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A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut –Connecticut– gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Toying with us

In a sane and rational world, and in light of the illegal delays and waivers issued by the administration, insisting that the individual mandate be delayed for a year was not a particularly radical demand.

Despondency surged as I realized Obama was toying with us, much like a predator might play with its prey before delivering the death-blow. The administration took extraordinary care to make sure the shutdown was as inconvenient as possible, shutting down things that it is not ordinarily possible to shut down, such as open-air monuments, private businesses and homes,… and the ocean.

At first I thought Obama’s strategy might backfire. Surely he had overplayed his hand! Then I watched the 6:30 news for a few evenings. And what finally convinced me that the administration would get away with it was the concern-trolling by the media about the Obamacare rollout failures.

–Oh, if only the Republicans’ antics weren’t sucking up so much oxygen, we might be able to report more about these glitches in Obamacare!–

Really? What have I experienced in the last five years would lead me to believe that the media was eager to report on a story reflecting negatively on Obama? Would that be the failure of the stimulus? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? Or the IRS?

No, they were pretty openly mocking conservatives. They knew what an empty promise they were suggesting.

Brian Williams’ snarky asides during the evening newscasts would have made Dan “fake but accurate” Rather blush.

Speaking of Benghazi, the modus operandi was pretty similar. Put out some bogus story for the weekend/Sunday show cycle, allow the media to go with it, and let the story die within a week, because heaven knows neither the media nor the American public has an attention span longer than a week. With Benghazi it was that ridiculous story about the YouTube video. With Obamacare, it was the fairy tale about overwhelming demand for the product.

Though nobody was exactly covered in glory in the public’s eye, polls showed Republicans faring worse than Democrats on the subject of the “negotiations” long before any actual negotiations took place, and in spite of the fact that it was the publicly stated position of both Harry and Barry that they would not be negotiating at all. The mind boggles.

And to top it off, you’ve got the likes of John McCain, who should be ejected from the party for serial violations of the eleventh commandment. If anybody invents a time machine, they need to loan McCain the Delorean so he can go back and retire 15 years ago.

This is not an environment in which any serious policy debates can be had, let alone won.

Oh, and the next time somebody says we’ll have more leverage on the debt ceiling rather than the continuing resolution, just go ahead and slap that person in the face for me.

October 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

Phony scandal not so phony

If you’ve ever met Jennifer Stefano (now of AFP), you’ll have come away with the impression that it wouldn’t be easy to silence her.  Nevertheless, the IRS gave it the ol’ college try.

July 28, 2013 at 4:29 pm Comments (0)

Required Reading

From, of all sources, the New York Times.

Yes, I know.  But they’re good.

Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?
Behind the Cover Story: Robert Draper on Why the G.O.P. Is So Slow to Adapt to the Digital World

I plan on eventually commenting on these as I don’t quite agree with everything, and think a few things were overlooked.

And yes, these are absolutely required readings.  There will be a quiz afterward.

February 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm Comments (0)

re: Perspective

Of course the constructive thing to do is take a deep breath and soldier on, … swinging pendulum or whatever.  The darker part of my psyche thinks that with this election we’re going to start seeing some of those irreparable consequences folks have been talking about, and that even if things swing back our way in four years there might not be much left for us to work with.

As for learning our lessons, I’m not holding my breath.  You’d have thought we would have learned something from Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, but no.  And that’s not to pick on the Tea Party, because the Establishment ran losers too (-most notably, Mitt Romney).  Candidate quality is of utmost importance.

Since every other pundit in the universe has spun this election to fit his or her own pet Theory of Everything, I might as well too….

The winning formula that I have discussed at great length is to find a high quality conservative candidate who knows how to translate conservative ideas to non-ideological/moderate/middle voters.  We had pretty much the opposite of that in Mitt Romney, a mediocre candidate with a wobbly conservative history who had no chance of conveying conservative thoughts to moderate voters because he really didn’t understand them himself.  (This would be why I was for Pawlenty, self-professed “Sam’s Club Republican”.)

