FORFEIT

Another day, another moral majoritarian cheating on his wife, buying a reacharound in a public toilet, or exploring the beautiful synergy of crystal meth and gay hookers. When I heard about Senator John Ensign admitting to a lengthy affair with a staffer (who is also married) the only thing that surprised me was that after 10 years in the Senate John Ensign managed to get a headline. We've long since passed the point at which simple adultery from our elected officials is shocking. This Mark Sanford thing, though… It was bizarre. Fortean. Oddly reminiscent of the runaway bride (the person, not the horrible film). Of all the potential outcomes that came to mind when I heard that Gov. Sanford had gone AWOL, "He's in Argentina" was #1,057 on the list. But reality trumps plausability yet again.

From my point of view the real fallout of this whole bizarre episode is that Sanford's political career is over. Don't get me wrong, I think about as much of Mark Sanford as a politician as I do of Glenn Reynolds as a blogger, but he was one of the better, or at least less laughably bad, GOP contenders for 2012. Objectively he had a few things going for him. Popular Governor. Not a Washington insider. New, as opposed to recycled garbage like Gingrich and Haley Barbour. Not a bad looking guy. Good enough verbal skills to make himself sound like he's not retarded even though he is. I'll go as far as to say that he was the leading contender in a horrid GOP field, roughly akin to being the best player on the Washington Nationals.

In that light, the ramifications of this incident on the 2012 race are significant. The pool of Republicans who would make good candidates is empty and they're starting to run out of candidates who are even plausible. I know everyone hates it when I talk about elections too far in advance, but what in the hell is that party going to do in 2012? They might have a hard time scraping up enough candidates to make a competitive field let alone any good ones.

My position on the re-election of the current President hasn't changed and will not. If there is any measurable indication of economic recovery between January 20, 2009 and the onset of the 2012 Election (roughly 1/1/2012) then the race is going to be a 1984-style coronation. The Republicans could run Abraham Lincoln and it wouldn't matter. Obama took office and things sucked. If things do not suck (or suck less) when the next election rolls around the election could be a blowout like we haven't seen in 20+ years. If things get worse or stagnate, a good Republican could take him down.

Now. Find me a good Republican.

Palin is going to be the candidate if scenario #1 happens – with a rosy economy and no chance of beating Obama, the GOP will be more than happy to let some idiot waste her time and money running in a race she will lose by 200 Electoral Votes. She will be the nominee because no one else will be lining up to donate his or her body for that kind of beating. In the second scenario the Party will try a little harder to find a credible nominee. Jindal? Uh, first impressions went poorly. Also, his background has plenty of gossip fodder in it, what with the exorcisms and such. Tim Pawlenty is the only name making the rounds who seems reasonable on paper (Governor, "independent" cred, etc.) but he looks and sounds like a used car salesman. Obama would really have to be on the ropes to lose to a piece of white bread like Pawlenty. Charlie Crist? There's some potential there, but there's also that vicious "arranged marriage/in-closet" rumor. Mitch Daniels? Decent, but really dull. No one will get excited about that guy.

Other than that, we have the reruns like Gingrich, Huckabee (whose Fox show isn't helping, as he comes off like an infomercial host while interviewing "American Idol" contestants and the cast of "The Biggest Loser"), and Romney. Mittens might get the nod over Palin in a sacrificial lamb scenario, as he has more money to blow, but before picking any of these guys the GOP would be better off forfeiting the election and retaining some dignity.

It has been a long time – perhaps the 1996 GOP nomination or the 1988 Democratic field which settled on Michael "The Hindenburg" Dukakis by default – since I've seen a field this bad, bearing in mind that the 2008 GOP field was really bad. I guess that is the logical end result of a party that has been shrinking continuously for 25 years, a regional party which can't feasibly hope to win statewide offices outside of the former Confederacy or the southwestern Sun Belt. A shrinking party produces a shrinking pool of good candidates and, as we see in Sanford's case, the pool of candidates is shrinking itself as well.

(OK, should we just start the Jeb Bush betting pool now?)

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17 Responses to “FORFEIT”

  1. Natalie Says:

    Awww man, now I'm going to have Jeb Bush related nightmares. Dammit.

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    My exact words to my father in discussing the Sanford fallout: "I mean, fuck me–Jeb Bush is starting to look viable!" And then we were both quiet for an uncomfortable moment.

  3. FMguru Says:

    Good points. A couple of notes:

    1) Even if there were any good Republicans, there's a good chance they'd take a pass on running in 2012 if the recovery scenario you describe is coming to pass. I think this is why Jindal is moving away from running in '12. What's left of the heavy hitters will decide to spend more time their families and doing the work that the people of State X sent them to do. Remember how, in late 1991, all of the heavy-hitter Democratic contenders (Gore, Nunn, Cuomo, etc.) bowed out in the face of Bush's towering post-Iraq I numbers? Same thing.

    2) It'll be Palin vs. Mittens, and Romney will win. All the social conservatives will line up behind Sarah, all the big money boys will support Mitt. It could end up creating serious long-term breaches between the wings, like how the 1968 and 1972 primaries helped splinter the Democratic coalition.

    3) The emptiness of the Republican bench is just amazing. Presidential candidates come from four places: Governors, Senators, Vice Presidents, and Generals of Winning Wars (note that the list doesn't include Representatives, Pundits, Journalists, or Businessmen). Well, the VP bench is Cheney and Quayle, the last credible general of a winning war just publicly switched his allegiance to the Dems (Powell), their Senate Caucus is a collection of pudgy old white southern dudes, and you gave a good rundown of their governors. Funnily, the two highest-profile Republican governors (in CA and FL) are unelectable – one's not a natural-born citizen, the other's a Bush. I also think that the next 4 years are going to be no fun for governors in general – they're going to have to raise taxes and slash popular programs to balance their budgets. It's easy to be popular as a governor when your state tax receipts are soaring; by 2012, all of the Republican governors will be defending their decisions to declare sawdust a food group for school lunch programs and close half their state's hospitals.

    All those Senate seats and Governorships are little incubators for future Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. And the Democrats have been stealing them from the R's for the last dozen years. This is going to make the Republican's ability to climb out the hole they're in very, very difficult.

    4) There's no potential dark horse on the horizon. They scraped the cupboard bare in 2008 (remember when Fred Thompson was supposed to jump in and save the party?) and there's literally no-one else they can plug in. Anyone not on the horizon right now – a State Senator or something – will be so green and inexperienced compared to Obama running a Rose Garden campaign as to not even be a speedbump to re-election.

  4. FMguru Says:

    Oops, one other thing:

    5) The up-for-grabs nature of the 2012 Republican field should bring out just an incredible array of kooks and goofballs and single-issue nutters Alan Keyes and Ron Paul will look like senior statesmen compared to who will be throwing their hat into the ring. Paul's 08 campaign shows how a candidate can tap a single constituency to be viable in the primary far beyond their chance of winning. If some of those wingnuts follow Paul's example, this will be a long, long primary for the GOP that will do real damage to their image (what's left of it). Obama will be holding White House events and signing legislation, and the Republicans will be holding televised debates where a Klansman will ask a 9/11 truther about abolishing the Fed and returning to the gold standard.

    I can't wait.

  5. cschack Says:

    Nugent/Prejean 2012.

    That is all.

  6. Desargues Says:

    I submit we may see a the-whiteness-strikes-back ticket in 2012: John Thune/Sarah Palin. Of course, it's not going to be a winning ticket under any but the most dire circumstances for the Democrats. But Thune has already advanced to number 4 in the Republican hierarchy; enough wackos will think he's the angry white man's response to Obama. And the Caribou Barbie is taking the first steps in her long, arduous journey from inarticulacy to mere rambling, which is what passes for good speechifying among Republicans these days.

    For Thune, it may just be a dry run for 2016, when Obama will be out of the race for good. As to the redneck from Juneau, she's delusional enough to think she has real chances at anything but an AVN Award for best GILF performance.

  7. dbsmall Says:

    Under "good Republican", my bet is on Jeb, too. Actually, I think Jeb might be what W promised—a fiscal conservative, and who knows what on social issued. This is in contrast to W—social regressive and who knows what on fiscal issues.

    We now have two more euphemisms for cunnilingus:
    1) Going down to Argentina
    2) Crying in another country. (I'm not actually sure how to make this one work, but there's definitely something there..)

    God, I hope the USA is solvent in 3.5 years….

  8. JohnR Says:

    I dunno – unless things really go to hell in a handbasket over the next couple years (which is quite possible, of course), I don't see Jeb being stupid enough to take a run at it. He's young enough to hold out and wait for better times. Even W isn't that stupid. Palin, of course – the only thing greater than her stupidity is her boundless ambition, but even Romney I think would pause and reflect (if there's a mirror handy, anyway). My money's on Ron Paul and Palin going toe-to-toe; Paul, because it's his big chance, and Palin because she's stupid to the bone.
    Of course, all these considerations go out the window if the Secret Service gets caught flat-footed and the Dmeocrats have to put up another candidate in 2012, God forbid.

  9. JohnR Says:

    ps – "going down to Argentina"; that really has a nice ring to it.

  10. dan Says:

    Watch this Thune fellow. I see Facebook groups sprouting up around this smiley empty suit.

  11. Ed Says:

    Thune will take a run at it, but it's hard to picture anyone getting real excited about him other than the people who are going to get really excited about anyone with "R" after their name on the ballot.

    He's Pat Robertson on social issues and his electoral track record isn't exactly impressive. Yes, his hollow smile and ultraconservatism could build him a bandwagon, but it's more likely to be a Huckabee style bandwagon full of true believers and not much else.

  12. Desargues Says:

    Ed, you're correct in your surmise. But we're basically making the same point here. I didn't mean to imply that Thune will have a large following or a critical mass to propel him to anywhere near 50% of the electoral vote. I was just suggesting that this will be the Republicans' most likely course of action.

    As to your question, rather than ask, who's going to run as a Republican AND have the chance/appeal to get enough votes, maybe we should wonder: even if there were such an unlikely figure, would the farm animals on the Right even let him/her get past their primaries? Note that their reaction to two catastrophic losses, in 06 and 08, has been to close ranks, engage in ideological purges, and purity tests. The last thing on the "Base's" mind (i.e., most of the braying retards who come out and vote in Republican primaries) is to compromise, reach out, diversify, moderate, or generally contemplate any return to sanity.

    They're in a bind of their own making — Rove's dark arts backfiring spectacularly. They unleashed the cave-dwellers and gave them the illusion of influence and control, for two consecutive mandates. Now they're finding, much to the elites' dismay, that the beast won't come back into the cage. I say to them, good luck controlling your inbrednecks, motherfuckers. Thanks, Karl. the 50-year long majority thing worked admirably. But for the Democrats.

    Maybe the DNC should write this guy a big check.

  13. SamInMpls Says:

    T-Paw won office with 44.4% in a 4 party race and was reelected with 46.7% in a 3 party race. He doesn't make it past Iowa.

  14. comrade x Says:

    Pawlenty may pass up the " honor" of being GOP presidential candidate for 2012. The man is a pure professional in the political arena. How else could this guy convince the bluest state in the Union to re- elect him, even though he is a complete asshole.
    Don't underestimate him.

  15. Emily Says:

    "Popular Governor."

    Erm, Sanford's popularity bit the big one right around the time he decided that refusing the stimulus package in a state with an absolutely abysmal public school system (the US Chamber of Commerce gives us a D in academic achievement) was a good idea:

    Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Mark Sanford?
    Favorable – 40%.
    Unfavorable – 53%
    Not Sure – 7%

    Do you agree or disagree with Governor Sanford's efforts to try and stop President Obama's economic stimulus package from being spent in South Carolina?
    Agree– 37%.
    Disagree – 53%.
    Not Sure – 10%
    –from The State. March 19 2009.

    At any rate, I prefer "hiking the Appalachian Trail" as code for infidelity over "going down to Argentina." It has a more universal appeal. I'm just saying.

  16. Bob Hopeless Says:

    In regards to the Republicans not fielding a candidate and
    "retaining their dignity", I must ask exactly what dignity are they
    currently in possession of and cold possibly retain?

  17. Tom Says:

    One point not mentioned here:

    Sanford is an Air Force Captain, which means that he committed a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All service members can be charged with what amounts to a felony for a civilian for committing adultery.