The GOP Nomination: There Is Mitt Romney, And Then There Is Everybody Else

Don QuixoteDespite all the clatter and bang of the political media, despite all the daily back-and-forthing and to-and-froing, despite all the debating and positioning, there is really only one thing you need to know to understand the contest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012:

There is Mitt Romney, and then there is everybody else.

It’s easy to lose sight of this if you read the news or watch the cable nets. Every day they have a new twist in the story, a new angle, a new face that’s either waxing or waning. But that’s all colored smoke and streamers; the truth that remains when the smoke has blown away and the circus has bedded down for the night never really changes.

There is Mitt Romney, and then there is everybody else.

This truth poses a huge problem for the Republican Party. Because Republicans — most of them, anyway — don’t really like Mitt Romney all that much.

Oh, there are some. But they aren’t enough. Challengers have come and gone, but the share of the Republican base that supports Romney has never really wavered — it’s consistently around 25%. But that’s not enough, all by itself, to win Romney the nomination.

The other 75% of Republicans, though, aren’t in any better position than Romney’s people are. All they need to beat Romney is a candidate to rally around who isn’t a complete buffoon. But despite months of increasingly desperate searching, they have yet to find one.

Herman Cain is the one in the news today, but he’s just the latest in a long line of anti-Romneys. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry each took a turn carrying the banner, only to drop it when it became clear to even the most die-hard Romney-hater that they couldn’t campaign their way out of a paper bag. Next they turned to Cain, who is busy demonstrating the same quality.

You would think that the support of three-quarters of a major national political party would be a sought-after prize. But that particular Golden Ticket been offered to so many clowns now that it has begun to appear a bit shopworn. Those who have it waved in their faces, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have to wonder why if it’s so valuable nobody else competent has stepped up to snatch it by now. (Christie struck a blow on behalf of overweight Americans everywhere by refusing it, demonstrating conclusively that just because somebody is fat doesn’t mean they’re also stupid.)

The reason is that it’s a poisoned chalice. The person who ends up holding that Golden Ticket wins the “opportunity” to become an enemy to the Republican aristocracy, which lined up behind Romney long ago, and the “opportunity” to run in a general election during a major economic downturn with the word “Republican” next to their name. Neither of these is what you would call appealing, at least to anyone with any desire for a long-term national political career.

Which leaves the Bachmanns and Perrys and Cains and Gingriches, who care less about building a legacy over the long haul and more about keeping their books off the remainders pile and juicing their attractiveness on the lecture circuit. That doesn’t mean that they can’t win the nomination, of course; when it’s last call and the pickings are slim, even the ugly can sometimes find someone to go home with. But that’s a far cry from true love flowering in the bloom of spring.

The signs are that the anti-Romney Republicans are beginning to see this.  They just launched a Web site,, which expounds at length on the premise that Romney must not be allowed to become the Republican nominee.

The deep thinking that went into their position can be seen in the buttons on the site’s navigation:

Romney: He Can't Win! But We're Doomed If He Does!“Waiter, this food is terrible! And the portions are so small!

While the site has plenty to say about why Romney shouldn’t be the nominee, it is conspicuously silent on the obvious next question, which is who should be, if not Romney. That is most likely because for them to answer that next question would involve directing our gaze upon a gallery of political grotesques even more shocking than those they have trotted out to date, and even they realize that’s not a great way to win votes.

Which brings us right back to where we began.

There is Mitt Romney, and then there is everybody else.