• Will GOP Candidates Fall into Barack Obama's "I'm So Inept" Trap?

    Could it be that Barack Obama's very maladroititude (maladroitness? maladroitosity?) could be just what saves his campaign come general election time? I realize that premise seems very oh-god-please-i'll-believe-anything-rather-than-deal-with-the-concept-of-a-Perry-presidency, for sure.

    But, I gotta say, Bloomberg's Ramesh Ponnuru makes a decent case

    In any presidential primary there’s a tension between the voters’ desire for a candidate who can win the general election and their desire for a candidate who shares their views — between, in other words, ideology and electability. The more beatable Obama looks, the more the balance for Republican voters will tilt toward ideology and away from electability.

    That doesn’t just mean they will be more likely to support candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who will have trouble winning votes from independents and Democrats. It also means the terrain of the primaries will shift: The candidates will place more emphasis on outflanking one another on the right and less on showing they can win in November 2012.

    So, essentially, what that means is that the crappier a job Obama does, the safer Republicans will feel about their chances of taking back the White House. And the safer they feel about that, the more the likely they'll be to press for hardcore conservative ideals. And the harder they press for those ideals, the more they'll alienate their eventual nominee from mainstream voters.

    Or, to put it another way, the more Obama does this, the more likely the GOP will choose someone like this…

    Texas Governor Rick Perry has suggested that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and that they should be replaced by state-run programs. There’s a reason no Republican candidate since 1964 has run on a platform anything like this one on entitlements: Both programs are extremely popular.

    Perry has also suggested that he disapproves of the New Deal, seeing it as a moment when the federal government began to exceed the constitutional limits of its power. He hasn’t said he wants to undo the New Deal, but it’s not out of bounds for Democrats to make the charge, given the importance he attaches to constitutionalism.

    This is pretty much exactly what happened back in '04, but in reverse. Everybody hated George Bush so much that the Democrats felt secure in nominating their Platonic ideal of the perfect candidate: a coat rack with the ability to talk at great length about almost nothing.

    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images


    Tags: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Primaries, Republicans, Rick Perry

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