Agreed, Fred, we should entirely reject the notion that we must become Democrat-lite and either abandon or moderate every conservative position under the sun.  Everybody say it with me now — swing voters don’t vote on ideology.

The one policy exception I see is immigration.  I don’t like to play this card too often, but I’ll BLAME BUSH for screwing up the immigration issue.  The “comprehensive piece of sh*t” he cooked up was so bad that even notable immigration softie Bill Kristol didn’t like the bill.  That fight brought out the worst of people on both sides of the argument, and the real loser was the GOP –even after we nominated John McCain, king of comprehensive immigration reform.  Now Obama will get to be the guy who claims credit for delivering immigration reform — ironically after avoiding the issue in his first term, and while following a bizarre gun policy wherein a key element was that there would be a bunch of dead Mexicans.

Going forward, I’ll try to be as positive as possible.  Just understand that privately I’ll be shopping for miscellaneous firearms and lingering at Cabela’s.  And I am definitely interested in Fredistan.

November 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm Comments (0)

VoterID: To Retain or Not Retain

Why are we even entertaining the question?

The Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, “warned today that it will organize to defeat Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille, a Republican, and PA Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, in their respective 2013 retention races, if Voter ID is not implemented in the November, 2012 General Election,” the group wrote in a press release.

“If Judge Simpson does not uphold the law, we will ask Governor Tom Corbett to appeal the case back to the PA Supreme Court,” said PAC President Don Adams. “Bottom line, if this law is not upheld, we will hold Justices Castille and Baer accountable in their 2013 retention election–and, possibly, Governor Corbett in his 2014 primary contest.”

The group is one of Pa.’s largest Tea Party organizations.

C’mon guys.

Let them hear the case (honestly) and not attempt to put a thumb on the scales of justice by appealing to their basest sense of job-preservation.

It’s not like they don’t know retention stakes. We’ve done it (incredibly) before.

Jeez, and I thought Corbett signed the damned thing.

October 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm Comments (0)

Smith can win in November

It’s possible.  It shouldn’t be vastly more difficult than a Romney win in PA.

Granted, if you believe the polls, a Romney victory assumes an optimistic scenario.  But given that 2008 and 2010 were both outlier years, there is a degree of uncertainty in the turnout models used by pollsters.  I’m also a fan of playing everywhere.  If you don’t plan to win in PA, you’re planning to lose it.  Obama won a couple of extra states in 2008 because he was organized in every state.  [Begrudging hat-tip to Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" at the DNC.]  And if we lose PA at the Presidential level once again, we’ll see the Keystone state being written off for the indefinite future.

Obama is the worst President within anybody’s living memory.  Economic policy, foreign policy, social policy… pretty much disasters all around. (At least LBJ and Nixon could tell our allies from our enemies.)  What will it say if we can’t beat Obama in 2012?  That’s not a scenario I care to contemplate.

So for the purposes of talking about the Senate race, I assume that it’s at least conceivable that Romney wins in PA.

As of this writing, the Real Clear Politics spread for the Presidential race in PA is Obama+8.  The spread on the Senate race is Casey+15.2.  Step-one is to close the spread.  Casey has a truly atrocious, liberal voting record.  Given that Casey and Obama are about 98% the same person, and if you think about it, Tom Smith is in a lot of ways a more likeable guy than Mitt Romney, closing the gap should be somewhat easier than people think.

It seems some folks still haven’t gotten the memo that Casey really isn’t a moderate.  Whether you believe the conservative organizations (ACU = 5.65, Heritage Action = 3, NTU = F, Club for Growth = 2) or the liberal ones (ACLU = 73, Americans for Democratic Action = 100, League of Conservation Voters = 100, NAACP = 100, SEIU = 91), Bob Casey Jr. has an extremely liberal voting record.  Our supposedly “pro-life” Senator even scores 65% from NARAL.

