Watching the Republican primary race has been sort of like watching a Road Runner cartoon, with the Republicans taking turns as Wile E. Coyote.
If you're familiar with the Saturday morning staple, you'll know what I mean: Wile E. Coyote goes to great lengths to lay a trap for the Road Runner, only to spectacularly self-destruct by his own scheme.
The events of the past week prompted Marvin Olasky to email Mike Huckabee, suggesting that the former Arkansas governor reconsider running for the nomination. In responding, Huckabee may have had the cartoon in mind when he wrote, "I didn't think Perry would do that well, but I never imagined he would take a gasoline shower and light a match to himself this soon."
The idea of Huckabee jumping into the race is not a bad one, but my own idea-you can judge if it is bad or not-is that it won't matter. It's difficult for me to imagine Barack Obama losing the 2012 election.
Rick Perry, after his disastrous debate performance on Wednesday night, went on the Late Show with David Letterman in an attempt at damage control. In homage to his appearance, I offer my "Top Ten" reasons neither Perry nor any other candidate will defeat Obama in 2012:
10. It will take social conservatives, defense conservatives, and fiscal conservatives working together enthusiastically to defeat Obama. No candidate currently in the GOP field has the enthusiastic support of all three groups, and all of the candidates have significant problems with at least one leg of this three-legged stool.
9. African-Americans, government employees, and union employees-even those from these groups who are fairly conservative-all vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate, whoever he (or she) is. That means that the Republican nominee will start with a "structural disadvantage" that will require him (or her) to win not just 50 percent, but 60 to 70 percent of the remaining voters.
8. Only Mitt Romney and Perry have the organization and fundraising ability to run a national campaign. (Herman Cain's fundraising surge will fade, or settle down to a respectable, Ron Paulian stream, but will not become the torrential river needed for victory.) No other candidate has the money or organization to run a 50-state (or a hard-fought 20-state) campaign.
7. The economy is getting better. Not much, but enough for Obama to win the spin game. He'll say, "We inherited a mess from the Republicans. What we're doing is working. Keep dancing with the one who brought you this far." Now, it's not what he's doing that's actually working, and much of what he's doing is hurting, but people will want to believe him, and they'll give him one more chance.
6. Related to the idea that "people will want to believe him": Incumbency really matters. The American people are generally upbeat and actually want their leaders to succeed. That's why you either have to mess up royally (as did Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter) or give up (as did George H.W. Bush) to lose a reelection bid.
5. The troops are coming home from Iraq and things are looking better in Afghanistan. Never mind that it was not Obama's policies that produced either result. He'll still take credit for the result, and the American people will let him.
4. Current Republican Party leadership is more or less incompetent. What really is working-entrepreneurship and a hard line on spending-should be easy to sell to the American people. But GOP messagemeisters are too busy reaching out to Log Cabin Republicans or (as is the case with Cain and Perry) hopping around on one foot with smoking pistols in their hands.
3. Many of the Republican Party's best and brightest are sitting this election cycle out. Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels-the list goes on-have all decided that 2012 is a bridge too far and that everyone who fights for that bridge will likely end up too damaged to take the field in 2016. Look for lots of big-money donors to run for the tall grass, too, when we get into 2012.
2. President Obama will not roll over. He is already campaigning hard. According to the Huffington Post, "Obama for America nearly doubled the size of its staff on payroll over the summer, growing from 168 employees in July to 327 as of Sept. 30, according to the campaign's third quarter financial report."
1. Money. Dewy-eyed sentimentalists hope otherwise, but here's the hard reality: The candidate with the most money wins. Obama and his allies will raise $1 billion during this election cycle. He has already brought in more than $88 million through September for his reelection, quadruple the cash on hand of GOP frontrunner Romney. This cash will allow him to own the airwaves next summer and fall, which is when the election will be decided.
Of course, I could be all wrong about this. After all, the long-term prospects for conservatives and the Republican Party are positive: The nation as a whole is in the middle of a demographic shift, becoming older, more conservative, and more pro-life. Maybe 2012 will be the year we see that shift on the national stage.
So the possibility that I am wrong is certainly reason enough for conservatives to keep fighting. And if you are a Christian, there's this additional reason: To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, we fight not merely to win, but to keep the truth alive, in hopes of passing on that truth to others who will win when the time is right.
But my best guess is that 2012 is not that time.