The editors of Politico have decided to produce a series of e-books that examine the 2012 Presidential race. The first of these, The Right Fights Back, has now been released. The book was co-authored by Mike Allen, a Politico reporter, and Evan Thomas, a Newsweek editor and reporter. Primarily, this short book (only 65 pages in e-book form) looks at the Republican nomination contest and explains why Mitt Romney secured the nomination.
The meat of this effort looks at everyone other than Mitt Romney; those who entered the contest and failed and those who decided not to run. The authors make the case that when three individuals, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, and Chris Christie, each decided not to enter and, when they did, virtually guaranteed that Romney would secure victory. Once the Republican elites recognized this, they knew that the general election campaign would predominantly be a negative campaign free of any big ideas, with both Obama and Romney concentrating on his opponent’s defects rather than articulating a view of the future.
Once conservatives recognized the inevitability of Romney, a number of them chose to enter, and run as the Anti-Romney. But each of them had an Achilles heel. Pawlenty was over-coached and under-mean; Barbour had been a lobbyist for foreign governments; Gingrich had Callista and a big mouth; Bachmann wanted to micro-manage and was temperamental, Trump was silliness personified, Palin couldn’t decide if she wanted to be a rock star or run until it was too late; Perry was too much all hat, no cattle and wasn’t ready or willing to spend the time or energy to run; Paul was too radical to be acceptable to the elites; Cain’s campaign was primarily a vanity race, once the sexual harassment stuff came out, there wasn’t much left; Santorum isn’t much discussed in the book.
One of my favorite parts of the book were the sections on Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush. Christie made his decision not to enter based upon primarily family reasons. Huntsman was Hamlet-like in his campaign, never willing or able to make a decision that could separate himself positively from Mitt. Daniels didn’t want his troubled marriage to be closely examined by the endless media parade. The authors don’t reveal why Bush didn’t campaign, merely stating that it was for ‘personal, private reasons.’
Romney isn’t analyzed very deeply or very critically in the book. Much of the time spent on his campaign is based upon interviews with his son, Tagg; luckily, Tagg is supportive of his dad. This is certainly a flaw whenever a book on a current event is written by people who depend upon their access to produce information.
Most of the analysis is well known to those of us who have been immersed in politics throughout this race. For others, though, this is a nice quick read that makes it clear why the also-rans are asterisks in this election year.