Bumbling GOP snubs Romney as president rises in polls

Paul Jenkins

Here's a wonderful Christmas present from the GOP to desperate Democrats: President Barack Obama's poll numbers are inching up. Pushing a bogus jobs message and running against Congress, the president -- perhaps among the worst in this nation's history -- is starting to look like a political phoenix, thanks to Republicans.

A Rasmussen Reports survey shows that, unsurprisingly, for the third straight week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a faux Republican, a progressive, a serial philanderer and a political opportunist but hardly the strangest on the GOP's deep bench of strange candidates -- has lost ground in a hypothetical 2012 election matchup against Obama. Gingrich loses 48 percent to 37 percent. As with Sarah Palin, it will get much worse as people's memories of him are refreshed.

It is not just Gingrich. Obama even leads a generic Republican by 1 percent in a hypothetical 2012 matchup instead of trailing, as he has for months.

Partisan wrangling and political gridlock likely fuel the president's rising numbers, but the GOP's incessant, Candidate-of-the-Week meat grinder cannot be helping. One by one, Republican hopefuls are trotted out, hailed, slapped around and dumped like dirty underwear as the GOP tries to ignore Mitt Romney, who is -- in a field rich with wackos, paranoids and outright nuts -- its best, and only, hope. Who else?

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann? Really? There is the gay rehab thing; the husband's business thing; the gaffes (The HPV virus causes mental retardation, she says); and, who knows what else? She almost had me in 2008, however, when she introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

An influential Iowa evangelical wants her to bail out and support former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Bachmann, once a star, is drawing about 4 percent of the likely GOP primary vote; Santorum, 3 percent. The two trail the pack. The only candidate behind them is Jon Huntsman. Who? you might ask.

As for Santorum, if he had anything going for him, he would rule this mostly misbegotten field.

OK, you say, what about Congressman Ron Paul? The media gives him a free pass. Well, it ignores him. Unfortunately, he likely is certifiable, an outlandish conspiracist with racist tendencies. His newsletters, as detailed by James Kirchick in the conservative Weekly Standard, are shocking. In a long list of unsettling excerpts from Paul's newsletters over the years, Kirchick included:

"Paul alleged that Martin Luther King Jr., 'the world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours,' had also 'seduced underage girls and boys.' The man who would later proclaim King a 'hero' attacked Ronald Reagan for signing legislation creating the federal holiday in his name, complaining, 'We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.' "

Dorothy Rabinowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, calls Paul "the best-known of our homegrown propagandists for our chief enemies in the world."

It is hard to outrun that sort of stuff.

Then there's Rick Perry, already drawing a $92,000 state pension and a guy who should not be governor of Texas, much less president of the United States. He shot onto the national stage, then hemmed, hawed and flubbed his way to obscurity in 32 seconds. He could not, in front of God and America, remember one of the three Cabinet departments he would abolish. Now Republicans desperate for anybody but Romney are trying to revive him.

There have been flirtations with Herman Cain, pizza magnate and womanizer, Donald Trump, who used the campaign to boost his reality show, Sarah Palin, who makes Bachmann look good and never was running but again is making noises like she could, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who bailed out early, after the Iowa straw poll. If he had hunkered down, he could be a front-runner in this crowd.

There have been more than a dozen debates, and there will be at least that many after Christmas. Americans are interested, engaged and are hungry for somebody who can beat Obama.

From an outsider's perspective, it appears much of the GOP establishment is focused on finding somebody, anybody, but Romney -- a guy who actually said, "My goodness," in a political interview -- to be the standard-bearer next year. It could be the Mormon thing or questions about his conservatism.

With this field, with his record and ability, writing off Romney is a horrible mistake. Of this bunch, he is the only one with a chance of beating a resurgent Obama.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

Paul Jenkins