Earlier this week, I asked y’all whether there was a candidate in the current GOP field who could beat President Obama next year. While 60 percent of you so far (in the poll accompanying that post) said a Republican could beat Obama, only 30 percent of you thought that candidate was already in the race.
Writing at the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost tells the less confident 30 percent to buck up. He argues that the primary contest among the three “main contenders” — whom he identifies as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, most interestingly, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — should produce a highly competitive GOP nominee.
Read the whole thing, as they say, but here are his four reasons:
1. Crossover appeal. Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Romney all won statewide elections by performing better than the party normally does in each state. In 2008 Jon Huntsman won 64 percent of the gubernatorial vote in Utah (an improvement on his performance relative to 2004), while John McCain won 62 percent of the presidential vote that same year. Tim Pawlenty won reelection in Minnesota in 2006 narrowly, but this was still an impressive feat considering that Minnesota retains a blue tilt and 2006 was a terrible year for Republicans in general. … In 2002, Mitt Romney won a comfortable, five point victory in Massachusetts, despite the fact that his party is so weak in the Bay State that it ran just 4 candidates in the 10 House districts that year. …
2. Records as governors. All three of these candidates earned a national reputation as governors, which will give them all an opportunity to point to their executive records in contrast to President Obama’s. This is preferable to coming up through the ranks via the House and Senate, where people don’t really “run” anything. …
3. No “gotcha votes.” There’s a second advantage that comes from not having been in Congress. When you’re in the House or the Senate, you end up having to vote on pretty much every divisive issue that the country deals with. … Governors don’t have that problem, at least not nearly to the same degree. While some laws with controversial items might get signed or vetoed, the state legislature regularly works as a buffer for governors. And furthermore state governments do not have to deal with nearly as many divisive subjects as the U.S. Congress does.
4. No bloodbath. I’ve been pointing out for a while that it’s unlikely that the GOP will have to go through the kind of war that nearly destroyed the Democrats in 2008 — in large part because the Republican party is much more homogenous. If this is the final field (and it might not be), the chances of an extended and bloody primary fight are now even smaller. In fact, there is a growing chance that the nominee could be set by mid- or even early February. The three top candidates are very similar to each other in terms of their background and the nature of their appeal, being as they all are center-right governors who plan to emphasize their abilities to get things done. … (links and italics original throughout)
Point 1 is a good one, with the caveat that a candidate with “crossover appeal” must always walk the line between attracting independents and keeping the base happy. But that’s pretty well true of any candidate for any party in any election.
Point 2, I think, is the strongest: In my mind, a candidate with executive experience always stands a far better shot of unseating an incumbent president — think of former California Gov. Reagan against Carter and former Arkansas Gov. Clinton against Bush, compared to Sen. Dole against Clinton and Sen. Kerry against Bush. This year is no different.
Point 3? A fair one, but not so sure how far it goes. Opposition researchers will find something in anyone’s record. And about Point 4 we can only wait and see at this juncture.
So, did Cost change anyone’s mind?
– By Kyle Wingfield