Those of you who read regularly know that for a year I have been putting forward the pseudo-conspiracy theory that the GOP tanked this presidential election. The nomination-by-default of John McCain, the failure to pony up money for the campaign, and the almost surreally-bad Palin choice combined to create the impression that the GOP was laughing its collective ass off and daring America to vote for them. But it the mediocrity wasn't limited to the general election.

McCain won the nomination largely because the other candidates were just terrible. Tell me, please, who their nominee would have been if McCain had quit in December when his campaign appeared DOA. Huckabee? Romney? Fred Thompson? Obama might have hit 425 EV against those dipshits. These candidates and others contributed to the GOP primaries' distinctly "B" Squad feel. It was as if all the top candidates said "No way, we'll wait for an election we can actually win" and let the scrubs spend their money getting shellacked.

This all made perfect sense to me until, in light of some of the premature but always entertaining 2012 talk, I thought about who sat this race out on the GOP side. No one did. There is no "A" Squad. There was no strong candidate who decided to bide his or her time rather than run on George W. Bush's coattails. The party didn't just lose the election badly, which is a common enough occurence in our political system. Rather the election was an exhibition of how utterly bare the cupboard is for the GOP. The gaggle of amateurish bozos that competed for the nomination and of whom McCain was clearly the superior choice were the best candidates the party had in 2008. It doesn't matter that they looked less like GOP candidates than satirical caricatures of Republicans – there were no reinforcements ready to join the fray when things got ugly.

In case the party thinks the worst is over, the short-term forecast looks even more bleak.

The GOP is currently a leaderless party. Who are their notables in the Senate? Mostly ancient war horses like Orrin Hatch, Arlen Specter, and Dick Lugar. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could barely win his seat this year and is wildly unpopular outside of Kentucky. The House offers no potential stars, with Minority Leader John Boehner being the most visible member. Any of the Cabinet figures associated with the Bush administration are, if not lepers, close to it.

Fortunately the best presidential candidates are always popular governors, right? Surely the GOP has plenty of good, youngish Govs waiting to take the next step. Well…..not really. First of all, if the party plans to go this route it failed to use this election to introduce the public to unknowns from these ranks (although perhaps this was the plan with Palin, and good luck with her in 2012). Second, there just aren't that many attractive candidates. Two – Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and Indiana's Mitch Daniels – are probably the two best candidates the party could run in 2012. Both could appeal well to normal, non-psychotically-religious middle class Americans.
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Unfortunately, by "best candidates" I mean they would probably only lose by 75 or 100 EV.

No, the question of "Who's next?" does not have an easy answer for the GOP. Of course it doesn't need to be figured out four years in advance, but the traditional pool of candidates – Governors and Senators – does not appear to offer any strong, logical choices. If the new President doesn't completely, utterly blow things in his first term, the GOP isn't going to take down an incumbent Obama with Charlie Crist, Matt Blunt, or Mitch Daniels. If anything, whatever decent candidates do emerge and establish themselves as the "A" Squad will wait until 2016 unless Obama's first term is awful. Whether or not the party finds a decent leader in the next four years, we are likely to see the same parade of retreads, nobodies, and nutjobs we saw in 2008 – without a fallback option of McCain's caliber.

That's not a compliment.

23 thoughts on “KLAUS, YOU'RE "A" SQUAD”

  • Bobby Jindal's had his name thrown so much lately too. I can hear the pundits now: "He's the answer to Obama! He's not young, he's not white, and he's as opposed to abortion as Palin!" Just you wait. His hat will be in the ring.

  • I could see a Pawlenty/Jindal ticket in 2012 that might give Obama a run for his money, if the economy isn't good at that piont.

  • Kind of explains the stridency with which certain people are pushing Palin as "the next Big Star of the Party." The howling emptiness of the stage otherwise would be too horribly obvious. Joke's on them, though–with her onstage, it only seems a little more empty.

  • One-word comments rarely merit a response, but….

    1) OK, tell me who I'm overlooking, the man or woman who's coming over the hill to save the GOP. Be prepared to be laughed out of existence if your answer is Bobby "The Exorcist" Jindal.

    2) I readily and explicitly stated that if Obama blows it in his first time he can be beaten. So, "reading comprehension."

  • Powell:

    1) May have burned his bridges in the GOP

    2) Is, in the words of Bob Dole, "Bill Clinton on social issues"

    3) Has repeatedly stated that he will not enter politics to protect the privacy of his wife, who has had a number of medical/psychological issues that make her a poor candidate to be in the media spotlight.

