Republican voters furious, Republican leaders not so much

News has trickled in the last couple of weeks that a lot of the biggest Republican hopefuls in the 2012 presidential race won’t be throwing their hats in the ring.

Mike Huckabee?  Out.  Mitch Daniels?  Taking a pass.  Donald Trump?  It’s back to reality TV for him.

The message these conservative leaders are sending to voters is pretty simple:   We’re just not that riled up.

Consider for a moment that Mr. Huckabee is most popular among the GOP’s socially conservative voters.  Those are the people who believe most fervently that something grim is happening to our republic.

A plurality of “movement” conservatives believe that the nation is currently being led by a foreigner, very likely a closeted Muslim, and almost certainly a socialist eager to tear down our capitalist way of life.

Since 2008, I’ve been in rooms with these right-of-center voters and they are as passionate, motivated, angry and frightened as people in a democracy can be.

Mr. Huckabee’s response to these folks — his natural constituents — was summed up in four words:  “My heart says no.”

Mr. Daniels, similarly, bowed out for personal reasons:  “[T]he interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all,” he concluded.

And Mr. Trump — a man who campaigned largely on the idea that our president is a foreign imposter and con-man — bowed out because he has better things to do.

“Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector,” he noted.

These three aren’t alone, either.  Other heavyweights who’ve decided not to take up the banner include Haley Barbour, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani.

There is one concrete reason for this glaring disconnect between conservative voters, who hope to man the ramparts next year, and many of their leaders who seem so blase.

Here it is:  The vast majority of Republican leaders know that most of the things their followers fear simply aren’t true.

Yes, they have legitimate differences of opinion with Barack Obama.  If they controlled the White House, they would pursue significantly different policies.

But they also know that most of Mr. Obama’s policies have cleaved fairly closely to the big, sloppy center of American politics.

The massive government intervention in the economy over the last few years was sparked by the recession, not by the president’s “socialist” tendencies.

TARP and other policies pursued by this administration — vilified by rank-and-file conservatives — were initiated by the Bush Administration, with the support of many Republicans in congress.

The element of the healthcare bill most reviled by conservatives, the individual mandate, was supported in the past by Mitt Romney, but also by Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders.

Cap-and-trade?  Tim Pawlenty was for it before he was against it.

I cite this litany of philosophical alignments between Mr. Obama and Republican leaders, because it’s one reason for the collective shrug now resonating through the highest ranks of GOP politics.

Bluntly, if the Republican leadership really believed that the President were a dangerous radical, or that our nation’s existential future and welfare were at stake, we would be seeing the best and the brightest stepping forward, and damn the consequences.

They would be undaunted by personal issues, or by the lure of hosting Fox News programs, or reality TV shows.  Or by the very real challenges of unseating Mr. Obama.


21 Comments on “Republican voters furious, Republican leaders not so much”

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  1. I’ve been highly critical of Pres. Obama and won’t vote for him in 2012. But some of these folks have been calling for his impeachment since BEFORE he took the oath of office. The mere fact of him being president have gotten the fringe so unhinged that his actual actions (and inactions) are almost irrelevant.

  2. mervel says:

    Or they just looked at the reality of actually getting elected and balanced that against the huge personal costs of running for President.

  3. Robin says:

    I think many of them are afraid of their own creation. The right has been calling for the downsizing of government but have only managed to downsize the revenue (we have a lower marginal income tax rate than we had under Reagan), not the expenses. The right has also called for keeping government out of people’s bedrooms, but also for denying spousal benefits to gay couples. But the real cognitive disconnect comes when they want to cut Social Security and Medicare and then realize much of their base are the beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare. “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree,” has become “Pay you, pay me, just don’t pay the man behind the tree.”

  4. Bob S says:

    Trump is not now nor has he ever been a conservative. His flirtation as a candidate was derided by almost all of the well known conservative pundits. To describe him as a “conservative leader” is simply inaccurate.

  5. Mervel says:

    Who are the best and the brightest we are waiting to step forward and are not?

    I mean I personally like old Mike Huckabee, but the guy will never be elected and he knows that it is just never going to happen. Also I would not call him the best and the brightest. So who are we waiting for?

  6. It's All Bush's Fault says:

    Perhaps they have come to the realization that Pres. Obama is just not beatable.

    The GOP propped up a candidate in 2008 that couldn’t win. I predict that they will do it again. Isn’t the definition of insanity “doing the same thing time over again, but expecting different results”?

  7. Pres. Obama’s indeed beatable. But the Tea Party fringe will make sure that the GOP doesn’t nominate someone non-extreme enough to have a chance.

  8. Pete Klein says:

    These guys are just saying they would rather make money than spend money.
    They are just being conservative and practical.
    Plus, Brian M., I don’t see any of those mentioned as being “heavyweights” except, perhaps for a few who are overweight.

  9. JDM says:

    Newt is a dinosaur. Mitt is a turncoat. Huckabee is somewhat of an opportunist (another term for turncoat).

