Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rob Portman for VP: doubling down on dull

Pew Research center’s latest data on public attitudes about the 2012 presidential election confirms that this election cycle isn’t as exciting as the last; most people (56%) feel it’s dull—as they normally do months before an election year.

That’s not surprising for Americans; getting excited in elections, anyway, is the kind of thing people who speak French or Italian do—and look at the mess they’re in. However, there is a nugget in the Pew findings that Mitt Romney must now be pondering.

“Currently, 33% of Republicans say the presidential campaign is interesting down from 52% in late March (March 22-25). The share of Republicans describing this year’s campaign as dull has spiked from 42% to 60% since then. By contrast, Democrats are finding the campaign increasingly interesting as the general election gets underway. Currently, 45% say it is interesting, up from 36% in March.

While fewer Republicans than Democrats currently say the campaign has been interesting, GOP voters are more engaged than Democratic voters in the 2012 campaign. For instance, more Republicans are giving quite a lot of thought to the election and more say it really matters who wins.”

Dull will not keep Romney out of the White House! Dull will not deter his voters. Indeed, if he’d stop making interesting mistakes, dull could actually enhance his authenticity—and partly trivialize the scary elements of his platform.

Bearing all this in mind, Rob Portman must be Romney’s vice-presidential running mate.

He’s a generic Republican, a tallish WASP, a mid-West law graduate from in-offensive Ohio. He was and remains the guy you elect as class treasurer in high school. Portman has been in Washington since 1993—as a lobbyist, congressman, Cabinet executive in the Bush presidency, and now a first-term senator. He’s been at the center of Republican decision-making for ten years. 

Despite all the temptations, he’s served the conservative cause without, yet, saying anything remarkable or against the grain. Without saying anything interesting—or disloyal—he’s readily described as very intelligent, sensible, and electable.

Portman penned his application for the vice-presidential nomination in a Fourth of July column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It’s a classic; it’s everything the scripters need and not one thought out of harmony.

Portman embraces every accusation about Obama’s record that has been made by Republicans in Washington and by the candidates for either job on the Republican ticket. With the pseudo-precision of a lawyer/labor market analyst, he asserts that Obama is 42% off his team’s original promise to reduce joblessness.

What should be most re-assuring to Romney, however, is that Portman can also repeat the tax, fiscal, and social policy positions of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the Tea Party—and sound as reasonable as those Mid-west Republicans who a generation ago were trusted to stay away from the extremes.

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