  • Keep in mind that 4 years ago, most people didn't know who Obama was much less consider him a contender for the white house. Though I think you're right about the good candidates waiting for 2016…Assuming Obama wins a second term, history will favor a Republican winning that year…

  • Ed, you once mentioned that all the GOP conservative front-runners in 2004-2005 ended up indicted (Delay) and/or getting voted out (Santorum) by the end of 2006. I'm not sure if that list made it onto G&T, but it should be preserved for future historians somwhere.

    "We would have run a better candidate, but all of the good ones are awaiting trial or were fired."

  • Don't forget Bill Frist! People have forgotten that circa 2003-2005 he was positioning himself as The Guy for the GOP. Then he made a lukewarm committment to stem cell research and Dobson crucified him. Then he needed to go back to Tennessee to make sure he didn't get indicted.

    Most people didn't know Obama four years ago, but the Democrats at least had the sense to introduce him at the convention. I think the Republicans did a very poor job of giving America a taste of the future with its convention, which was dominated in the prime time slots by people who ran but lost in 2008 like Giuliani, Romney, and Joe Lieberman. How did that help?

  • Do you really think Jindal is that unserious a candidate? I admit, I really don't know much about the guy, and he doesn't have much of a record to boast of thus far, but assuming he proves a capable governor over the next couple of years, I think he could be a serious contender. He's got the social conservative bona fides, but he wouldn't alientate intellectuals the way Palin did. I've heard about the exorcism, although I admittedly don't know the details. But, for chrisakes, Palin was captured on video praying with a fuckin' witch hunting priest, and that didn't dissuade the hardcore believers. Plus, it apparently happened when he was in college. Anyways, you can laugh me out of existence now :-)

  • Brandon, I see him largely like Palin – you're correct in that he comes off sounding a lot smarter, but he'll have a pretty damn extensive record of nuttiness to answer for if he's in the spotlight.

    The base will love him – everyone else, call me skeptical.

    He may be the best of what's around for them, but he's not exactly a juggernaut.

  • The reason we didn't hear from any of the up and coming Republican stars is because none of them wanted to be anywhere near this toxic campaign. McCain is dead in the water (and probably going to lose his senate seat in 2010) and it will take at least two years for anyone associated with it to wash the stink off. Anyone they nominate in 2012 will be a dark horse, which leads me to say…

    I've still got my money on Jeb. He's articulate, not completely nutjob crazy, and compared to his brother he's a regular Einstein. He's also still popular in Florida – a state that the GOP will have to win in 2012. Right now, the only knocks on him are the fact that he was term limited as Governor and his last name. I don't know, is simply being named Bush enough to scare away the GOP?

    At this point, your guess is as good as mine, but I think there was a reason we heard nothing from him during the campaign.

  • I will be shocked if the GOP nominates Jeb Bush. I think he could be Reagan reincarnated and the GOP would still run like hell.

  • John and Brandon are probably right about the GOP not wanting to run Jeb. On the other hand, there are a few historical points that don't make it sound so far fetched. First, we're being pretty short sighted about this – the election was a week ago and the specter of W still hangs over us. Give President Obama a couple of years to screw up and we might not remember Bush as being so shitty. Second, it's not like the GOP doesn't have a history of having candidates with checkered pasts or off-putting associations running in primaries. Rudy Giuliani had been divorced several times and Mitt Romney is a Mormon – and that's just from this election. For God's sake, Dan Quayle ran in 2000. And finally, once a candidate gets into the primaries, it can be anyone's guess what happens at that point.

    It's probably not going to happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

  • Our memories are short, but I don't think they're that short. Two awful Bushes in 20 years might be enough to disqualify him, even if he tries to run. Plus, by 2012 or 2016 he will have been out of politics for quite some time.

    Jeb is a fascinating individual, and I have to imagine that he's deeply bitter. All his life he was groomed to take over the family business (and let's face it, he's more qualified than Georgie) and then at the last minute his drunken jack-ass brother comes home from a bender and decides he wants in.

    It's like the first season of Six Feet Under, basically.

  • Why the sour note on Gov. Blunt? After this 2008 debacle, we need a leader who is strong on conservative principles like the 2nd Amendment, low taxes, the sanctity of life and reform — and if you look at Matt Blunt's tenure, that's exactly how he governed. If you take a look at his record and push mute on the Beltway chattering class, you'll see that he grew the economy by keeping taxes low and reformed the government by cutting wasteful spending and providing transparency. I don't know if Blunt wants to be a nat'l leader, but I think he definitely has the credentials to be part of the conversation.

  • I just want to share my knowledge of your reference,

    "But Klaus, you're 'leader' of the b squad"

    that is all

  • I agree, that is exactly what the GOP needs – someone who is all about low taxes and the sanctity of life. Finding such a person will lead to success beyond anyone's wildest dreams!

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