Michael Gerson – David Brooks without the tough, biting, punky edge–tells us in The Washington Post that we should not write off Mitt Romney . Sure, things look bad for the Republican brand right now, he says, but we should resist the temptation to speculate this situation into infinity. Just eight months ago, he reminds us, “ President Obama was losing the debt debate with congressional Republicans. His approval rating was approaching an all-time low, with support collapsing among independents and fading among Democrats.” Things, he correctly points out, can change. Obama, he prudently notes, has his weaknesses. “There is currently no way of knowing what factors — a memorable debate, a conflict with Iran, $6-per-gallon gasoline — might swing the momentum” in the fall.
Right you are, Mikey: it’s a long road that knows no turnin’. But speaking as someone who in the fall of 1984 charted out six or eight entirely plausible scenarios in which Fritz Mondale could top Ronald Reagan , sometimes you just have to believe what you see with your own two eyes.
Thanks to the mixed results of last night’s Super Tuesday primaries, the eight-month long commercial for Republican dysfunction and inadequacy will go on for a while. Eight months ago, the failure of Washington to move ahead on solutions and avoid debacles like the debt ceiling issue could arguably be placed on President Obama. (I personally wouldn’t argue that proposition, but it could be argued.) Now, after this prolonged exposure to the best and the brightest of the GOP, we see what a damaged, deranged bunch they are. I mean, can you believe that Rick Santorum , after patiently waiting as one goofball after another gets up and says “Nine nine nine” or has a brain freeze or talks about colonizing the moon, finally gets his moment in the spotlight, and then uses that moment to tell American that he’ll use the presidency to talk about why birth-uncontrolled sex is so very special?
What this whole parade shows lays bare is that since the Republicans lost in 2008, their single idea has to practice a political scorched earth policy. Thwart the Democrats at every turn, they have said. Since we can’t win, ain’t nobody going to win. Under the smokescreen of charges and countercharges, facts and counterfacts, the Republicans got away with a lot of their intransigence. Now with the bright light of the presidential campaign beaming upon them, it is clear that they have nothing to offer. And it is likely to get worse. Rush Limbaugh labels a proper young lady law student a slut and a prostitute, and then says that the criticism being labeled against him is a sign of the Democrats’ “desperation.” That’s how it gets worse.
On Saturday, David Brooks –who is like Michael Gerson , without the kicky eyeglasses and lush hairstyle–gave what I think is a tongue-in-cheek prediciton. “There’s no way the Republicans can continue to drift inevitably into a protest movement, though. The electorate has moved right, but not that far right. Here’s what I think may happen. Romney gets the nomination and is defeated. Republicans decide they are sick of nominating “moderates” and next time they go haywire. Then the party gets really crushed and sanity returns.”
That’s kind of far ahead for my crystal ball. Michael Gerson may well be right; I find reversion to the mean is often a pretty smart way to bet. But I think maybe what all this focus on the Republicans has revealed is that we’ve been watching minor league baseball, that we’ve been watching guys who just don’t play the game that well, who aren’t that smart and aren’t that capable and who don’t have much to offer. In the meantime, Barack Obama has been looking presidential pretty nearly every damn day.
[Cross-posted at JamieMalanowski.com]