Illinois hasn't experienced a competitive presidential race since well back in the last century, and this year is no exception. Our state is once again just an ATM for the national campaigns. So anything an Illinois reporter, blogger, operative or commentator says on this race is largely in a vacuum. No one is looking to Illinois for expert analysis on the presidential race, particularly on the Republican side.
On a positive note, our state's continued irrelevance this year gives me the luxury of weighing in now on the future and here's what I see. Mitt Romney may be our next Commander-in-Chief. But no one knows. It's too close to call nationally, and will likely remain so going into election night.
If Romney wins Republicans are happy. But the bad news is the campaign's methods and tactics become the new model for races at every level.
On the other hand if Romney comes up short, the blame game and finger pointing starts immediately and I think we'll see a rather serious civil war within the GOP on a national scale. There will also be a lot of introspection by at least the serious individuals in our party regarding where the GOP and Romney went wrong.
As someone who looks for the positive, I submit that could be a healthy thing for the GOP on some levels.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm hardly some Bible thumper. But lately when conservative friends have sent me particularly excited pitches for Romney, I've responded with only this:
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Matthew 16:26. [Two other Gospels have similar versions of the same verse, Mark 8:36 and Luke 9:25.]
My friends probably think I'm referring to Obama, which of course I'm not.
Here's the deal. I don't have a problem with someone looking at these two candidates and deciding to try something new. Plus I'm all for tax cuts. I've always been a supply-sider and I've got an MBA. A rising tide lifts all boats (especially yachts). I get it.
But what I do disagree with is pretending that any of us have the slightest idea what Romney would actually do as president. I don't think he knows. He certainly hasn't told us. Mitt is a man with apparently no core convictions whatsoever and his positions shift like a weather vane. He is also the most dishonest nominee the GOP has ever had for president -- at least in our lifetime. No one comes close -- and yes, that includes Nixon.
Newt Gingrich has since fallen in line, but he was right when he said during the primaries that Romney was running a "fundamentally dishonest campaign." Newt has changed his tune but Mitt hasn't.
If voters in the states that matter give us Romney, fine. I'll hope for the best. I have no idea what kind of leader Mitt Romney will be, but I do know what Republican primary campaigns are going to be like going forward, and for every office from top to bottom. Anything goes from now on. You'll be able to say anything, do anything, and there will never be such a thing as "too much" when it comes to carpet-bombing fellow Republicans in a primary. Romney becomes the new model and living proof that it all works. It's going to be a new day.
Romney may turn out to be a great president if he wins. I hope so. All I'm saying is there will be a silver lining if Romney loses. Maybe the Republican rank-and-file will learn a valuable lesson. Maybe more people will grow a spine and demand a principled leader who actually stands for something.
If Romney loses this time, my hope is it will be the last time Republicans blindly follow the Karl Roves and the ultra-wealthy donors. Our party's first string largely stayed on the sidelines this year because the Romney team was able to convince enough people early on that their guy was the only one who could beat Obama.
Rove and the super-rich backers may still pull it off of course. It's very possible Romney will win. It's taken a billion dollars worth of spending but Romney has stayed in the game.
Yes, Obama's campaign also represents a billion dollar industry. I'm simply looking forward to the day when we don't need a billion dollars to drag our nominee over the finish line against an incumbent as weak as Obama.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.