A number of my conservative friends have been wringing their hands about the GOP’s possible nomination of Mitt Romney as its presidential contender. They fear that, like past mealy-mouthed nominees, he will flounder when facing the fierce power of the Democratic attack machine as did such recent nominees as Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008.
In recent days, two smart conservative women have addressed this concern, one, Jennifer Rubin, by quoting one of her blog readers:
A sharp reader, William from Delaware, e-mails me: “The GOP should never nominate a senator for president. In post WW II America, whenever the GOP nominates a senator (Goldwater, Dole, McCain), they lose. Whenever the GOP nominates a governor (Reagan, Bush 43) or a vice president (Nixon, Bush 41), they win the presidency. Why? First, the American people are looking for executive leadership from a governor or VP – not a DC insider from Capitol Hill. Second, each of these GOP senators carries the burden of a congressional voting record that is distorted and picked to death. Where David Axelrod leaves off, the MSM will continue the assault.”
The problem with Dole and McCain was not their moderation, but their legislative background. When Dole secured the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, he had been serving in the Senate for nearly 28 years, having spent the previous eight years in the U.S. House. At the time of McCain’s nomination, he had served nearly 22 years in the Senate, having spent the previous four years in the House.
By the time each man had become the GOP standard bearer, he had served well over a quarter century in the federal legislature.
In a more detailed piece, Noemie Emery challenges “the myth of a powerful Republican establishment“:
So, keeping score, Reagan won two landslides as a movement conservative, but nonconservatives managed to win seven times, with Eisenhower, Nixon, and George W. Bush being elected to two terms apiece, and Bush the elder elected to one. The right holds up Reagan’s two landslides as proof that conservatism is electoral magic, but the fact remains that in all of our history he is the only movement conservative to have been crowned with success on the national scene.
Read the whole thing. The only non-incumbent Republicans to lose in the past fifty years were incumbent (or near-incumbent in the case of Bob Dole who resigned his Senate seat to focus on the presidential campaign) Senators.