Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

GOP voters showing odd traits for what they find acceptable from presidential candidates

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Several allegations of sexual harassment weren’t a problem for Herman Cain, but an allegation of a consensual affair was the last straw for Cain’s presidential campaign. What does that say about Republican primary voters?

So Republican voters didn’t care that Cain had allegedly come on to women in a forced and uncomfortable manner, but spending time with a woman, who for whatever reason wanted to be with Cain, that was too much. Oh well, guess the woman vote wasn’t that important to them.

The person “replacing” Cain as the anti-Romney is Newt Gingrich, whose two affairs (that we know of), are almost too well-known. Gingrich’s affairs are still better known among liberals of all ages than young conservatives. Or conservatives could be working from the logic that, well, at least Gingrich married his mistresses.

All this would be more trivial but we are running out of 2011, which means only one thing: Iowa is coming. New Year’s Day brings college football bowl games on January 2 and the Iowa caucus on January 3. Voting with a hangover isn’t a smart way to pick a presidential nominee.

If Mitt Romney will be the nominee, he still probably won’t win Iowa. If anybody but Romney is the nominee, that person still won’t likely win New Hampshire. Not that anyone is shocked by this, but South Carolina will go a long way to telling us who the GOP nominee will be, provided the race doesn’t last long.

This assembled group of GOP contenders is a rag-tag bunch; the GOP would love to create a candidate based on parts of the individual candidates: Michele Bachmann’s passion, Rick Perry’s hair, Jon Huntsman’s foreign policy knowledge, Rick Santorum’s spunk, Newt Gingrich’s chutzpah, Ron Paul’s integrity, and Mitt Romney’s name recognition. Alas, the Republican voters will have to judge these people on their individual merits. Or beg Donald Trump and/or Sarah Palin to change their minds.

For those expecting Romney to coast need not look further than his interview with Bret Baier on the Fox “News” Channel. Romney took a lot of heat for his reaction to questions from Baier. Normally, Fox wouldn’t even throw a punch at a Republican, but Baier’s treatment of Romney (normal in normal circumstances) is an indicator that the far right does not like Romney. The message Fox sent to Romney: you aren’t convincing prospective voters that you are conservative enough for them.

Republican politicians are very good at dishing it out, but taking it is something they do as often as Herman Cain getting something right on foreign policy. Romney should be thankful that Baier did what he did. If Romney ends up being the nominee, that might be the toughest interview we see of the former Massachusetts governor.

The MSM has an annoying trait, among many, of not asking Republican candidates about things they’ve already done. Won’t ask Gingrich about his past affairs; won’t ask Romney about his earlier stances because “well, that was the past.” Heck, the press couldn’t even ask Texas Governor George W. Bush about his past in 2000, and we didn’t know much about his past.

As for Baier, who is part of the MSM sort of, his motivation wasn’t to be tough on a politician. He only asked Romney about his past to make him look inconsistent.

On the off chance that a rogue interview may come up or even a question that won’t protect Romney, the Bain Capital co-founder needs to react a whole lot better than he did in that interview. Yes, Republicans aren’t used to reasonable questions, much less tough ones. But even in that circumstance, Romney acted indignant to be asked about things that he has said. This on the heels of a media strategy where Romney does very few one-on-one interviews. Now we know why.

While we here at Democracy Soup welcome as many debates as we can get in the political process, maybe we can guide the GOP to doing more one-on-one interviews with journalists who will ask tough questions. Fair questions, but tough ones. They can take the questions usually asked of Democratic politicians and substitute some of the words.

Herman Cain and Rick Perry have something in common: they rose to high numbers in GOP polls based on what they represented. Once they spoke for considerable periods of time, we learned a lot about them that they would have preferred not to share. Republicans deride President Barack Obama for his ability to speak well, but minimal speaking ability is required for this job, George W. Bush being an exception.

Perhaps this is one of Bush’s (many) legacies. As long as the politicians talks tough, it doesn’t matter what they say. In the eyes of the GOP voters, Romney’s sins aren’t that he once spoke of their issues in less conservative terms, it’s just that he hasn’t been as loud about his “new conservative direction.” The far-right Republican voters don’t care about what Romney once thought or even said, they are living in the now. The 2011 version of Mitt Romney hasn’t convinced them to vote for the former Massachusetts governor.

The MSM loved the John McCain of pre-2006; Republican voters wanted the 2008 McCain, who was nothing like that long-ago version of the same man. McCain wasn’t much better at believing what he was saying in 2008, but he did a better job than Romney has about selling it to the GOP masses.

If Romney can learn those vital lessons from McCain about how to effectively flip-flop, the GOP nomination is his. McCain sold his soul to be the GOP nominee, and look where it got him. Can Romney be smart enough to figure out how to sell his soul? And can he do it by January 3?

If not, the process is truly wide-open for the 2012 GOP nomination.

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