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    Don’t play the “baggage” game

    Don’t play the “baggage” game

    John Hinderaker at Power Line writes the following about the departure of Herman Cain (bracketed “Points” mine):

    [Point 1] What happened to Herman Cain is what the Democrats intend to do to whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be.  They know they can’t win a debate on the economy or on President Obama’s record, so they will do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from those matters, which should be decisive, and instead turn the focus to the GOP candidate and his or her alleged foibles.  [Point 2] If Republican voters allow that to happen by nominating a candidate with baggage that permits the Democrats to turn him into the next Herman Cain, it is all too likely that President Obama will be re-elected, with consequences that can hardly be overestimated.

    Point 1 is something I have been writing about almost since the start of this blog, the need to defend Republicans and conservatives and Tea Party supporters against media smears regardless of whether you support the particular candidate.  The David Frum wing of the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way, and frankly, neither does much of the conservative media.  Piling on Sarah Palin was taken as a sign of moral and intellectual courage when in fact it was moral and intellectual cowardess.  Many of those same people joined the Democratic pro-Obama mainstream media in piling on caricatures and distortions regarding Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt.

    Point 2 is a truism, but begs the question of what is “baggage.”  I surmise from John’s post that he is talking about Newt, as to whom the term “baggage” most frequently is used.  But what is baggage in an election?

    Personal faults and defaults will not factor in as much as long as not illegal, provided they are acknowledged and atoned for.  That is why the social conservative vote has not written off Newt, or fully embraced other candidates without known personal baggage.

    What about political baggage?  That’s more problematic in a campaign.  It’s the reason the Obama campaign has targeted Romney’s political “core.”  As I pointed out before, it’s a theme which has worked in the past against Romney.

    But my biggest issue with the “baggage” concern is that it is defensive.  Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the media will deem that candidate to have baggage.

    The purest of personally pure candidates will be faulted for being a religious nut and not hip enough to be president, someone from the white bread 1950s.  Policies advocating personal responsibility and empowerment will be portrayed as cruel and favoring the rich.  Advocacy of treating people according to the content of their characters rather than the colors of their skin will be protrayed as racially insensitive or racist.

    So yes, don’t select a nominee with so much baggage that the nominee is unelectable, but think through what “baggage” really means, and don’t try to placate the mainstream media which will be against our nominee, baggage or not.


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    ThomasD | December 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Read between the lines, what the good folks over at Powerline are saying is ‘don’t pick anyone other than who we want you to pick, otherwise we’ll pull a Cain on him too.’

    JEBurke | December 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The media can “deem” whatever they want. Obama and the Democrats can and will attack the GOP nominee whoever that is. Talk about “truisms?”

    What matters is what the 135 million people who will vote next November “deem” to be a problem with the nominee. What about a nominee will make it possible for Dems to make voters who are tired of Obama and worried about the future throw up their hands because the GOP candidate seems flawed and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

    The professor tries hard to make it seem that any and every flaw or weakness is equally problematic as every other. But can that possibly withstand scrutiny? Would voters in a general election as readily shun a candidate who is accused of flip-flopping as one, like Edwards, who pops up in October as having a child with his mistress as his wife dies of cancer? As readily shun someone who seems too slick or wooden or old or young as one suddenly revealed in October to have taken bribes.

    These are hypothetical examples but not far-fetched. So the question arises in the real world: who can best survive the planned negative assault and make a way through media bias to defeat Obama. Maybe the answer is, Gingrich can. But you cannot arrive at that answer by waving away Newt’s substantial baggage. After all, this is a guy who managed in the space of a few years to help engineer a GOP takeover of the House and then became the only Speaker in history to have been accused of violating House ethics rules and so alienate his colleagues that they rose up a kicked
    him out, the only time in history that has happened to a Speaker.

    Though it has lost some of its punch with nut cases like North Korea having nukes and exporting them, there’s always the “too crazy to trust with the nuclear trigger” charge that was thrown at Goldwater successfully and Reagan unsuccessfully. I think someone was saying that about Palin before her not running statement.

    Funny how Kerry was the most “electable” Dem candidate in 2004 despite tons of baggage. But, then, it’s only baggage when it applies to Democratic opponents.

      JEBurke in reply to T D. | December 4, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      Um, I think you just helped prove the opposite of what you intended.

      Kerry was,indeed, dragged down by his baggage — dodgy narrative about his Vietnam service; unresolved anger at him by Vietnam vets for his disparagement of fellow troops; his haughtiness of manner and rich man’s condescension; and perhaps most damaging, his flip-flop on the war (for it before I was against it).

        T D in reply to JEBurke. | December 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

        My point was that Kerry got the nomination precisely because he was supposed to be the most electable. More electable than Howard Dean who, relatively speaking, had no baggage. The media never presented Kerry as having too much “baggage”.

        What probably did him in, besides the fervor of Bush volunteers, was his “snooty” image. Windsurfing in spandex didn’t help.

    RightKlik | December 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Ronald Reagan had baggage.

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