With Mitt Romney on the verge of wrapping up the nomination in South Carolina, pundits are writing pieces about his various flaws as a candidate. But he’s better than the other choices. Rick Perry lacks the wisdom, Rick Santorum’s too abrasive on social issues and Newt Gingrich (out of office for 13 years) lacks discipline. So it seems that the best Not-Romney candidate would be a last-minute entrant.
There are two conflicting factors. The Republican party docked the first four primary states fifty percent of their delegates. As a result of the schedule, even with the Virginia kerfuffle, most (80%+) of the delegates will be up for grabs after February 28. However, most of the deadlines for getting on primary ballots have passed.
Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller discussed a loophole: swapping Rick Perry for another candidate, such as Bobby Jindal, his most effective surrogate. In states in which the Louisiana Governor won’t be able to get on the ballot, a vote for Rick Perry would be advertised as a vote for delegates who would support Bobby Jindal. It’s similar to Stephen Colbert’s South Carolina “strategy” of asking supporters to vote for Herman Cain.
Earlier today, Jim Geraghty of the National Review discussed a Republican consultants’ s briefly considered plans to put Bobby Jindal, Bob McDonnell and Paul Ryan on the ballot as write-in candidates. It demonstrates who the Republican leaders consider to be the best potential last minute possibilities, although the inability to select one of the three demonstrates a fatal flaw in a plan of action that requires quick momentum.
For a new not-Romney, Republican insiders need a declared candidate or at least a draft movement for one contender, rather than several. The entrant will need the support of a presidential contender who dropped out, but remains on the ballot in the states in which it’s too late for a new presidential hopeful. Considering Perry and Gingrich’s antipathy towards Romney, that part is a doable.
If this were to happen, it could be possible for a hypothetical primary fight to go all the way to the convention, but it might be wrapped up much quicker. Mitt Romney doesn’t exactly have the appeal Obama or Hillary had for the Democrats, so he might start losing faster, if a viable alternative were to emerge. The delegate system of proportional representation sometimes still allows the leading candidates to win most of the delegates, as long as they can have consistent leads throughout various population centers. Things are complicated by the presence of Ron Paul, who will not be the nominee, but will stay in the race as long as possible, and could consistently get 15% of the vote. And there remains the possibility that a Rick Santorum type will stay in the race, without a shot at winning the nomination, but with the name-recognition advantage that came with an year of campaigning.
I don’t think I would vote for him over Romney, but Jindal might be the strongest potential contestant. He has an adequate resume (reelected Governor, three years in Congress, various jobs for the Louisiana and US Health Departments) and he’ll do much for rebranding the image of the Republican party. He’ll be the son of Indian immigrants running to be the youngest President ever elected. And it would be great to have another candidate who everyone can agree is really intelligent and knowledgeable. The party’s image has been hurt by the perceptions regarding the likes of Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, George Bush and Dan Quayle.
He would have a shot at winning, as Romney is a vulnerable frontrunner, whose main advantages have been organization and second-rate opposition. If Jindal doesn’t win, a presidential bid still helps his political future. Currently, he may be overshadowed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both of whom are potential Vice-Presidential nominees and 2016 Presidential contenders. Seeking the Presidency would give him tremendous name recognition over both, and could force Romney to choose him as the Veep. If Romney loses against Obama, Jindal will be well-positioned for 2016. If the ticket wins, he can still be well-positioned for 2020, whether he’s Vice-President, or a nationally known former two-term Governor under the age of fifty.
Paul Ryan wouldn’t be a bad choice either. Like Jindal, he’s young but has an adequate resume (seven terms in Congress, Chairman of the Finance committee.) He’s disliked by the left for economic views that would make Ayn Rand proud, but he is quite articulate on financial issues, which makes it difficult to demagogue him. As a Midwestern Rust Belt Catholic, he might be able to put some states into play in the general election.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell seems to want to be in the White House the most, consistently expressing a willingness to be the Vice-Presidential nominee. As a fifty-something white guy, he won’t rebrand the party, but he would essentially be the Generic Republican, which isn’t a bad thing considering how well that guy polls.
There are a handful of others who could stage a tardy bid. I would have been happy to support Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who bowed out because his family didn’t want him to run. Name recognition wouldn’t be the biggest problem for anyone with the resume, considering the likely media attention a new declared candidate would receive. It’ll certainly give the pundits something to write about.