Finally, the Republican Party has two bona fide credible candidates for the Presidency in 2016 and that is good news for both the party and country. The announcements of interest in the post by two party icons – former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney — means a number of good things straight out of the chute for the GOP.
- Changes the Debate and the Debates – the GOP has spent the past two decades in this basic and twisted battle over “who is the real conservative” as opposed to “who is best for the country” or “who can really do the best job”. Running for and becoming President is not about making a point, it is about governing, putting together a competent team, managing relations with Congress and the opposition, not about being in your face.
- A Tradition of Competence – once upon a time there were Tafts and Eisenhowers. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was the GOP’s heir apparent (who is normally what the party has nominated over the years), but he had to defeat the likes of George H.W. Bush, John Connelly, Bob Dole and Howard Baker first. No one could deny that any of these men was the real deal and Oval Office ready, giants of their day. In 1988, George H.W. Bush had to defeat Dole and Pete DuPont. And in 1996, the field included Dole, Lamar Alexander, and Steve Forbes. Four years later, George W. Bush (already a successful and moderate Texas Governor, experienced in working with opponents), competed with John McCain, Elizabeth Dole, and Jack Kemp. Consider in 2012, a successful Governor like Romney standing on the stage during those excruciating-to-watch debates with the likes of Newt Gingrich’s vanity campaign, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry (rushed and ill-thought out venture), and flame-thrower Ron Paul. It was clear to anyone who was a serious observer, only Romney could be President not least because he had to endure 40 hours on a public stage with the others who were not Presidential material but were instead running to be the next King of the Conservatives.
- Closing the Demographic Gap Gap – the GOP goes into 2016 with a decided demographic disadvantage. In presidential elections, the electorate is less and less white and considerably younger than in off-year elections. It remains to be seen if the 2016 Democratic nominee can generate the same kind of enthusiasm that Barack Obama was able to do with the new party base in 2008 and 2012, but with well-known and competent, mature and moderate Republican candidates in the race, at least the GOP could dampen some enthusiasm for voting against the GOP.
- The “Real Conservative” – it seems to me that the GOP could possibly run a more successful campaign promoting good management, stability, moderation, and seriously thought-out change – probably a more appealing form of conservatism than obstructionism, rejectionism, and rolling back reforms. The “real conservative” could be the one with the steady hand not the loudest voice.
Another long GOP tradition is awarding the nomination to the Gold Watch candidate – i.e. to the next in line. Having two credible candidates changes the dynamic considerably. Bring on the Cruz’s, Carsons, Santorums, Christies, Huckabees, and Pauls. But watch the two real candidates and listen to the real debate. One of these guys can actually win the Presidency and save the party from itself. Now it’s a good one.