Oh Republicans. You can be so dumb.
None of the candidates for President seem to get it. The reason there was such a Trump bump is not because of any of his policy proposals, but because of the directness of his delivery. This is why Chris Christie is so popular. Under close inspection, he's not particularly original or competent. But he expresses his emotions authentically. This is what voters react to so intensely.
John McCain's veer to the right was one of the least savvy moves in American political history. He seemed to convince himself that his history of bipartisanship was a liability, when it was what the country hungered for -- electing Barack Obama as a result. And now the Republicans are doing it all over again. Ever anxious to placate their base, they are marginalizing themselves so far out of the mainstream that they can kiss the independents who determine Presidential election winners goodbye in 2012.
Newt Gingrich -- in his dickish way -- showed a glimmer of understanding of this need to placate the middle in his attack on Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. But he also confirmed a pattern of such ping-pong postioning that it destroyed any remaining credibility he had. The Michelin man punctured himself with a Tiffany cufflink and is deflating before our eyes.
Mitt Romney has been listening to the wrong people -- it's McCain redux. Instead of running from his health care plan, he should be embracing it. It has, after all, been extremely successful, plenty to run on. And he should also never have disavowed his support of abortion -- there is no worse flip-flop because it's so obviously insincere. He'd be far better off focusing on all the ways he'd try to reduce abortion and increase adoption, all while trumpeting the fact that he stays consistent on his policy stances.
It's too late now, but Mitt should have delivered this speech: "I recognize I am far too moderate for most Iowa caucus voters. I'd be delighted to get their vote but I won't campaign for it. I'm going straight to New Hampshire where I hope the Republican primary voter understands that our first priority has got to be winning in November, not passing ideological litmus tests. My message is very simple. I can deliver an American future that Barack Obama can't. Here's how." It's still the economy, stupid.
Tim Pawlenty should be driving home one simple idea: You can have boring and competent, or you can have Barack Obama. Instead he's oozing inauthenticity in his attempts to be "T-Paw" and pretend he's angry. Be yourself, Tim. A middle of the road Governor from the Midwest with no scandals, one wife, and a balanced budget in your past. You used to be for cap and trade? So explain why it was a good idea. Hell, explain why global warming is not a hoax. That would take balls, Tim. If you've got enough of that, you don't need charisma.
Even this early, it might be too late for either Tim or Mitt. But there's someone out there who thinks he's the last Republican moderate, and as much as I hope he stays home, I've got some friendly advice. Let Bachmann corner the far right vote. Aim for a coalition of the old fiscal conservatives and social moderates who could conceivable fritter away at the Obama majority. Come convention time, they'll turn to you over a sure loser. But no matter what, speak consistently, honestly, and unapologetically. Run on your record, not away from it. But whatever you do, don't pander. It's so last month.
Any Republican who wants to win in November has got to lay claim to one trait that Americans value most because they see it the least: integrity. The candidate who means what he says and says what he means will be rewarded for it. And if he isn't, at least he'll be able to sleep at night.