A ballot choice of "None of the Above" might come out on top in the Republican primaries ahead. The lack of a clear cut choice has the GOP in a pickle. None of the above candidates are emerging as the obvious choice.
TIME's Michael Duffy sees it this way:
Republicans normally pour the same amount of uncertainty into picking a presidential nominee that Buckingham Palace puts into its Changing of the Guard. That is, as little as possible. Republicans prefer to find a brand-name, big-state Governor, surround him with the same right-thinking brains on taxes, foreign policy and the New Testament, back him with all the cash he will need to corner TV time in New Hampshire and then run the nominee through a quick gauntlet of primaries before anyone else has a chance at the prize. The whole thing makes for more of a ritual than a race, but there's no doubting that the formula works. In the past seven presidential elections, GOP nominees have lost only twice.
But these are not normal times for Republican Party satraps, who can be best described these days as dispirited, confused and just plain tired. Their presidential nominating race has less clarity today than it did a year ago, less even than it did three months ago. Polls point to the political equivalent of a total solar eclipse, with three different Republicans leading in three of the initial primary and caucus states: Mike Huckabee in Iowa, Mitt Romney in New Hampshire and Rudy Giuliani in Michigan. None of these men, at present, would beat Hillary Clinton in a general-election matchup, and each would fare little better against Barack Obama. "If somebody could run as None of the Above," says former McCain campaign chief John Weaver, "he would be the front runner."
Watching the GOP search for a nominee has been a little like going to dinner at one of those mock medieval-jousting shows, where knight after knight appears in shining armor, only to be knocked rudely off his horse and into the dirt. Early White House favorites George Allen and Bill Frist quickly fell by the wayside in 2006. John McCain -- too much of a maverick to ever be a GOP favorite, and yet a year ago the presumptive front runner -- crash-landed his campaign this summer and is only now showing signs of an unlikely resurrection. His friend Fred Thompson materialized in midsummer to catch McCain's crown, but he fizzled fast. Romney became the party's default darling, spending his way to the top of several polls. But now he too has taken hits for being slippery, and what counts as momentum has passed to Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher from, of all places, Hope, Ark. The way the recurring nightmare has been going, Huckabee is likely to be unhorsed right about ... now.[...]
"It is without a doubt," says GOP strategist Ralph Reed, "the most unpredictable roller-coaster ride we've seen in a Republican primary since the rise of the primary in the 1960s." Party-history buff Newt Gingrich went further: he called the GOP contest the most wide-open race the party has held since 1940 -- the year Wendell Willkie needed six ballots to capture the nomination before losing to F.D.R. in a third-term landslide.
The very good, very obvious reason for this dilemma is the screwing of America performed by the Bush/Cheney White House team. I've encountered the anger American conservatives feel first-hand as recently as this last Thanksgiving dinner with my father, who has voted Republican for the last 40 years and now says he'd vote for Obama in the 2008 General Election, given the chance.
My father hasn't discovered his liberal side -- he's just ready to send a message to the GOP that it needs to reform and get back to its Reagan roots, and feels that the election ahead is a lost cause as far as the Republican chances for the White House are concerned so why not send a big message by voting for a Democrat. Dad was impressed by Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention and he has followed Obama ever since. He sees in Obama someone who can heal the nation.
And he's right. Obama is, in my own view as well as his, the best qualified individual to lead the nation through a healing and recovery program and on to bigger and better things. Dad would prefer that to be done with fiscal restraint and conservative social principles in mind, but he sees no one -- none of the above -- among the Republican candidates who wouldn't just screw the nation further along the same lines of the Bush/Cheney necon-driven disaster.
It isn't as if the GOP didn't have a chance in the 2008 election, it's just that the Christian right is unwilling to compromise the hard-right social principles that drive their election choices.
From the very first debates Mitt Romney, who fits the big-state Governor model perfectly, emerged as the candidate who in my estimation had the best chance of taking the White House. His choice of religion eliminated him as a viable, electable candidate in the eyes of the Christian-istas however, hence Dad's lament. "The religious zealots have taken over the GOP," says Dad, shaking his head.
He places the blame on Karl Rove, and I agree. Rove screwed the GOP, and the result stemming from the widespread recognition of that fact is that Rove was run out of the White House by those hoping to salvage the GOP's chances in 2008. It was too little too late.
2012 could be a whole different ballgame, but for the upcoming 2008 elections my father will, along with many of his fellow disillusioned, true Reagan conservatives, be holding their nose and pulling the lever next to a Democrat's name for the first time in several decades.
True conservative patriots like my father will not just stay home and not vote in protest, they'll choose "none of the above" by choosing the Democratic nominee.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!