Republicans Must Avoid the Urge to Find a “Conservative Obama”

January 22, 2010 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

As Republicans finally begin the process of getting over their political hangover from the 2008 election, the talk is slowly and inevitably turning to the next Presidential cycle. Although 2010 will offer a major opportunity to win a large number of seats in both the House and Senate, those races are largely local. That means the eyes of the major politicos have already shifted to the 2012 roster of Republican candidates.  Unfortunately, a phenomenon is developing where far too many are trying to place what we might consider our bench players in the starting line up. Just today, Bill Schneider of the National Journal had this to say about the 2012 Republican primaries:

“New faces are exactly what the Republican Party needs for 2012. But will the party embrace them?

Democrats often go for new faces when they choose presidential nominees: Think  Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans usually nominate candidates who have run before: Think Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain…

What Republicans need in 2012 is a conservative version of Obama.”

Its talk like this that has led to some of the most absurd speculation: Bob McDonnell (R-VA, who was just sworn in as Governor); Bobby Jindal (a likable, yet still inexperienced Gov. of Louisiana who will need to seek re-election next year); Scott Brown (who has yet to be sworn in as Ted Kennedy’s replacement); even Marco Rubio, who has yet to win the primary in the 2010 Florida Senate contest, has been pitched as a candidate on the national level. The logic, of course, is exactly what Schneider suggests: that we must find a “Conservative Obama” – presumably, a young, attractive, minority candidate who could theoretically excite a segment of the population usually more reserved about politics.

Yet there are several dangers to selecting such a young nominee. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that voters will be less inclined to vote for an Obama-like candidate if they are no longer quite as impressed with the man himself. Youth is less appealing when it is a synonym for inexperience. Many of the problems which have dogged Obama over the past year spawn from the mistakes of an amateur politician, and I’d be willing to hazard a guess that many voters know that. Equally dangerous is the prospect of, well, depleting your prospects in a gamble to avoid using older, yet more seasoned, politicians. This is, in some sense, what happened in 2008 with Sarah Palin – although she may have had enormous potential in future races, unripe fruit does not go back on the vine, and Mrs. Palin is now struggling to gain even broad support among GOP voters, many of whom still view her  as too inexperienced to hold national office. Of course, there is often little hope for a future in politics for defeated Presidential candidates, except perhaps for the first and second runners up in the Presidential primary.

All advice taken, the message for Republicans is simple: slow down, take a breath, and use the deep roster of highly experienced candidates at your disposal while allowing newcomers to gain experience in what remains a very challenging field.


Entry filed under: Nation, Politics. Tags: , , , , .

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