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February 4, 2008

Vigurie: Let's Make A Brokered Deal

Richard Vigurie, of all people, now wants a brokered convention. He spent most of the primary campaign flooding e-mail inboxes with missives supporting Ron Paul and complaining about the supposed media conspiracy that kept him from gaining enough support to win the nomination. Now he admits that Paul never had a prayer of getting nominated, but wants to encourage a brokered convention to find someone other than the current contenders:

The discombobulated state of the Republican presidential campaign means that it is still possible for someone to jump into the race. Such a candidate could serve as a kingmaker at the Republican convention in September, or even – yes, it’s possible – could become the party’s nominee.

First, let's just address the obvious: it isn't possible. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson both proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Anyone jumping into the race now would not only have no chance of putting together an effective campaign, they'd wind up with no delegates even at a brokered convention.

On to his retreat on Ron Paul:

Ron Paul is the real straight-talker in the race, the one who stays truest to the libertarian beliefs that are, as Reagan said, “the heart of conservatism.” He is the one candidate who doesn’t confuse a strong defense with the failed policy of nation-building. But most conservatives want a powerful U.S. presence in world affairs and will never support Paul’s defense and foreign policy. In any event, Paul’s chance of getting elected, or even nominated, is infinitesimal.

I don't think the man who can't explain the racist and anti-Semitic passages that appeared in his own newsletters over the course of 17 years can be called a "straight-talker". And no one who blames American foreign policy for the 9/11 terrorist attack would ever get support in the GOP, and probably not in the Democratic Party, either. Even without that, Paul always had just as much chance of winning a major-party nomination as any other sitting Congressman, which is to say none at all. This belated recognition by Vigurie does nothing to rescue his credibility.

So who does Vigurie suggest? George Allen, Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, and Mark Sanford. Of these, only Sanford can be taken seriously. Allen blew his chances with his fumble of the Macaca Moment, which doesn't exactly give confidence in his ability to conduct a national campaign for the White House. Coburn and DeMint have each served part of one term in the Senate and a few terms in the House. Experientially, that puts them at the same level as Barack Obama, albeit with much better policy outlooks.

Sanford looks great -- as a VP candidate. He just began his second term as South Carolina's governor, making him oddly the only man Vigurie suggests with any executive experience. I've met him and heard him speak, and I think he could complement either Mitt Romney or John McCain well in the second slot. He's young (48 in May) and an excellent communicator, and he could make a great candidate in 2012 or 2016 after building a national following.

But here's the real problem with this scenario: we don't know how Sanford would do in a national contest, because he hasn't yet run in one. He hasn't built the backing, and he hasn't been tested on the stump. Why? Because he didn't run in the primaries, which also indicates a lack of desire on his part to grab at the brass ring at the moment. At least Fred Thompson did that much in 2007-8.

The time for Vigurie to find an electable conservative to support was before New Year's Day. Lamenting a lack of choices now, after haranguing people to back the ridiculous Ron Paul campaign for over a year, is a case of far too little, far too late. The same can be said for anyone who thinks that the race lacked a true conservative representative. They could have stepped up all through 2007, and yet none did and/or the ones who did performed too poorly to survive the primary process.

Even if we wind up at a brokered convention, which I think is becoming less likely, who benefits from that? Supposing we get there, dump all of the candidates who put themselves out for the entire primary race (notwithstanding their large delegate totals), to find someone whom Republicans never got to vet for themselves. Would that unite the party, or would it create resentments and suspicions of shady backroom deals? It would launch countless conspiracy theories, none of which would endear the independents and moderates the GOP would need to attract to win the election. It would also discredit the appointed nominee for any future run at the presidency.

Conservatives pride themselves on eschewing fantasy for fact. This suggestion does exactly the opposite.


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