Posted by Brad @ 9:26 am on May 16th 2011

I’ve Totally Lost the Plot on the Republican Primary

Ron Paul & Gary Johnson are in, Rick Santorum had decided to make himself the fire-breathing foreign policy guru, Michelle Bachmann may or may not be in depending on how much money her supporters cough up, Mick Huckabee is out, Mitt Romney may or may not be in but he is definitely in favor of RomneyCare and against Oamacare, and Newt Gingrich is in and is now running…to the left of everybody?

On Meet the Press on Sunday, he refused to support Paul Ryan’s budget plan, specifically undercutting his position on Medicare as “radical”, proving once again that Republicans, the second they’re backed in to a corner, will time and time again attack people for “gutting” Medicare for seniors to scare up votes. Gingrich also, later in the program, voiced his support for the most un-conservative aspect of Obama’s health care reform, the individual mandate. Making him Mitt Romney’s new best friend?

I started to get this impression watching the Santorum-Paul-Johnson-Cain debate, but I no longer have any real idea what the Republican presidential candidates are going to run on this year. One would think that a pretty clean anti-bailout anti-individual mandate anti-public unions campaign would be a pretty easy mantle to take up…but nobody seems willing or able to do so, for a variety of reasons. Every candidate seems to be broadly against “Obamacare”, but for such a hode-podge of reasons and with such a lack of coherent alternatives, and with so many hidden minefields, that what on the surface seems like it would be a clear binary (pro or con), is instead much more convoluted and thus, much less electorally significant.

As for deficit reduction and the like, save keeping the Bush tax cuts, there’s an equal incoherence there (at least in the pres field).

So that leaves you with the ground covered in the first Republican debate, a convoluted litany of grudges about not loving America enough or not “taking on” Islamic fundamentalist enough.

So you have guys like Hunstman, Romney (if he even runs – I’m starting to doubt it), and Gingrich, on the left-center side of the ledge, and people like Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, and Pawlenty on the other side. It’s not that the race is wide-open, it’s that it seems so unsettled in terms of what it’s even going to turn on. I’ve just totally lost any sense of the anti-Obama, vote Republican narrative for this election cycle.


  1. I blame Aaron Sorkin for leaving. The direction of the show just fell to pieces after he left. You can tell the current writers are desperate to regain the glory years of the show by bringing back Sorkin’s most infamous villainous creation, Osama Bin Ladin, to have the new black President kill him off. That was a moving episode for fans who remember the episode of the United States being attacked, but I don’t know if newer viewers have the same memories and care as much.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 5/16/2011 @ 10:24 am

  2. Ha. Clever.

    Comment by Brad — 5/16/2011 @ 11:42 am

  3. Weigel makes an intelligent case that Huck’s decision marks the end of Compassionate (Big Government) Conservatism – that it pulls the race to the right (towards libertarianism) by axing one of the last remaining figures in national Republican politics comfortable with any notion of an “activist” federal government.

    He overstates it a bit – I think Huckabee was always more popular than he was influential, and it’s lazy to conflate those two things (indeed, 2008 might have been the Year of Popular Yet Uninfluential Republicans, with Fred Thompson and, to a lesser extent, Rudy Giuliani each peaking at various times). Still, it’s a smart read.

    Comment by Brad — 5/16/2011 @ 12:00 pm

  4. I was actually really, really disappointed in the piece. How can you write about big government conservatives in the GOP primary and not at least mention Santorum?

    Classic Santorum:

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 5/16/2011 @ 12:14 pm

  5. Back to losing the plot, I don’t think that either Gingrich or Romney are going to be able to pull off the federal/state distinction when it comes to forcing people to buy health insurance. It’s sort of right, but still sort of a dodge, and also manages to be on precisely’s nobody side such that I can’t imagine any supporter is going to be out there holding a sign sloganeering your health care stance.

    Comment by Brad — 5/16/2011 @ 1:15 pm

  6. I don’t really understand what motivated Gingrich to try to defend the mandate, in any way, shape, or form.

    My old boss argued that no matter how much Republicans run against the individual mandate, it’s not going away unless you get Kennedy as the swing vote on the Court ruling against it. The insurance companies would go crazy if the GOP managed to repeal the individual mandate but didn’t get rid of the other restrictions on their behaviors, like allowing kids to stay on their parent’s coverage and preventing insurers from kicking people off for preexisting conditions. And it would be political suicide for the GOP to repeal the rest of that stuff and go back to the way things were. The individual mandate and the lack of a public option are key in getting the insurance industry to at least put up with the rest of the reforms.

    Could this be about the money? Romney and Gingrich see the health care industry as the piggy bank that could save their campaigns?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 5/16/2011 @ 2:24 pm

  7. My understanding is that Gingrich has previously written favorably about the concept of an individual mandate – indeed, back when Romney was running it through Massachusetts and every Republican in the world thought it was a terrific and clever alternative to a single payer form of universal health care, Gingrich, as is his wont, pulled his “man of ideas” schtick to get out in front and argue why, precisely, it was a such a great conservative idea. In that sense, it’s the same trap Romney has fallen into, save that Gingrich could have run away from it much easier than Romney. Why he chose not to, I dunno (although his PR people are trying like mad to walk it back today – only they’re walking him back into essentially the exact same position Romney outlined in his health care speech last night, that being: it was a great idea when I tried it on the state level, but it’s a terrible idea on the federal level).

    A nice expose from last week of Gingrich’s history of support of the individual mandate here.

    Comment by Brad — 5/16/2011 @ 2:33 pm

  8. In short, I don’t think it’s money at all: I think Romney and Gingrich and others have just been put in the unfortunate position of having been early proponents of what was, at the time, a much celebrated conservative insight but, because a Democratic president actually instituted it, is now toxic for Republican candidates. Victims of their own demagoguing, if you ask me.

    Comment by Brad — 5/16/2011 @ 2:35 pm

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