Those are the aggregate numbers. Behind those abstract figures lie real liberal votes.  He voted for ObamaCare, destroyer of jobs and religious freedoms. He voted for the abominable stimulus/”Recovery Act” that sunk us deeper into debt to China for no discernible economic benefit.  He voted for EPA regulations that will hurt Pennsylvania both in the form of lost coal industry jobs and in the form of skyrocketing higher electricity costs.  He voted to continue taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, provider of approximately three hundred thousand abortions per year. He voted to continue funding for ACORN even after multiple video stings revealed a systemic propensity to help pimps of underage children evade law enforcement, to say nothing of ACORN’s sordid history with voter registration fraud.  (Hey, didn’t we just go through some kind of big scandal with child sex abuse? Think that issue might have any resonance?)  He supports EFCA/”Card Check”, giving free hand to employee intimidation by union organizers.  He supports taxpayer bailouts of private pension programs.  He voted against several international free trade agreements that would have helped the US economy, including the Colombia FTA, which was a no-brainer for approval from a US jobs perspective, and the rejection of which was a gross geopolitical error (in favor of Hugo Chavez and against a cooperative Colombian government).  He voted against common-sense labor reforms like allowing union workers to earn raises.  He voted for higher taxes on domestic oil production.  He voted for higher taxpayer mortgage guarantees for rich people.  And he voted against Senator Toomey’s amendment that would eliminate legislative earmarks, currency of shady vote-trading in Congress and source of much abuse.

That Casey continues to skate by as a “moderate” with such an abysmal voting record is astonishing.

Expose Casey as being objectively something other than what the voters were led to believe he was, and that Presidential/Senate vote gap should close up pretty nicely.  Assume that the national environment will continue to favor Republicans, and hope that the Romney campaign has some mojo.

So yes, I think it’s possible that Smith wins in November, assuming a few stars align correctly.  They did for Pat Toomey, another guy who “couldn’t win”, and who we now refer to as “Senator”.

July 9, 2012 at 5:40 am Comments (0)

Rush Limbaugh’s Sluttiness Makes Him The Anti-Republican

 

In front of the entire nation, conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh repeatedly called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for her support of an Obama Administration policy requiring health insurers to offer contraceptives.

 

Not surprisingly, the issue became, and still remains, the preeminent national story, pushing it front-and-center in the Republican presidential campaign.

 

Anytime a powder-keg situation ignites into a massive media firestorm, as this one did, it is always interesting to look at who comes out on top, and who is left burning in the ashes.

 

And the biggest loser, by far, may surprise you.

 

So here is a look at winners and casualties of Pill-Gate:

 

Winners

 

Limbaugh The Entertainer Rush has followed the cardinal rule in entertainment: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  Bet the ranch that his ratings will increase, and with that additional advertisers.  This is not foreign territory to Rush, as he has been engulfed in numerous high-profile controversies in the past, since, let’s face it, controversy pays.  To the tune of $40 million a year.

 

Remember too that Rush has the luxury of saying pretty much whatever he wants without fear of repercussion.  With a net worth in excess of $350 million, he needn’t worry about paying the rent should he get fired.  And how likely is Clear Channel Communications (his employer) to fire the most lucrative figure on the radio?  It’s doesn’t take courage to tell and defend the truth when one stands to lose nothing. For those who idolize Rush in that regard, find a real hero to adore.

 

Oh, and his apology? It’s a stretch to even call it that, but all part of the game.  Apologize while not really apologizing, and trash your enemies in the process.  If nothing else, Limbaugh would be a great politician.

 

Advertisers Sure, some advertisers have “temporarily” suspended advertising, but most of those companies are also practicing the above rule.  A business (very publicly) announcing that it will yank advertising from Limbaugh scores a huge coup by receiving untold millions in free publicity.  And in a few weeks when the shelf life of this story dies, most, if not all, will quietly return to Limbaugh.  It’s a win-win for advertisers, and Clear Channel knows it.  And let’s face it — Limbaugh’s advertisers know he’s controversial, which is exactly why they pay top dollar to run commercials on his show. To them, occasional forays over the line of decency are acceptable risks. 

