We are just weeks away from the first votes being cast in the race for the Republican presidential nomination -- which means it is only a matter of time before Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman enter the ranks of presidential also-rans.
Getting here hasn't been easy for Willard Mitt Romney -- he's hardly ever led the Republican pack in the polls. No, the former single-term governor of Massachusetts has had to wait for the preferred candidates of the GOP' tea party base to either bow out before announcing or gaffe their way into oblivion.
Reality television stars like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin both passed on making the race despite leading Romney and the other Republican hopefuls in early polls. In the months that followed, Romney and the rest of us have had to wait as the Republican base samples one flavor of the month after another.
After Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll, she shot to an early lead in the polls. But it wasn't long before the Minnesota Congresswoman committed one wild-eyed gaffe too many. She confused John Wayne and serial killer John Wayne Gacy. She claimed the Revolutionary War's "shot was heard around the world" took place in New Hampshire. It was Massachusetts. The list goes on ad infinitum. In what could be called a meta-gaffe, Bachmann recently claimed that she'd never had a campaign gaffe.
Quit giggling. Let's move on.
As Bachmann began to sink, Rick Perry jumped in to fill the void, but his hopes too were doomed. It isn't so much that his GOP adversaries bested him during a series of primary debates -- Perry was bested by the debates themselves. Despite being able to string together some impressive fundraising numbers, he just couldn't bring himself to string together an articulate attack on Romney or statement of his own principles.
Perry's demise led to the rise of Herman Cain whose entire campaign has been premised on a 9-9-9 plan to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations while raising income and sales taxes of the poor. Cain claimed that those who would have trouble affording food under his plan could eat "used" food to save dough. From atop the GOP field, Cain was confronted with news reports indicating he'd sexually harassed or assaulted at least two former employees and just this week a woman came forward in Georgia and admitted to a 13-year affair with Cain. At least that sexual relationship was consensual, so I guess he has that going for him.
Republican base voters concerned with so-called "family values" slowly shifted their focus to Newt Gingrich. Which makes perfect sense. After all, the former Speaker divorced his hospital bed-ridden first wife to marry his first mistress before divorcing that second wife to marry his second mistress with whom he had an affair during his championing of the Clinton impeachment. His most recent campaign proposal was to do away with child labor laws. Who would have thought that Gingrich was still having such trouble keeping his campaign staff together?
That leaves us with Mitt Romney who has been stagnant at 20 to 25 percent in the polls for months. I know that sounds pretty horrible. But, with Republicans, slow and boring wins the race.
Romney is going to be the Republican nominee for the same reason that Reagan, Bush I, Dole, and McCain were nominees. They all ran at least once for the GOP nod and lost. See, Republicans are pretty predictable. They may like gambling with the economic future of our country but they rarely go all in when it comes to picking a standard bearer.
And like inevitable nominees before him, Romney will be forced to choose someone far too conservative for the general electorate as his running mate to keep his base happy. It's why Bush I chose Quayle, why Dole chose Kemp and why McCain chose Palin.
So who is Mitt Romney likely to pick? My money is on South Dakota's John Thune. He's a Senator so he's got Washington experience. He's young and attractive. He's got a proven track record of beating big name Democrats like former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He looks slightly less like a used car salesman than Romney. And perhaps most important of all, he's extremely conservative which should quell Republican base fears of Romney.
If you ask me, Romney/Thune has a familiar ring to it. -- sort of like McCain/Palin. And we all know how that turned out.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns and updates by email.
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