    I cannot stand it when any of the current senator/governors are asked a simple question and cannot give a simple, straight answer. That rules out Pawlenty and Santorum.

    Hope someone will emerge from the second tier.

    Obama is beatable. But, he will have a treasure chest and the media in his corner. Tough to beat that.

  10. PNElba says:

    If the GOP loses in 2012, will they decide they need to become yet even more conservative?

  11. Mervel says:

    He really is beatable just on the unemployment numbers alone. What is ironic is that if he really does get us out of Iraq in December which I think he will and starts the draw down in Afghanistan this summer, and of course the killing of Bin Laden; overseas policy will be his strongest political card.

  12. Good point Mervel. Especially since all those liberals who slapped “I oppose the next war” bumper stickers on their cars next to “Obama ’08” ones have conveniently forgotten they did so, now that Obama had us attack yet another Muslim country that was no threat to us. Those precious liberals apparently assumed it would be an evil Republican who got us into the next war and are suffering from collective amnesia.

  13. Mervel says:

    Sure no doubt there is that disconnect between opposing war and opposing Republicans or Bush in particular. If war were the main concern we would see more opposition to what Obama has been doing.

    However Obama did not make Libya our war, once again I have to give him credit. The Europeans were relatively peeved that we took a back seat, they are used to us spending our blood our money and then they can moralize. But not this time Obama let them lead. I wish he would have refused any involvement, but this is not bad. As an organizer he has an insight that Bush never did, Obama realizes that you can just talk, go to meetings, moralize and we can feel good about the talk, the rest of the world does that, you let the other guy go first and you talk.

    If he really does 100% leave Iraq in December and really does draw down in Afghanistan starting in July he deserves a LOT of credit. Both wars were bogus, expensive and bloody. Obama knows we should have just talked about democracy and so forth and I think in these cases he is right. We have been the world patsy for far to long.

  14. scratchy says:

    “Hope someone will emerge from the second tier.”

    Paging Michele Bachmann?

    “But, he will have a treasure chest and the media in his corner.”
    Why do conservative feel the need to blame the big, bad media? I hardly think that Fox News, talk radio, or the Wall Street Journal are in Obama’s corner.

  15. tootightmike says:

    On those days when I’m really behind Obama, I feel like we’ve really got a fine president, or at least, the best president for these times. He inherited a colossal mess from the Republicans, and if he can get this economy back on its feet, he will have accomplished much. I would not have wanted this job, and truthfully, I don’t believe McCain wanted it either once the bottom fell out. Being President during a recession means playing catch-up instead of moving forward, and maybe this was the grand Republican sceme.
    There are other days, in which I think that this is the worst President we’ve ever had…days when I wonder if he’s changed parties overnight without telling us. His willingness to compromise by giving in, his lack of action on the Guantanamo promise, and his ridiculous health care program, make me wish I could move to France.
    All-in-all though, Obama has done well. America has a bright, articulate leader at the helm and things are looking up. We’re not in a depression, the Republicans worst fears haven’t materialized, and we haven’t become a muslim- communist nation after all.
    So why should the Republicans try? On a good day, I’ve got a great President, and on a bad day THEY do. Life is good.

  16. Peter Hahn says:

    Back to Brian’s argument that the current crop of republican candidates cant deal with all the false facts and so they dont want to run. This hasnt bothered Republicans in the past so why would it be a problem now? As people have mentioned above – the combination of huge personal sacrifice required and low probability of success means you have to be slightly nuts (hubris – magalomania etc) to try.

  17. Peter Hahn says:

    Also – being forced to run on a “we need to slash medicare to reduce the deficit” platform is pretty daunting.

  18. Bret4207 says:

    Brian M, I don’t mean to be contrary (really, I don’t!), but your list of GOP is not even close to my list of possible candidates. The real heavyweights, the people with an actual chance, not the McCains, aren’t even on the radar yet. One decent possibility is Herman Caine, there are others.

    My biggest beef is with your idea that the GOP leadership isn’t concerned with the direction we’re going and that the base is wrong. I would counter it’s the GOP leadership who’s wrong. This is why so many of us say they’ve left us, not that we left them. You’re right in a way- they don’t care about the debt, they don’t care about growing gov’t, they don’t care about a failing economy and job market as long as Obama is in the hot seat. That’s the core issue right there- they prefer politics over substance, that’s why all the TP nuts like me are still fuming.

    TootightMike- I’m willing to chip in $50.00 to help get you to France if you can wait till the first of the month. Anyone else want to help Mike?

  19. pete g says:

    sending him to quebec would be cheeper, 50.00 would cover the bus ride.

  20. Peter Hahn says:

    Bret – in order to be elected president, any candidate will ultimately need to get at least (almost) 50% of the votes of the Americans who turn out to vote. 100% of you TP nuts wont do it.

  21. Bob Falesch says:

    I’m so glad to hear this: “The vast majority of Republican leaders know that most of the things their followers fear simply aren’t true.” Frankly, this never occured to me. I suppose I could have given those GOP “leaders”, who apparently havn’t been leading, slightly more credit.

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