It’s by no means unanimous, but as the primary season draws to a close, most conservatives are coalescing around Mitt Romney. A group called Citizens United Political Victory Fund produced this ad, which I think is simple but effective:
Lots of conservatives are freaking out, in the vernacular, over the prospect of the Republican Party nominating a moderate like John McCain. And most people, conservative or not, are shocked at McCain’s political resurrection since last summer. There are a number of things going on here, of course, but one of the most important is the GOP’s history of nominating the party’s heir apparent. Republicans, much more than Democrats, seem to think that whoever is “next in line” more or less deserves the nomination.
As the number two contender in 2000, McCain was the heir apparent; hence his early front-runner status. His resurgence in recent months stems from a number of factors, including his own unique stature and history, public awareness of success in Iraq, Rudy Giuliani’s decision to forgo the early primaries, and more. But the biggest factor of all may have been the reassertion of what, in Republican politics, amounts almost to the law of gravity: McCain’s status as the next candidate in line.
This Republican tendency can be frustrating, but it does spare us from embarrassments like Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis. For what it’s worth, if McCain gets the nomination this year and loses, in 2012 Mitt Romney will be the presumed candidate, assuming that he keeps himself busy with party activities over the next few years. Romney is relatively young and in excellent health; 2008 could turn out to be a tune-up for him, somewhat as 1976 was for Ronald Reagan.
Personally, I’d like to see John Thune fight Romney for the nomination on 2012, and position himself for 2016 and beyond.
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