If I were arguing that the WSJ frowns on non-authorized GOP candidates, I would find my view confirmed by Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan. According to Noonan, “Obama can lose.” His popularity continues to plummet, and according to an Ipsos survey, “69 % of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, up 5% since March. Zogby has only 38% of national respondents saying Obama deserves reelection, with 55% wanting someone new.” Even in Pennsylvania, where Obama won by double digits in 2008, recent polls indicate only 42% approve of his leadership.
Qualifying statements must be introduced to create a more balanced picture. The drop in Hispanic support since his inauguration that Obama has had to deal with, from 73% to 54%, is nothing new. That drop occurred more than a year ago and has hardly changed since. Obama’s midterm slump in popularity has characterized other recent presidencies, including those of Reagan and Clinton, and both incumbents managed to get reelected with ease. One shouldn’t make too much of midterm dips, and especially since Obama continues to enjoy enthusiastic (indeed drooling)support from most of the national media, a fact that I’m reminded of every time I listen to Brian Williams’s cheerleading on NBC News. Moreover, all the GOP frontrunners continue to trail Obama in the polls. This weakened ruler does not appear to be going down as easily as some might hope. And this may be even less likely to happen once public sector members and activists mobilize their forces. As they did in 2010, the public sector unions will throw into the campaign piles of money from dues that are not always freely given.
For Noonan, and presumably her employers, however, the moment of victory seems at hand. But Noonan is afraid that her party may stray: Republican voters may “go crazy” and “in a mood of antic cultural pique, or to annoy the mainstream media, Republican voters will raise high candidates who are unacceptable to everyone else. Everyone being the great and vital center, which hires and fires presidents.” Lest her fellow-Republicans fall into this trap, Noonan urges them to “be serious.” They should return to their practice of “picking the candidates who are viewed as the moderates in the race—Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and John McCain in 2008.” Despite this hope Noonan is fretting that “there are some pretty antic candidates out there this year.”
This is the message we get from Wall Street Journal editorials and columnists. Just nominate a centrist and even better, one who is looking after party-sustaining corporations and is pursuing a suitably interventionist foreign policy. Although Joe Lieberman would be the perfect candidate for the job, unfortunately he’s a Democrat, albeit one who supported McCain’s Middle Eastern policy. For all her talk about competitive candidates, Noonan is picking the ones who appeal to her comfort zone. Dole and McCain ran disastrous presidential campaigns and the verbally-impaired W would not have become president in 2000 but for a fluke of the Electoral College. (Bush lost the popular election by more than a million votes.) Is Noonan providing a recipe for victory or for sensitive, sportsmanlike losers?
I for one see no electoral sense in Noonan’s advice. The Republicans will have to differentiate their product sharply if they expect to energize core voters. Neither Dole nor McCain managed to rouse the base, and like all WSJ Republicans, these “moderate” candidates landed up between two stools, neither drawing in the Left nor holding on to the Right. W hung on, almost by dumb luck, and won an understandably disputed election against a pompous, socially obnoxious opponent. Perhaps if we can get Obama to turn into Gore, one of the Journal’s generics may be able to win, through a fluke or because of the social ineptitude of his opponent.
What may be bothering Noonan and her pals in the Big Apple is the Trump factor, namely the insolence of their onetime dinner companion Donald Trump moving to the right of the rest of the Republican field and announcing his candidacy for president. But why were the more conventional Republicans Romney and Giuliani allowed to reinvent themselves just in time for the 2008 election but not Donald Trump three years later? The first and second parts of Noonan’s plea for moderation are strategically related. First we hear that Obama’s presidency is disintegrating and that the good guys may soon occupy the executive. Then we are told not to reach too far. We should vote for the establishment’s handpicked candidates, the ones who keep appearing on FOX and whom the national press considers electable. Although Obama, we are told, is sinking fast, we need the right moderate, say Huckabee or Romney, to defeat him. If this is the case, then Obama’s presidency is still not imploding.