So, do I think the 2012 election is slipping away from conservatives, Republicans, and the American people? Yes, I do. This is a year in which it was incumbent on conservatives to pursue, soberly, the overriding goal of evicting Barack Obama from the White House. We didn’t do that; in fact, it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that we made fools of ourselves by chasing one will o’ the wisp after another. I fear that in November, we will pay the price.
So do you believe that? I don't. A few thoughts:
I suspect much of what is bothering Hinderaker is that his horse, Mitt Romney, is not running well. I understand the disappointment, but frankly I'd rather learn he's a lame candidate now than in September. Why is Romney turning out to be such a disappointment? Let's turn to our old pal Peggy Noonan, whose 2008 swooning over The One seems to have worn off, for an explanation:
The Romney campaign is better at dismantling than mantling. They're better at taking opponents apart than building a compelling candidate of their own. They do not seem capable of deepening his meaning, making his stands and statements more textured and interesting. He comes across like a businessman who studied the data and came up with the formula that will make the deal.I think that's spot-on. Romney has a presidential skill set, but he's clearly too technocratic to understand the larger issues. And as we discussed earlier this week, it's long since past time for Romney to make an affirmative case for why he should lead, rather than having his campaign trash his opponents. The longer the campaign goes on, the more clear it becomes that the reason Romney won't make an affirmative case for his campaign is because he can't make one.
A particular problem is that he betrays little indignation at any of our problems and their causes. He's always sunny, pleasant, untouched by anger. This leaves people thinking, "Excuse me, but we are in crisis. Financially and culturally we fear our country is going down the drain. This guy doesn't seem to be feeling it. So why's he running? Maybe he thinks it's his personal destiny to be president. But if the animating passion of his candidacy is about him, not us, who needs him?"
So where does that leave us? At this point the guy who ostensibly has the momentum is Rick Santorum. While I still don't see him being president, he's doing better than I would have imagined he could. One thing to watch in the coming days is how the Left starts to treat Santorum. In some ways, he's even more of an affront to the cultural sensitivities of our betters than Sarah Palin is. If you doubt that, consider this broadside from John Cassidy, providing a little cultural anthropology from his redoubt at the New Yorker:
To educated liberals of almost any description, Santorum is an abomination. It’s not just that he’s a pro-life, anti-gay, anti-contraception Roman Catholic of the most retrogressive and diehard Opus Dei variety. It’s his entire persona. With his seven kids, his Jaycee fashion code, his nineteen-seventies colonial MacMansion in northern Virginia, his irony bypass, he seems to delight in outraging self-styled urban sophisticates: the sort of folks who buy organic milk, watch The Daily Show, and read the New York Times (and The New Yorker, of course).
Cassidy is a Brit, so he takes a bit of an outsider's view here. It's helpful, because in explaining what makes Santorum so, ahem, distasteful, he also understands why Santorum is rising:
But it’s precisely his in-your-face, street-corner conservatism that makes Santorum potentially a strong candidate.I think there's a lot of truth to that observation, too. The next few weeks are going to be fascinating.
As he has displayed in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri, he is attractive to Republican inhabitants of small towns and rural areas, many of them alienated Evangelical Christians who take it as an article of faith that President Obama is merely the public face of a secular conspiracy intent on altering their country beyond recognition. And Santorum isn’t just a religious candidate. With his hardscrabble roots and message of economic populism, he can also appeal to less devout but economically squeezed middle-income Republicans and Reagan Democrats, of whom there are many. Although his pledge to restore American manufacturing to past glories isn’t very believable, it does signal to voters that he cares about bread-and-butter issues.