from producing candidates such as Rick Perry and Jorge Busheron who grew up with a nice Mexican maid and think that the entire country’s immigration policy should be based on their personal feelings that were shaped in their childhood. We might be facing the prospect that we will never get a really good candidate out of Texas ever again. Florida might be headed down that path; it is hard to say at this point. The biggest states outside of New York and California and Texas are “swing states” such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. These states are pretty evenly divided by party and therefore tend to elect moderate Republicans as governor, or Democrats. We have seen that seemingly good governors of not so conservative states tend to have liberal baggage that comes back to haunt them, e.g. Romney, Pawlenty, Christie. Whether this is because they imbibed the liberal atmosphere of their states, or just said what needed to be said to be elected in their states, it is still a huge problem.
4. Therefore, it seems that we will need to get a good conservative governor from a not so large state. National name recognition will be difficult. These governors do not come from national media hotbeds.
5. The most likely source of such a conservative governor would be a southern state. However, northern Republicans are prejudiced against anyone with a southern accent and probably against anyone from the Deep South states, regardless of accent.
6. That leaves precious few choices, and some of them might be disqualified in any given election cycle by various factors: deciding not to run, making some gaffes or blunders or taking some bad positions that create some distrust with conservative voters (e.g. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who suddenly looks a lot better in retrospect than the field we have now), having problems with the superficial factors that idiot voters pay attention to (e.g. being bald, or having an odd voice, or whatever), etc.
7. Then we have the problem that Republicans don’t know what conservatism is in the first place, and this applies to governors as well (e.g. Huckabee), so we might not care for the pseudo-conservative governor in the first place.
The result this election cycle is that the best kind of candidate (conservative governor without past liberal baggage) never appeared in the race. Instead, we got a few governors with liberal baggage (Romney, Pawlenty, Perry, Huntsman, Johnson), some representatives (Bachmann, Paul, Gingrich), and a businessman (Cain).
I don’t advocate despair, but I think we need to know what we are up against as conservative voters. We need to address the problems by: (a) Not shooting ourselves in the foot (e.g. #5 above), (a) praying a lot (#6 above), and (c) promoting the right candidates well in advance to overcome the problems in #4 above. It would be good to see the national GOP grooming future potential nominees by taking a good conservative representative or senator from a fairly conservative state and making him a cabinet secretary for a few years, which helps his national executive branch credibility, then sending him back home to run for governor, for example. Talk radio hosts, columnists, magazine editors, bloggers, etc. could focus some attention on good governors from smaller states well before election cycles begin. GOP voters also need to prioritize what is important: If I hear that a governor would be good on immigration, good on repealing Obamacare, etc., but has been criticized as not being tough enough on spending in his state, so what? Our hope for controlling spending lies in electing a conservative Congress. When has a POTUS ever vetoed our way to a lean budget? Some issues are incessant see-saws (spending, taxes) while others are no-turning-back disasters (Obamacare, immigration).
This is long enough already, but I think it is important for GOP voters to think about this bigger picture (including immigration-influenced state demographics) instead of just whining every four years about the quality of available candidates, or claiming that the “GOP Establishment” somehow conspires to keep conservatives off the ticket.
James N. replies:
Paul M. writes: