Tony Blankley

The media tend to be filled with many items that are either untrue or obvious. Last week -- from Politico to cable television, from Karl Rove to Mike Huckabee -- was a moment for the obvious to be stated and restated: "The GOP should not underestimate how hard it will be to defeat President Obama next November; indeed, he has to be considered the favorite to win the next presidential election." True.

Of course, the same thing could have been (and was) said about President Lyndon Johnson in the spring of 1967 and about Jimmy Carter in the spring of 1979. Every incumbent president is the most formidable political force in the country. Even a deeply wounded president must be seen as formidable -- as Thomas Dewey learned to his regret in 1948 when President Harry Truman won the election even though the Democratic Party had been split three ways (both the pacifist left and the segregationist faction split off and ran their own candidates -- Henry Wallace ran on the Progressive ticket, Strom Thurmond ran on the Dixiecrat ticket.)

In 1967-68, no prominent Democratic candidate -- including Sen. Robert Kennedy -- was prepared to take on a Vietnam War politically wounded Lyndon Johnson until the unlikely Eugene McCarthy got 42 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Kennedy then got in, and LBJ announced he would not run for re-election.

And in 1980, Ronald Reagan was actually running 8 points down in the Gallup Poll in October 1980 (only weeks before the election he eventually won by 10 percent more of the popular vote than incumbent Jimmy Carter).

It is also a truism of American politics for the out party's primary contenders to be seen as not presidential. They are often disparaged as "the seven dwarfs," or lacking presidential stature, or too right-wing or unknown.

And last week was also the moment for prominent and respected Republicans (George Will and former Gov. John Sununu) to pronounce various of the likely Republican contenders unfit for nomination or election to the presidency. But then, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were all written off as either unelectable or unfit by various prominent members of their respective parties. They all ended up being respectfully called "Mr. President," often by the very people who disparaged their chances a year before.

So, yes, of course, Republicans should not take lightly the challenge of defeating Obama. On the other hand, rarely has an incumbent president presided over a more dangerous world with a foreign policy so manifestly adrift.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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