GOP strategists and analysts sounded desperate, even panicked, when they implored Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to toss his hat in the presidential rink. Their panic to get Daniels in the race has less to do with any special magic that they think he'll bring to a campaign to oust President Obama then their mounting horror at how the best known potential GOP presidential candidates have turned the party into a three ring circus. The would-be candidates that have snatched the most media ink and public attention typified the clown lunacy that GOP regulars shudder at.
One (Donald Trump) was still musing over whether the birth certificate Obama released was really the real deal and whether Obama's college performance was fake. One (Sarah Palin) was going through back flips to not even mention Obama's name in praising the bin Laden take down. One (Michelle Bachmann) was rambling on about Obama's teleprompter. One (Herman Cain) virtually demands that the government get out of the business of taxation. And Ron Paul back at it again, claiming that he'd back legalizing marijuana. It was beyond laughable. It was pitiable.
Meanwhile, the supposed serious GOP candidates might as well be on the far side of the moon. They have virtually no name recognition, no program, little money, and busily trash around trying to find something, anything, to get some attention. None have stirred a faint pulse among GOP voters, let alone moderate and conservative independents. Not that it would much matter, it's still Palin, Bachmann, Trump, and Paul that the public knows best, and, to the terror of the GOP establishment, believes define who and what the GOP is and represents.
Daniels fever is simply the GOP's front door way of saying that the party is desperate to wipe the bile in the mouths of the electorate from the clownish antics of their media known notables. But how can the GOP do it? Even if Daniels ultimately decides to go for the White House prize, Palin, Bachmann, Trump, Cain and Paul still speak for a big swatch of GOP voters, the likes of Tea Party activists, and leaders, anti-gay, anti-abortion, gun toting, chronic tax protestors, and Christian right hardliners, neo-Confederates, and assorted racist kooks, crackpots and loons. This is the bunch that bring passion, fervor, and energy to the party. They can't be ignored. A major reason GOP presidential candidate John McCain committed what many GOP insiders still consider presidential candidate political suicide and picked Palin was because he thought that she could fire up the hardliners in a way that he couldn't hope to. The bitter truth for the GOP is that not much has changed since then.
Palin, Bachman, Trump, Cain and more often than not Paul's mug are seen round the clock on Fox, on web sites, blogs, and social media, cheered by the pack of rightwing talk show hosts, and Rush Limbaugh. They are heroes, even icons, to the Tea Party throngs, and they know that any utterance no matter how silly and irrelevant will be picked up, played up and endlessly talked about in the mainstream media. Their idolatrous followers love every word from them.
Palin, Bachmann, Trump and Cain could never have gotten non-stop media and public attention from their inane and outrageous quips alone. The media would have quickly grown tired of that and them and moved on to the next salacious, gossipy, trashy, celeb story. Their staying power is based squarely on their ability to stoke popular rage at and frustration with tin ear politicians among Democrats, but especially within the GOP, who've turned voters into invisible men and women. This translates to millions of disgruntled, frustrated voters who will be sorely tempted to push, prod and hector the GOP to give Palin, Bachmann, Trump, Cain and Paul their due. Many will be just as sorely tempted to vote for them as the maverick candidate who poses a credible alternative to Obama, and the GOP mainstream. And since there is virtually no chance any one of the media grandstanding candidates will get the GOP nomination, the fear again is that their frenzied backers will stay at home on Election Day. This would be tantamount to a vote for Obama and would be an even bigger disaster for the GOP in 2012 than 2008.
The clownish sideshow ring mastered by the fringe GOP candidates is a textbook Catch-22 for the GOP. If party leaders publicly badmouth, marginalize, or ostracize them than that almost certainly will blow the very slender chance they already have of making Obama a one term president. This would be the GOP's nightmare and Obama's dream. The GOP thankfully is stuck with its clowns.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com