A friend of mine commented the other day that she was growing tired of the Mitt-Newt volleys and super pacs. After cruising the GOP buffet going back to the days when even Gary Johnson was still all-in, she was leaning toward Rick Santorum. “The problem is.” she lamented “is that he lacks…Santorumism.”
Suddenly aware that I might be present at the birth of new word in the language of elections, I pressed her for what she meant by that. “I support everything he says in his campaign speeches, but he’s missing Santorumism” she replied. I was still intrigued and had to know what she meant by the word. She had other things to do that day but agreed to explore it with me and we finally distilled what she was trying to say. While she likes what he has to say, but she is disappointed that he seems to lack that ineffable quality of a serious contender. What she wanted was a Santorum with the polish and presence of the Rominee, combined with the pitbull aggressiveness we have seen out Gingrich.
She is not alone in having not entirely committed herself to one of the remaining camps. The Rasmussen Report indicated last week that 33 to 34 percent of those polled indicated that they would like to see someone else get into the GOP race. That’s one third of the respondents, give or take. Last year, John LeBoutillier prophesied that there was someone waiting in the Republican shadows for the right moment to emerge and take the lead in the race.
Everyone in the commentatriat has said that this contest will go right down to the wire at the convention, as Newt and Mitt continue to duke it out. (And yes I am aware Ron Paul will hang in there.) But it has been interesting that the majority has not really seemed to solidify behind one or the other. That may be due to the mercurial nature of the caucus and primary results, but I think it has more to do with the 33 percenters out there. The people I have talked to that do not have radio or TV shows or columns are leaning toward the Rominee, but so far no clear winner has emerged.
I am willing to bet that there are more 33 percenters out there than those Rasmussen talked to: people who see something that they like in each of the candidates but can’t fully commit to putting a sticker on their bumper for anyone yet. And I think I know why.
Every conservative out there is waiting for the Second Coming. No, I’m not talking about that Second Coming, I mean the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan.
Every conservative looks to the Reagan Era as conservativism in its full flower. For many of us, the Reagan Era is our version of Kennedy’s Camelot. In fact, I would argue that Newt got into more trouble last week over his relationship to Reagan than he has for all of the accusations of his peccadilloes. We are Republicans, and thou shalt not mess with Reagan.
And so in the back of our minds, we are looking at the collection of candidates and trying to gauge which will be the most like Reagan
Now let's be clear: as a liberal I mocked and despised Reagan. As a conservative I learned to appreciate and respect Reagan. But fellow believers, Reagan is dead and he will not be returning from Avalon. And even if he were still with us, he served two terms and couldn’t run, anyway.
The country and the world have changed since the 1980’s, and even if the changes were not as drastic as they are, the simple fact remains that Reagan has assumed a status in the GOP mythology that cannot be replicated or even approached.
No candidate will be the next Reagan, and we should stop looking for his face in theirs. Instead, we should wrest the discussion from the media and the Super Pacs, and let the candidates know what we expect from them. We should drive the issues and we must drive the nomination.