 

Sandra Fluke The are hundreds of thousands of law students, but Fluke has broken through the ranks of obscurity to be forever known as the “Limbaugh slut girl” who wanted taxpayers to foot the bill for her sexual habits.  She helped her issue gain political ground, and will never have to worry about landing a job.  Fluke’s popularity — and notoriety — is her golden ticket.  Who knew testifying at an unofficial congressional hearing could be so lucrative?

 

Mandatory Contraception issue (perception) This issue gained significant momentum, unwittingly helped by a poor student being mercilessly— and personally — attacked by an ultra-wealthy bully.  And what about the actual merits of the issue?  To many in the Great American Middle, they don’t matter. Right or wrong, their mentality is that if Limbaugh is attacking this young girl for just trying to tell her story, she must have some valid points. Conversely, if Limbaugh has to demonize her, his position must be so weak that it can’t be won on its own merits.

 

Too bad, because on the issue, Rush was right.

 

Losers

 

Mandatory Contraception issue on its merits The President is wrong in attempting to mandate contraception coverage from health insurers, as that is a case of government vastly overstepping its bounds. There are religiously-affiliated entities that are opposed to providing certain services, directly or indirectly, such as contraception and abortion. To do so not only tramples on market freedom, but religious freedom as well.  

 

Truth be told, most insurers are more inclined to offer contraception services anyway because it makes financial sense.  Paying for the Pill is infinitely cheaper than shelling out thousands for OB-GYN visits, ultrasounds, pregnancy complications, child births, vaccinations and, of course, the regular medical bills that accompany a new child throughout his life.  

 

But the market should determine that coverage, not government.

 

Limbaugh The Movement Leader Entertainers do whatever is necessary to entertain and make money.  But when they cross the line and represent themselves as serious leaders of a political movement, there are problems. Most Rush fans can’t discern the difference, and that endangers their conservative cause when their iconic leader does something that benefits himself but vastly sets back a core issue.  

 

It’s not that he doesn’t care, but that he puts his own interests ahead of the Cause, even if that means hurting the Movement. This is nothing new, and it isn’t just Rush. Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a “faggot” was another example of needlessly providing red meat to the Left. And make no mistake, this issue will be back in the general election, with Obama and the Democrats painting all Republicans as extremist, mean-spirited Rush Limbaugh-types.  Not a winning image for the GOP.

 

The Republican Party Another fantastic issue in which the Republicans could have differentiated themselves from Obama and the Democrats — and another opportunity squandered. What else is new?

 

Not one Republican leader — and not one GOP presidential contender — transformed this into what it is: the lack of common sense health care reform. And God forbid any of them tell the truth by pointing the finger at themselves as to why we find ourselves having this debate at all. 

 

But here’s the truth.  This is fault of George W. Bush, along with the sizable GOP majorities he had in both Houses for six straight years. Did they make any real attempt to solve the problem of skyrocketing health care costs? No. Had they done so, Sandra Fluke wouldn’t be begging the taxpayers to pay for her contraceptives.

 

As it now stands in America, if you don’t like your employer’s health insurer, you can either pay for a different insurer out of pocket (totally impractical since there are so few options and far too expensive), or change jobs (more impractical).  Notice that there is no option to buy insurance across state lines, since that is illegal.  So while we can buy auto insurance from any state in the country, we are banned from doing so for health insurance.

 

Why such a stranglehold on the free market? Because it’s not in the interests of the big insurance players to have such consumer choice, as they would be forced to actually become competitive.  Thankfully for them, they have deep pockets which they use to fund the coffers of politicians. Result? Consumers are held hostage to skyrocketing rates and decreasing coverage, while the insurers laugh all the way to the bank.

