As everyone apt to visit this site knows by now, Herman Cain won the Florida Straw Poll. Here is the breakdown of the votes:
Herman Cain 37.11%
Rick Perry 15.43%
Mitt Romney 14.00%
Rick Santorum 10.88%
Ron Paul 10.39%
Newt Gingrich 8.43%
Jon Huntsman 2.26%
Michele Bachmann 1.5%
What it all means is, of course, anyone’s guess. In the past, the individuals who won this poll fairly frequently went on to garner the Republican nomination.
This year, I very much doubt that this will be the case. Herman Cain is an attractive man. He is an accomplished businessman; he knows a great deal about banking and the Federal Reserve. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he is a fine speaker. But he has no experience in legislative or executive office, and he is woefully ignorant in foreign affairs. If he were running for Governor, his defects in this regard would not be dispositive. But the first and most important function of our federal executive is national defense. In my judgment, he is unqualified for the Presidency . . . at this time.
What, then, did the folks in Florida have in mind? Well, to begin with, they liked Cain, and they were impressed – as well they should have been. Even more to the point, however, they did not much like anyone else. This poll was Rick Perry’s to lose, and he lost it big-time. And the collapse in his support, tellingly, did not eventuate in any rise in support for Mitt Romney.
Since this whole thing started, the Republican electorate has sent a clear signal. They want someone other than the man who brought the individual mandate to Massachusetts with Romneycare and paved the way by his example for Obamacare. For a time, Donald Trump was the surrogate for “someone-other-than-Romney.” After the debates in New Hampshire, that role fell to the spitfire from Minnesota – Michele Bachmann. When, finally, a candidate entered the field who looked for a brief moment as if he actually had the requisite gravitas and experience, her support collapsed, and Rick Perry took a commanding lead. When, however, he proved incapable of defending his record in debate and inept in articulating the principles on which the Tea-Party was founded, the Republicans in Florida voted for Cain. He is this week’s “someone-other-than-Romney.” And his support is – like that that of Trump, Bachmann, and Perry before him – a mile wide and a quarter-of-an inch deep.
What this means, in effect, is that we are back to square one. There is Romney, and there is no one else. He is what John McCain was in 2008. It is, of course, conceivable that Rick Perry was under the weather or doped up the two times that we saw him on stage. It is conceivable that he will now pull up his socks and display qualities that we no longer expect from him. But the odds are good that he is finished.
Chris Christie may come into the race. He, too, has his baggage. But no one doubts that he will be formidable in debate, and I would not be surprised to learn that he is much more conservative than he has thus far appeared to be. It is also conceivable that Governor Mitch Daniels will sit down with his wife and explain to her that the country needs him. I could even imagine Paul Ryan reluctantly stepping up to the plate.
But these may all be pipedreams. Come 31 October, when the primary deadlines first present themselves, we may have as serious candidates – Mitt Romney and no one else. I shudder to think of the long-term consequences.
Romney is a man of considerable ability. But he is not a conservative. He professes to be proud of Romneycare – which means that he sees nothing wrong with the individual mandate contained therein – i.e., with forcing the citizens of Massachusetts to buy health insurance.
I know of no one who has contributed to or commented on Ricochet who thinks this fine or admirable. The most that Romney’s admirers within our ranks can do is to reassure that he does not really believe what he says. “Trust Romney,” they say. “He is lying.”
I do not find these claims either reassuring or plausible. Generally, it seems to me, when it comes to politicians, it is not a good idea to engage in wishful thinking. My suspicion is that Mitt Romney is who he seems to be – a decent, earnest fellow worthy of personal trust who really is, as he claims, a businessman and a problem-solver. He would make a fine Secretary of Commerce. He might well keep his promise and work to repeal Obamacare. But otherwise he would be a standard managerial progressive of the sort Republicans are thoroughly familiar with – and in 2016, if we were lucky, we would be back more or less where we were in 2006 or 2007 – saddled with an entitlements state growing at a break-neck pace, subject to regulation by the administrative state in nearly every detail of our life, and slowly making our way down the road to soft despotism. The only difference is that by then we would have given up the hope that an alternative could be found.
I have with some frequency argued that the only thing that can save Progressivism in our day is the Republican Party, and I fear that we are going to nominate another Presidential candidate on the model of Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush. I am far less worried about the wounds that Barack Obama has inflicted on this country than about the wounds we are apt to inflict on ourselves. If we are not willing to stand up against the Progressive juggernaut now, when will we ever be willing?