- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The Pundit Primary is getting silly, as it usually does at this point in the chase, but fortunately it won’t last much longer. Relief will be arriving just in time.

The pundits (and some of the pollsters) are waiting for Mr. Goodbar, the elusive good man in a singles bar. They’re hankering for the new thing, as they always do, and many are the hearts to be broken. The pundits thought Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, was the perfect new thing. Before him the new thing was Rick Perry. Herman Cain was new, but after a week the king of the straw polls seems old.

The Christie balloon, such as it was, was inflated by surviving minions of all that’s left of the echo of the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party. Mr. Christie conferred with George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger and Nancy Reagan before he punched a hole in his balloon and the balloon flew thataway, as punctured balloons will. It’s fanciful to call those three worthies the remains of the Rockefeller wing of the party, but George W. does come from an old New England family, easily susceptible to falling in with the wrong crowd; Mr. Kissinger was once the body man for Nelson Rockefeller and Mrs. Reagan was, and is, a nice widow lady. (No snide jokes here about what she might have been told by her astrologer.)

The conventional wisdom of the punditocracy, which is usually but not always wrong, is that everybody’s tired of the original cast: Mitt Romney puts everyone to sleep. Rick Perry isn’t really ready to run for anything this side of Texarkana. Michele Bachmann has gone past her sell-by date, Jon Whatshisname is merely the other Mormon, and Ron Paul is the Invisible Man.

But these are merely the judgments of pundits. With Chris Christie back in New Jersey, where he won’t have to roll out of a warm bed at 5 o’clock on a sub-zero morning to press the flesh at a factory gate in Manchester or Des Moines, Mitt Romney becomes the odds-on favorite in the Pundit Primary. He’s the least threatening to the elites, mostly because at one time or another he has said all the right things about the things that matter to the elites. He won’t frighten the horses, spill the non-alcoholic punch on the White House carpets or make a noise after 9 o’clock. He’s not dull, exactly, but he could always be counted on to keep his clothes on when everybody went skinny-dipping. He tells the story that when he once asked his wife Ann whether in her wildest dreams she ever imagined that she was married to a man who might be president, she replied: “You have never been in my wildest dreams.”

If there must be a Republican candidate, he’s the one the elites want to choose. David Brooks, who is as conservative as a columnist is allowed to be at the New York Times, celebrates Mr. Romney as the Sleepy-time Guy no one has been waiting for. “Most people,” he writes, “who have lower expectations from politics and politicians, just want them to provide basic order. … Romney is the most predictable of the candidates and would make for the most soporific of presidents. That’s a good thing.” This is a variation on the traditional Republican campaign slogan: “Vote for us, we’re not as bad as you think.” If the elites pick the Republican candidate who will put everybody to sleep, Barack Obama might slip through a side door at the White House when nobody’s looking.

But the great gift of the tea party is not only that it strikes terror in the hearts of the elites, provoking heartburn and making them wet their pants, but the tea-sippers have contributed much-needed spines to the spineless Republicans who look to the New York Times for guidance in choosing their nominee. The party now has a well-regulated militia to take the fight to whoever gets in the way.

It’s only human to want most what you can’t have, and no candidate, Democrat or Republican, ever looks so good as when he’s not available. You could ask any hung-over Democrat who made a spectacle of himself lusting after Barack Obama. A Rassmussen Poll this week discovers that 47 percent of prospective voters say they would vote for “anyone” instead of the president. Only 41 percent vow to stick with him. He’s destined to be the loneliest man in town.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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