 

Then there are the flexible spending accounts that still have a “use it or lose it” policy. Instead of encouraging savings, such plans only serve to have consumers making a mad dash to the pharmacy so they can buy 27 bottles of aspirin before their money — yes, their money —disappears. 

 

Medical malpractice reform? Did the Republicans and President Bush —while riding an unprecedented wave of popularity — have the guts to take on the trial lawyers who, more than anyone, are the cause of massive increases in health insurance premiums? A look at how many Republicans took big money from these scourges of society is all you need to know.

 

And the GOP failed miserably throwing the Left’s hypocrisy back in its face.  These are the people who advocate unrestricted abortion, screaming that government has no place in the uterus, while asking the same government to fund their contraceptives (which, I believe, affects that very same uterus).  The inconsistency of those folks was a gimme, a political homerun for the Republicans.  But their silence has been deafening.

 

Had the Republicans did what they had promised — what they surely could have achieved with just a bit of political will — this whole Rush/slut/contraceptive debate would never have taken place, because there would never have been Obama, and hence, no Obamacare. But that is a lesson lost on way too many Republicans, who find it convenient to blame everyone but their own Party.

 

*****

 

Perhaps those on the Right would do well to 1) realize that the Limbaughs of the world are entertainers, not Movement leaders, and treat them as such, 2) refuse to defend the indefensible when such entertainers cross the line, 3) stop blaming Obama for the things he very clearly told the nation he was going to do — make government-run nationalized health care a priority, and 4) hold the Republican Party accountable for its deliberate failures to fix America’s problems (offshore drilling, border walls, health care reform, smaller government), as promised in its Party Platform.

 

Maybe then this nation could have a constructive dialogue on the pressing issues of the day.

 

And what a Rush that would be.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

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March 7, 2012 at 7:29 am Comment (1)

Hey Chris Christie, Get On The Treadmill — You May Be President

Don’t Be Surprised If Romney and Gingrich Bow Out At The End

 

About the only job better than weatherman — where you can get it wrong half the time and still remain employed — is political pundit.  These guys make an art out of looking dumb, and doing so with authority.

 

In the last few years alone, we have been told that Obama had zero chance of beating Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney was sure to be the GOP nominee in 2008, and now, the President can’t win re-election because Romney will beat him.  That last prediction, of course, is predicated upon Romney winning the Republican nomination, which the pundit brain trust is now telling us is a done deal after Mitt’s victory in Florida.

 

But just as it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, as Blutarsky taught us in Animal House, this race is far from over.

 

And the most comedic part is that the “experts” don’t even know it.  If they just took a walk outside their ivory towers, they would discover that there are still many elections — not coronations — yet to come, and that Newt Gingrich hasn’t been vanquished.

 

This is not to say that Romney won’t end up the winner.  In fact, that’s a good bet since he has money and organization advantages over Gingrich. But to say it’s all but over is simply foolish.

 

Cutting through the pundits’ white noise, it is worth looking at where the race really stands. Never before have there been three different winners in the first three contests, so that alone should be a caution sign for traditional predictions. Mitt Romney has won two of the four contests, including the winner-take-all state of Florida, and yet the total number of delegates awarded so far amounts to just five percent.

 

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, for various reasons, cannot win the nomination, but they can and will garner delegates, as many states award delegates on a proportional basis based on popular vote.

 

Without question, Gingrich will be in the hunt for the long haul. Following a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, after which the “experts” wrote him off for good, he roared back to a thundering victory in South Carolina. In all likelihood, he will win a number of states on Super Tuesday, and in the contests that he doesn’t, will post strong second place finishes.

 

(There is another reason for Gingrich to stay in the race: the possibility that Romney will say or do something that would catastrophically implode his candidacy.  Mitt came close this week when he said “I’m not concerned about the very poor…You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus.” Such blunders run in the family, as his father, former Michigan Governor George, crushed his quite viable presidential aspirations by stating he was “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam War.  The game was over the very instant he uttered that word.)

