Is there an inherent danger in electing a freshman Republican senator to the American presidency in 2016? After all, if one of the biggest criticisms then-candidate Obama faced from conservatives in 2008 was that he was too inexperienced, why should Republicans turn around and nominate someone like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Rand Paul this election cycle? If we’re being honest with ourselves, are they really any more qualified than he was?
As it happens, this is a question some of my colleagues debated last week during a panel discussion at CPAC:
I agree with Katie that successful governors have a much better case to make for why they deserve the nomination than senators. I also agree with Erick that it’s somewhat hypocritical for conservatives to endorse a freshman Senator in 2016 after assailing then-Sen. Obama’s resume (or lack thereof) during the 2008 campaign. But these kinds of questions are almost peripheral to what matters most; namely, nominating a candidate who can win the general election.
As Mitt Romney’s candidacy painfully showed us, Republicans can consolidate behind the most qualified person in America to serve as president. But if that person loses, their credentials, business acumen, and potential matter naught. Of course, there is a real risk in nominating a candidate who is (ahem) appealing to the base but lacks true leadership qualities and executive experience. But wouldn't you rather nominate a candidate who is unproven and can win than suffer the consequences of four or eight years of President Hillary Clinton?
By the way, there is no proven litmus test for what makes a good president. History demonstrates that candidates with little experience in government (see Abraham Lincoln) can exceed all expectations whereas presidents with all the experience in the world have failed miserably (see his successor). So while I’m inclined to support a governor in 2016—after all, they know how to “get things done,” as Katie put it—if Cruz, Rubio, or Paul prove electable and up to the task, that candidate will earn my support.
It’s as simple as that.