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The other day, a good friend came up with an interesting scenario for the ultimate result of the chaotic race for the Republican presidential nomination.
But first, let me say that my friend has broad political experience on local, state and national stages, having worked as an adviser on several presidential campaigns. I must add that he is a gifted raconteur with a well-defined sense of humor as well as the bizarre. The other night at dinner, after a rousing debate over which candidate the GOP ultimately would select to oppose President Barack Obama, my friend, with a glint in his eye, announced he had the solution.
He said because former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems incapable of exciting a clear-cut following and because mainstream Republican leaders consider former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, currently Romney’s chief opponent, to be unelectable, the party’s powers must ultimately look to a more acceptable candidate with broad voter appeal to enter the race.
But who, we asked?
Easy, he replied: That most likely would be Jeb Bush, who many are convinced should have been the son picked to run for the White House in 2000 instead of his bother George W. The former Florida governor, my friend noted, has a strong following among independents and some Democrats as well as all elements of the GOP faithful. He also has considerable ties to the nation’s Hispanic voters because of his Latin wife. Bush, he argued, would accept the task of saving the party and the election and then would immediately announce that he has asked highly regarded Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who rejected pleas to seek the presidential nomination, to be his running mate. Daniel’s financial expertise and basic conservatism would entice much of the Republican base.
Faced with such a fearsome heavyweight ticket, Obama would suddenly decide not to seek re-election. He would propose that Democrats nominate Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he defeated in 2008 for the nomination and who has earned high marks as the nation’s chief diplomat. Democrats thus would have the distinction of nominating both the first African-American and the first woman to carry their banner.
While this scenario produced some hearty guffaws and hoots from around our table, obviously only part of it was in jest. It clearly pointed up the dilemma facing Republicans. It is not difficult to imagine that the party’s mainline leaders are beginning to see their hopes of defeating Obama slip away in the divisive primary fight for the nomination, which has produced no clear leader. Obama, meanwhile, is benefiting from an improving economy and a lack of enthusiasm among the general electorate for the GOP wannabes. Although it would be difficult to unseat Romney or Santorum at this stage, stranger things have occurred.
But what about the toxic impact of the Bush name? If Jeb’s last name were different, he would not only be a preferable candidate to Romney but far more viable in the November election. The analysis that the nation was not ready for another Bush may be questionable under the current circumstances. This Bush has shown himself to be a far savvier political animal than his father or brother.
Daniels, who cited family considerations in not entering the race, might be convinced to take a second spot, where the pressure is less.
Then there is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose name still seems to be on the lips of a large number of GOP wishful thinkers.
What makes this outline for possible Republican success in recapturing the White House more than just a stretch, of course, is the abdication of Obama for Clinton. That is not going to occur under any circumstance, other than the most unthinkably dire. It is also highly improbable that Bush could be convinced to step in or that Daniels would relent about taking the national stage even as second on the ticket. Christie shows no inclination to change his mind, and it is a long shot that the convention in Tampa, Fla., this August becomes brokered for the first time in decades.
Smoke-filled rooms are a thing of the past, aren’t they?
(Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)
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