What The Hedgehog Knows About the GOP Presidential Race

Posted: Jan 20, 2011 10:18 AM

On my radio show on Wednesday, January 19, Dick Morris flatly declared that Mitt Romney could not win the Republican nomination for president because of the health care plan Romney guided into law in Massachusetts in 2005.

On the same day my friend and superb political analyst John Hinderaker of Powerline fame declared that it was over for Sarah Palin.

“The time has come to put any thoughts of Sarah Palin running for President to rest,” John wrote.

“I say that not because I dislike her; on the contrary, I'm a fan,” Hinderaker continued. “I think she did an excellent job as a vice-presidential candidate in 2008 and has been an effective spokeswoman for conservative causes in the years since.”

“But there is no way she is ever going to be elected President,” he concluded “and the sooner Republicans get over that idea, the better.”

With the arrival of a Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that Romney, Palin and Mike Huckabee are grouped at the top of the GOP primary voters’ preferences, I guess we have to hope that Fox lets the rocker-governor-preacher out of his contract.

Actually the best assessment of the state of the GOP race for a nominee to face President Obama came from Karl Rove, also from a conversation on my show. (It is broadcast weeks like this one and interviews like these as well as with Politico’s John Harris and the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza which have made 1260 AM a must-listen at 6 PM every weekday night in D.C.) Her’s the key exchange with Rove:

HH: In the first hour of tonight’s program, Dick Morris…said flatly that Mitt Romney cannot get the presidential nomination because of Massachusettscare. Do you agree with that?

KR: I think it is too early to make that declarative sentence. But I do agree that this is the principal challenge that Mitt Romney’s candidacy would face if he were to become a candidate. But look, my view is this year is a year in which every candidate gets a chance to recognize their challenges, to recognize their strengths, and to overcome those challenges and to bolster their strengths. And if Mitt Romney recognizes that his answer on why what they did in Massachusetts looks so much like what Obama tried to do in the country, if he recognizes that it’s a problem, then he’ll work his way out of the problem. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. But right now, everybody…it’s better to describe the challenges they face than to make judgments about how they’re going to handle those challenges over the next six or seven months. If somebody says “Look, I think this is so-and-so’s challenge, and I don’t think they’re going to be able to to overcome it, I don’t think they’re going to be able to find an answer,” that’s one thing. But to say “Look, it’s over right now,” I’m not certain I would be that definitive.

What Rove knows and has known for a long time, and what I learned in 2007 and 2008, is that no one knows what the next 15 months holds for the GOP field. What I thought I knew in 2007 and 2008 was that there was one certain thing, and only one: John McCain couldn’t be the GOP nominee. McCain couldn’t be the GOP nominee because of his advocacy of immigration reform that the base thought was amnesty. Because of his sponsorship of the Gang of 14. Because of his opposition to the Bush tax cuts and his authorship of the McCain-Feingold reworking of campaign finance laws.

McCain couldn’t be the nominee, I concluded, because he had run against the party and the conservative base so long and so hard.

Because of Mike Huckabee’s surge in Iowa, the deal between Huck and McCain in West Virginia, McCain’s win in New Hampshire and Romney’s win in Michigan and Nevada, the nomination fight came down to one man in Florida – then Governor Charlie Crist. When Crist double crossed at least Rudy or Mitt (or both) and endorsed McCain in the closing days of the Florida primary campaign, McCain won narrowly and the nomination went to the Arizona senator.

Please send me a link to the column from 2007 that came close to predicting that course of events.

Almost everything written in 2007 was irrelevant to the actual events of 2008. That is what Rove knows.

The foxes at Townhall.com, Politico.com, NationalReview.com and the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and every other newspaper with political reporters know many things, but the hedgehog Rove knows one thing: We don’t know –cannot know-- how this will shake out or why.

This time around I am concentrating on the reality of the awful mess the contry is in. The complexities of our situation are daunting, and the reality is the president is in a suit four sizes too large, overwhelmed and understaffed, clueless about what works for the economy and captive of a snarling left wing that he agrees with in his heart even as the party’s “wise old men” are trying to tug him to the center.

By the time a new president arrives in the Oval Office in January 2013, he or she will be looking at such an array of disfiguring laws and regulations as well as terrible challenges abroad as to perhaps cause them to turn around and give back the keys. Read Mark Steyn’s new piece in the New Criterion, “Dependence Day,” and project out ten years.

The Republicans simply have to get this right. The nation cannot afford a second Obama term or a botched Republican repair job. The next fifteen months must be spent carefully assessing and selecting the candidate who can win and, far more importantly, the candidate who can, by enormous force of will and with great assistance from many talented people, turn the country’s direction back towards greatness.

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