Yet the question conservative boosters of both Romney and Brownback need to ask themselves is whether the grassroots support is there. The Beltway right has rooted for conservative heroes in the Republican primaries before–think Jack Kemp in 1988, Phil Gramm in 1996, and, to a much lesser extent, Steve Forbes in 2000. At the ballot box, these candidates went nowhere. ~Jim Antle
Mr. Antle has mentioned the virtually unmentionable: nobody out in the countryside is talking these candidates up at all. This is as you would expect at this early stage, when the only people who are moved to talk about these things are people who either get paid to or the even odder people who enjoy talking about it.
Nobody out in the country even knows who they are. When they hear the name Brownback, they might think this refers to a kind of rattlesnake (I call dibs on the use of this image for Brownback). When they hear the name Mitt, they might respond, “You mean, like a catcher’s mitt?” (Before it is over, you will have had your fill of passed ball campaign jokes.) They might vaguely remember something about his connection to the 2002 Olympics–if they can be bothered to remember the 2002 Olympics. I do look forward to Romney’s candidacy, if only for all of the political humour at his expense.
On the failed candidacies of Kemp, Gramm and Forbes, there is a good explanation for the failures of all three: they were all running on a completely constituency-free, wonkish economic conservative platform. Thus Jack “Empowerment Zones!” Kemp, Phil “Property Rights!” Gramm and Steve “Flat Tax!” Forbes believed that they could somehow make these single issues and a strict economic conservative appeal into the bases for a viable campaign. They were wrong. Plus, they were all some of the…most…boring…speakers…alive. Didn’t you just want to grab Steve Forbes by the shoulders and start shaking him as you screamed, “For goodness’ sake, man, blink!”? Romney and Brownback will suffer from their own versions of Forbes’ unbroken laser-like stare and flat monotone voice. We just haven’t found out what those things are yet.