I’m so glad that we’re talking about this. The beginning has to do with the ground work that W. F. Buckley laid when he told conservatives that Goldwater would lose in a landslide, but that they were working to build a coalition that would bear fruit down the road. He then suggests that neither Romney or Santorum is electable, but that the important mission is to control the House and work to regain the Senate. He has apparently given up on the Presidency.
If nominated, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum might not cause such subtraction. Both are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected. Neither has demonstrated, or seems likely to develop, an aptitude for energizing a national coalition that translates into 270 electoral votes.
If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him. But suppose the accumulation of evidence eventually suggests that the nomination of either would subtract from the long-term project of making conservatism intellectually coherent and politically palatable. If so, there would come a point when, taking stock of reality, conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than, and not much less important than, electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.
Several possible Supreme Court nominations and the staffing of the regulatory state are among the important reasons conservatives should try to elect whomever the GOP nominates. But conservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013.
If Republicans do, their committee majorities will serve as fine-mesh filters, removing President Obama’s initiatives from the stream of legislation. Then Republicans can concentrate on what should be the essential conservative project of restoring something like constitutional equipoise between the legislative and executive branches.
Given what a terrible President Obama has been, this is depressing. But it speaks to the weakness and I would argue the lack of coming to terms with reality, in the Republican field. Obama should have been beatable, just on the question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? They should have focused on health care and on the economy. On the debt. On the astonishing waste of money and what that meant to individuals and to the country as a whole. Instead, we got sidetracked into silly conversations about contraception, which simply turns most women and most men off. Completely. What were they thinking?
PS: Krauthammer agrees with me on Santorum