Return of the Right-Wing Professional Politician

Dave Weigel has a good catch today, suggesting that Mitt Romney decision to run as a businessman rather than as the former Governor of Massachusetts probably owed a lot to the big 2010 Tea Party meme whereby the Republican Party was replacing those hawkish, whorish Professional Politicians of the Establishment with people who were from that job-creating private sector. But as Weigel notes, even big-time movement conservatives seem to be backing candidates for Senate races this year who haven’t exactly met a lot of payrolls:

This year, we are low on Hank Reardens. Look at the map of states Republicans need to conquer if they want to take the Senate. One of their chosen candidates, Pennsylvania’s Tom Smith, is a bona fide Tea Partier and coal magnate, but he’s down by 19 points. If you go by David Catanese’s reliable list of races, five top candidates—Virginia’s George Allen, Montana’s Denny Rehberg, North Dakota’s Rick Berg, New Mexico’s Heather Wilson, and Florida’s Connie Mack IV—have current or expired congressional ID pins.

And there’s more! Ohio’s Josh Mandel, 34, a Marine Corps Reserves vet (you can tell by the camo in all of his ads), has never worked in the private sector. The Tea Party hero of the cycle so far, Indiana’s giant-slayer Richard Mourdock, is the state’s treasurer. The next hero on deck, Texas’s Ted Cruz, was an attorney for the federal government and the state of Texas.

For that matter, if you look at the candidates conservatives are looking to as acceptable running-mates for Mitt, there are an awful lot of people who didn’t exactly light up the world with accomplishments before they entered public service. Right-wing heartthrob Bobby Jindal was running his state’s Medicaid program in his mid-twenties; I’m guessing his most notable earlier accomplishment was participating in an exorcism as a college student. T-Paw was elected to his first public office at 28. Marco Rubio was a municipal commissioner before being elected to the legislature at 29; his life in the private sector was mostly marked by close brushes with bankruptcy. Rob Portman was a DC lawyer-lobbyist before joining Bush 41’s staff at the age of 33.

So no, there’s not a lot of job-creatin’ on your average GOP resume these days. As has often been the case, Mitt Romney may have once again been a bit out of step.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.