 

Short of a Romney implosion, Gingrich won’t win the nomination outright, but the impact of his candidacy could be substantially greater: he may deny Romney the prize.  If the three “challengers” to Romney can keep Mitt from attaining that “fifty percent plus one” number, it’s a whole new ballgame.

 

And while such a scenario was unthinkable to many pundits just a few weeks ago, it is becoming increasingly plausible.

 

An often overlooked but extremely important factor in determining the nominee is that many of the states have different legal rules concerning their delegates.  A handful of states, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania, do NOT require their delegates to commit for the candidate who won the state.  Put in layman’s terms, come convention time, delegates from the Keystone State can cast votes for any person they wish, whether or not the candidate won the state or even participated in the primary process.

 

Obviously, in normal election years, Party unity is assured because the nominee is determined early in the process.  But this year is anything but normal.  And there is precedent for delegates breaking ranks.

 

In 1980, George H.W. Bush handily won the primary election in Pennsylvania over Ronald Reagan.  The Reagan folks knew they weren’t going to win, so they pulled a coup by ensuring that the delegates elected were loyal to The Gipper. So despite Bush winning by 100,000 votes, Reagan emerged with roughly 70 percent of the state’s delegates morally committed to him.

 

Given that situation, a major concern for Romney is getting the right delegates to achieve the right majority.  But since Mitt has been running for President for five years, spent hundreds of millions in that endeavor, and still can’t come close to getting 50 percent of GOP primary voters, that might be a daunting task.

 

While still a “long shot” scenario, don’t be surprised that, after all the states have voted, no one emerges a winner.  If neither Romney nor Gingrich can successfully make a deal with Paul or Santorum to acquire their delegates, the country may see two men who despise each other hold a joint press conference announcing that, for the good of the Party, they are withdrawing from the campaign and releasing their delegates.

 

And then it would become the Wild West. Backroom conventioneering would take on a life of its own, with countless deals being struck to choose the most unifying Republican ticket to take on Obama.

 

And who might top that list?  Well, put it this way. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would do well to start using a treadmill. More than anyone else, Christie’s ability to tell it like it is, take no prisoners, and bulldog his way to success — despite major Democratic majorities in the state assembly — make him a Party favorite.  He is one of a very few who commands respect by the Establishment, rank-and-file grassroots activists, and Tea Parties alike.

 

Republicans, Democrats and Independents may not always agree with Christie, but they always know where he stands, and his speak-from-the-heart style is a breath of fresh air in a world of sound bites, talking points and focus groups.

 

Christie may have foreseen this scenario, possibly explaining why he declined to run in the brutal primaries. And for those who predict Christie as a Romney VP, forget it.  He is nobody’s Number Two, and almost certainly would not sign on to a meaningless ceremonial post when he could have, quite possibly, captured the top prize for himself had he wanted to do so.

 

Should Christie decline an offer made at a brokered convention, the list of frontline candidates grows relatively thin, but undoubtedly Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and, dare we say it — Jeb Bush! — would certainly be in play.

 

This scarcity of good candidates is testament to what happens when a political party refuses to build its bench with folks who actually believe in things, instead promoting those whose “turn it is.” Look no further than Bob Dole and John McCain. It’s pretty sad that in the election many Republicans are calling the most important in American history, the GOP can muster so few viable contenders.

 

No matter how it eventually plays out, the battle for the Republican nomination will go on for at least the next four months, and that’s a good thing. Despite the conventional wisdom as postulated by pundits that divisive primaries only serve to weaken the Party’s candidates and needlessly give an advantage to the opponent, the opposite is true. Combative and lengthy primaries make candidates stronger, sharper and better prepared for the rigors of a general election presidential campaign. Barack Obama proved that in his protracted battle with Hillary.

 

And given that Obama is in the driver’s seat to emerge victorious in November, a long primary season — and even a brokered convention — could be just what the doctor ordered to energize the Republican Party and unify what is now a very discontented base.

 

President Christie, anyone?

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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February 4, 2012 at 11:18 am Comment (1)

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