By Bob Cesca: Holy hell, if we were only that lucky. Rush Limbaugh and his legion imitators in right-wing talk radio have lapsed into a collective freakout regarding the upshot of the dueling conventions and the polling numbers that point to the likely re-election of the president (if the election were held today). It's not surprising given Mitt Romney's pathetically awkward campaign against a much sharper and aggressive campaign from the president and the Democrats.
Rush Limbaugh led the charge with a rather fatalist comment about the future of the party, "If Obama wins, let me tell you what it's the end of: The Republican Party. There's gonna be a third party that's gonna be oriented toward conservatism. I know Rand Paul thinks libertarianism. And I know if Obama wins, the Republican Party is gonna try to maneuver things so conservatives get blamed."
Laura Ingraham joined in, "If you can't beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down, start new, with new people. Because this is a gimme election, or at least it should be."
Interesting. It's almost as if they compared notes considering how they said, you know, the exact same thing.
Others weren't as hypertensive about the future of the party, but were just as concerned about the weakness of the Romney effort. Bill Kristol wrote, "It's not enough to float like a butterfly. You have to sting like a bee. No sting, no victory." And George Will said, "Mitt Romney does not have the feeling, the visceral, philosophically sound feeling for what's wrong with the progressive movement in this country... But he doesn't -- what I've said before about him is conservatism is a second language for him. And he is still learning it. And it's hard to learn this thing in the midst of a high-stakes presidential campaign."
We all know where this will lead. Mitt Romney is predictable and impressionable. He might fire some his campaign staffers, sure. We can also expect much harder lines on abortion, tax cuts and austerity. But what we're really going to get at this point is a campaign that will amplify its pandering to the far-right, and it can only mean a Romney campaign that's leaning extra hard on the Southern Strategy far beyond its pre-convention flirtations with the racial dog-whistle approach. And that's just the beginning.
Yet the problem with the Romney campaign all along isn't that it's been too centrist. In fact, it's been way too interested in pandering to the Republican base and, in the process, it's totally exposed Romney as a fumbly prevaricator who seems to have no idea where he stands on anything, and the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket has effectively doubled the campaign's inconsistencies, contradictions and befuddlement as Ryan has his own syllabus of equivocations, mostly based on his congressional voting record on the debt ceiling, abortion and other legislation that's at odds with the Romney agenda. Additionally, Romney's gawky and disingenuous attempt to seem "severely conservative" has not only heretofore fallen flat with the conservative base, but it's also turned off many undecided moderate voters.
To repeat my familiar refrain: Keep going, Republicans! You're doing great! If Romney decides to listen to the conservative talkers, this can only hurt the campaign.
Meanwhile, he could try to supercharge his energy level, but that's contrary to his stiff, ungainly nature as an Uncanny Valley CG character. Can you imagine Romney getting crazy on the stump -- Jennifer Granholm style? It'd be endlessly hilarious to watch him in his misshapen Costco Dad jeans and gingham shirts, shouting right-wing platitudes -- his bulbous head barely moving upon its inflexible neck and upper body servo motors.
As far as the Republican Party disappearing after an Obama victory, Ingraham and Limbaugh are blaming the wrong guy for such an eventuality. In defense of Mitt Romney, the party was a big kerfuffled mess long before it elevated Romney to frontrunner status and the nomination. The fatal flaw of the party has been the abandonment of its principles in lieu of the unhinged Syphilitic tea party dementia infecting what's left of its brain and forcing it to simply attack a fictitious caricature of President Obama, whether it means contradicting prior Republican ideas (cap and trade, individual mandate, etc.) or literally sabotaging the economy for political gain. Allowing a relatively small group of radicals to dictate the agenda of the party was a huge mistake. Instead of acknowledging the tea party with cursory lip-service, the Republicans impulsively jumped into bed (or was it a rickety lawn chair at a rally?) with the tea party and elevated it to a power status it should never have been allowed to attain. By consummating that union, the Republicans made it impossible to reach the middle for fear of a tea party backlash.
No, sadly, the Republican Party won't disappear. It'll just continue to stroke the far-right -- marginalizing itself and augmenting its status as a dying faction of regional, white, angry, Christian troublemakers.
One final word of caution. This election isn't over and, remarkably, it's still frighteningly close. Romney can still win this thing and we should all assume that he will. And don't rule out the Voter ID laws either -- they were designed to help Romney and none of the polling outfits are taking them into consideration.