Governor Reagan, who in most cases does typify his party, but in some cases there is a radical departure by him from the heritage of Eisenhower and others.
-James Earl Carter
If a poll were taken today, Jon Huntsman would be first, Romney second. Cain, Bachmann and Gingrich would be near the bottom. That poll would be of people who will be voting for Barack Obama in 2012. The idea that radical and extreme candidates are bad and will lose elections is firmly held in the minds of Republicans. In reality, it mostly applies to Democrats.
In 2008, Mitt Romney tried to claim the conservative mantle against “maverick” John McCain. The same people who like Huntsman but will settle for Romney now were the ones who thought Giuliani was a shoo-in for 2008. Instead, the primary voters liked Mike Huckabee, who became Romney’s focus of attack. Now, Romney is trying to thread the needle.
I’d like to say it’s a matter of picking the more solidly conservative candidate, but there’s a problem in the Republican Party itself. Republicans have had a taste of power since 1994 and grew accustomed to it. There has been an effort to consolidate power and moderate candidates. It almost always means defeat for Republicans. These people would rather a Democrat win than let a Tea Party candidate take their job. Alaska, Nevada, Delaware and NY-23 proved that.
Then there’s Sarah Palin. She was a last-minute choice when someone managed to talk McCain out of his “fusion” ticket with Joe Lieberman. I imagine the strategy was that disaffected Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton would prefer a female running mate. For the sake of gravitas, it should be a governor. Between the governor of Alaska and the governor of Hawaii, Palin was the better fit.
What followed was one of those political accidents like Teddy Roosevelt or Calvin Coolidge where a person outside of the political machine made it to running mate. Palin is the model of a citizen politician. She started in the PTA and eventually made it to governor. She is the GOP’s closest thing to an ambassador to the Tea Party Nation and she’s a solid conservative. And Democrats who don’t like Obama like her.
Winning this election means going hard negative on Obama. The Republicans who might otherwise sit out the election need to be energized and those thinking of voting Obama again need their spirits crushed. Romney may be capable of it, but we know for certain Sarah Palin is. Republicans had better stop listening to Democrats warning of extremism. If your opponent prefers a candidate, run screaming to the one they mock.