Just as in the world of dating and matrimony, some political character traits or policy positions are deal breakers. Smoking, chewing tobacco and an addiction to the current version of guy buddy movies? If I were still in the land of dating, any one of those would make me send a guy packing.
When it comes to politicians, my list of no-no's is a tad more serious. If you're an anti-reproductive choice and/or anti-gay marriage candidate, I won't listen to your fund-raising robo-calls -- the political equivalent of not getting to first base.
I'm sure the GOP and "Tea Party" faithful have their own list of deal breakers. But the way things are going these days -- 17 months before the next presidential election -- those on the political right are quickly running out of viable contenders for the White House before this 2012 campaign even gets started.
For example, Newt Gingrich? He has no chance. He's had three wives and the media has been uber-focused on his wife count. But the real problem for Newt, when it comes to his base, won't be his final spouse count -- it will be the back story that's going to kill his candidacy. Will Newt treat his supporters in the less-than-respectable way he's treated his ex-es? Wife number one got dumped while she was in the hospital for cancer treatment and there are many reports that wife number two wasn't, shall we say, getting Gingrich's exclusive attention for a long time. Mix that questionable personal integrity with criticizing his fellow Republicans and new information about that six-figure charge card debt at Tiffany's, and it looks like Newt will be out of the race before he has to explain how he's going to fix the country's economic crisis, while owing more for pricey jewelry than many people pay for their houses.
As for the others? That necessary political magic combination of substance and optics is seriously lacking:
Mitt Romney -- Health care for everyone was a fab idea when he was Massachusetts governor. Now, not so much and that leaves him between a rock and hard place with both parties. And while it doesn't bother me, apparently he has an addiction to Power Point presentations that might put voters to sleep.
Sarah Palin -- Grammatically-challenged and easily distracted by bright, shiny objects, she might be the one they want, but she won't be the one they get. Aside from having to give up her lucrative speaking gigs, Palin knows that extreme social conservatives who love her won't stand for Bristol-the-unwed-mom and her impressionable toddler son living quite publicly with two single Hollywood guys. I'm guessing when Phyllis Schlafly caught wind of that one, her beehive just about blew up.
Michele Bachmann -- Being geographically-challenged isn't a good quality in a President. I give her a lot of credit for managing 28 kids over her lifetime (five biological and 23 foster children) and she's sure to be the darling of her Fire from the Heartland sisterhood, but even with her law degree, I think she needs a little primer on current events before the majority of Republicans consider her a possibility.
Ron Paul -- I'm not sure he's going to get a lot of traction with a "Let Them Drink Unpasteurized Milk" platform.
The last time a field of GOP presidential candidates looked like this, former Kansas Senator Bob Dole was the Republican choice, and we all know how that turned out. So with the GOP field looking like that group of slightly nerdy high school kids who really hoped for a cool prom date, but ultimately had to go just as a group of platonic friends, it might be time for the Republican leadership to reach out to one of those dating services like eHarmony or Match.com to find their next superstar candidate for the base to fall in love with, because the normal selection process feels like going on a series of bad blind dates.
Maybe a few well-placed ads that read something like this?
Major political party ISO leader/partner, age 35+, with proven track record of truth, frugality & fidelity. Knowledge of geography and grammar a plus. Must be experienced in keeping commitments, both personal and professional. Should love elephants, the American flag, long walks on the beach, porch swings and sunsets.
With Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump out (though I think we all have to admit at this point that Trump was never really in the race), Gingrich fading faster than you can say 'I don't know anything about that Tiffany gift box in the corner,' and Palin more interested in millions of Facebook fans than millions of voters, if the GOP doesn't act soon, they're going to be left with former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty (a guy that most Americans have no idea of) or Speaker of the House John Boehner and his 'tears are the new black' approach to political engagement.
Not that a field of less than stellar GOP candidates really bothers me all that much!
Joanne Bamberger is an expert on the political involvement of women & mothers who writes the political blog, PunditMom. Joanne is the author of the new book, Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.