I was off yesterday, going about some personal business, and had the rare opportunity of catching a few minutes of Rush Limbaugh on the radio. As usual, he was engaging in some interesting inside baseball speculation.
Rush was saying that the Republican establishment pushed Romney so hard, not because they thought he had a particularly good chance of beating Obama, but because they figured that Romney would lend strength to “down ticket” candidates at the national and state levels (senatorial candidates, gubernatorial hopefuls, etc.). And now that Romney’s gaining on Obama in key swing states, and it appears that he has a decent chance of winning the election after all, the “experts” seem to have been caught by surprise and are kind of baffled as to how to respond to this serendipitous turn of events.
The lesson to take away from this – or rather the reenforcement of a lesson that we should have learned several times over – is that the Republican establishment is too clever by half, and is in need of serious reform (or perhaps “replacement” is a better term). While it is obvious that advancing in the Senate and House is a vitally important goal, it is not self-evident that nudging along a presidential prospect in whose ultimate victory you have little real confidence is good strategy (the fact that the candidate's chances have improved considerably over time is beside the point). When party leaders have reached the stage where they feel that elections must always be finessed rather than won (or, for that matter, lost) on basic principles, then the party has truly ceased being anything other than an incumbency protection racket. And in the end, the party will not even be able to sustain that mission, for the people - perhaps, at first, fitfully and uncertainly, but finally with the clarity of perception that comes from long observation aided by instinct – will condemn it to the fate of the Whigs.
None of which is intended as a dig at Romney. I support him wholeheartedly in his contest with Obama - or Boondoggle McSteezy, in commenter Rebecca's delightful coinage.