Jewish World Review
Feb 8, 2012/ 15 Shevat, 5772
GOP Shouldn't Hope for a White Knight or Brokered Convention: Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie aren't coming to save Republicans from the frontrunners
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February brings a string of caucuses, plenty of time for an already restless conservative electorate to let its eye wander some more. Maybe Newt will rebound, again. Or Santorum will get another look. Regardless, expect the volume to ratchet up on a building drumbeat: hope for a white knight or brokered convention (where no candidate wins the nomination on the first ballot) to rescue Republicans from their uninspiring final four. It's not a hope they should nurture.
A number of high-profile conservatives have been pining for a white knight. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol has steadfastly led the charge, penning a November anti-Romney editorial titled "Evitable" which imagined a late-January entrant into the race. After South Carolina, the New York Times's Ross Douthat joined the white knight chorus, declaring that Kristol had "been right all along" and hoping that a better brand of candidate might still "step into the breach that caution has created, and cowardice has sustained." That same week, the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin wrote an open letter to 10 high-profile Republicans exhorting that "it's time to get off your ... er ... time to get off the bench and into the game." MSNBC's
told his viewers that he'd been canvassing "conservative movers and shakers" and that "every single one I've spoken to is trying to figure out a way to get to a brokered convention." Republican Party godfather
told his listeners that "there are rumblings in the Republican establishment of a brokered convention now." Former RNC Chairman
told the Huffington Post that there was a "50-50" chance for an open convention.
But there are a couple of problems with the white knight pipe dream. The first is filing deadlines. A candidate who declared today would be able to get on only 15 primary ballots, none for a race that takes place before April 24. By then there will have been 35 nominating contests.
Another problem is the white knights themselves. Call this the Perry Paradox, that a potential candidate's attractiveness is highest just before he (or she) enters the race. Consider the conservatives' wish list. Before officially not running, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels angered social conservatives by calling for a "truce" on their issues. He is open to defense spending cuts and a VAT tax. And as conservative pundit
Matt Lewis wrote in the Daily Caller, "He looks like Vladimir Putin on TV. He has little charisma." Perhaps New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? Conservatives love his bluster, but they may be less enthused about his heretical positions on immigration, gun control, and climate change.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is always on top of conservative dream tickets, but he has never won statewide office, his plan to change Medicare from an entitlement to a diminishing voucher is wildly unpopular among non-Republicans, and he voted for both TARP and the auto bailout.
Daniels, Christie, and Ryan are the most oft-mentioned, but they're not the only ones. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still recovering from his 2009 turn as Kenneth the 30 Rock page in response to President Obama's State of the Union speech that year. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's last act in office was pardoning 200 prisoners, some serving terms for murder and rape--hardly the best way to endear oneself to conservatives.
Suppose even that the dream comes to pass and a deadlocked GOP convention closes with the establishment producing a Daniels or Christie or Ryan from the proverbial smoke-filled back room. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey sketched out in the Fiscal Times last month, it's a suboptimal scenario: "Ten weeks from the election, the party would have a nominee for which no one had cast a ballot in a primary, who has raised no money, who has built no organization, and who has articulated no platform."
This would be the political equivalent of plucking an untested rookie who hasn't played baseball in months and starting him in the World Series.
In the end, conservatives will fall in line behind Romney (or Newt, or Santorum, or Ron Paul). It won't be love, so they'll rally around their uniting hatred of Barack Obama. We'll see how that plays with swing voters.
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Robert Schlesinger is opinion editor at U.S. News and World Report, overseeing all opinion editorial content. He is the author of White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters.
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