In Eliot’s last post, he names some of the rising stars of the GOP. Notably absent from the list of his future GOP leaders are Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, along with Mitt Romney, and Mayor Guiliani. (I won’t include Fred Thompson since he appears to be returning to acting.)
So, I’m wondering what people think is the role of those characters involved in the race of the last two years? My thoughts are below.
I think Huckabee is done. He should stay on Fox because his gift is that he is a good communicator. He can engage his guests and the general public on topics that speak to a large proportion of the base. His discussion of faith and culture is particularly important, I think, and he will help to make value-voter issues more a part of the mainstream discussion. The value voter seemed to be somewhat of a nonentity this year. After all, Obama’s record was the most pro-abortion of any candidate ever and purportedly religious folks overwhelmingly voted for him. (As the token Catholic on board, I’ll post soon about the future of the “Catholic vote” and what that could mean for the GOP.) Huckabee can communicate about these issues well, and now he has a forum to do it.
Palin’s role in the GOP seems even more tenuous. I do not think being from Alaska poses a particularly difficult problem, given the important role the state may play in energy independence. Palin was, to say the least, a bit of a disappointment in her many interviews. I think Palin’s future is limited because (1) being Alaska’s governor seems a bit sui generis, and being so removed, an Alaska governor might not be able to deal with a wider range of issues on a national level; and (2) Palin is like the GOP cheerleader. She has a keen ability to rally the base and appeal to women, but hearing her speak on the issues was sometimes hard on the ears. With the host of other governors Eliot mentioned, I cannot see the former vice-presidential candidate garnering much support for a leadership post.
As an aside, I think the dearth of women ready and able to take on leadership roles within the GOP is appalling. There are talented women out there, and the GOP would do well to cultivate them in the future.
Mitt Romney: would the election have been different if he was the nominee? Being so conversant with the economy and having rescued businesses in the past, he would have been compelling on what we need to do to turn the ship around (in stark contrast with McCain). I think the social conservatives would have rallied around him despite their hesitations on his past positions if only to avoid an Obama administration. Having run the most national of the primary campaigns, he may be able to hit “Restart” and have the organization in place to make a run at the nomination again.
In the end, I think the best candidates for the GOP will come from the same place they’ve come before–governorships. Jindal is my favorite as he combines the ability to communicate the conservative message, the appeal to social conservatives, and the youth and vitality that was utterly absent in this campaign. Sanford is also a great choice. He has proven a dedication to governing according to conservative principles and has had success in doing so.
What we cannot do is, as one person put it, choose a GOP candidate as the recipient of a “lifetime achievement award.” Recent picks–Dole, McCain, etc.–have received the nomination because “it was their time,” or “for their years of service,” and not necessarily because they were the best person for the job. Remember, Obama was a state senator not too long ago. We need to look far and wide and find the candidate who will best present the conservative platform.