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Republican Senators lose Presidential Elections

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:48 pm - February 26, 2012.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election,Strong Women

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.



  1. I think it’s generally bad to nominate a senator, including this time around. But assuming he doesn’t lose his brilliance, I think we can make an exception for Marco Rubio if and when he decides to run.

    Comment by chad — February 26, 2012 @ 3:43 pm - February 26, 2012

  2. So… no President Rubio, then.

    Comment by V the K — February 26, 2012 @ 4:41 pm - February 26, 2012

  3. Eh, Rubio could run for Governor of Florida in 2018 and then for president sometime after 2020. He’s only 40 right now and still has lots of time.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — February 26, 2012 @ 6:42 pm - February 26, 2012

  4. Noemie Emery’s piece is a great read that left out one enormous component: the contemporary mood of the electorate. You can assess candidates by label or government position until the cows come home, but all of that is pretty sterile wordsmith work when you leave the political temperature of the time unread.

    That said, the Washington numbers nerds keep track of every single Electoral College vote and where and how it is in play. On top of that, they also track every House seat and Senate seat that is in play and strategize on a three dimensional chess level.

    Meanwhile, most bloggers and the conservative voices (such as Rush and Hannity) are stirring up the base and pushing doctrine and ideology. The “litmus test” crowd in the primaries will soon become the backers of whoever gets the nomination in this ABO (Anybody But Obama) election.

    The lucky thing this time around is that there is a clear difference between Obama and any Republican nominee unless Arlen Specter pops up.

    The “establishment” Republicans are, I would suggest, those play-it-safe guys who have laid out the game plans and studied the opposition and want to control the message to be as widely embracing as possible, while doing post hole work in the local levels. Fine. That is why armies train.

    But, when the battle begins, all plans go up in smoke and you are immediately stuck with the candidate you have and the unforeseen events you encounter. When we reach that point in the battle it is no longer about ideology and litmus tests.

    So, are we comfortable that our potential nominee can energize the base, take the battle to Obama and win the ear of enough voters to carry the election? That, of course, is what we are arguing out now.

    In my view, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have pretty much tied for the cranky, eccentric “also-ran” spot. Romney will end up eclipsing Santorum. From the “establishment” point of view, Romney is the easiest candidate to sell.

    Meanwhile, my crowd will lean on him to pay attention to principles and mind the store. We had a hard time trying to wake George Bush up in 1992. In 1996, Bob Dole looked like he had died in the war, while Clinton acted like he was slowing down so Dole could keep him in sight. And poor old McCain was the Yosemite Sam that Steyn said he was and we had to drag him to the finish line.

    So all the looking back is just fine, but Obama does not have the dot-com economy that Clinton enjoyed or the GW Bush fatigue to run on. Our parallel is 1992. Can our candidate come up with solutions that outshine Obama’s glow-of-the-halo snake oil? I’m not certain that glib, silver tongued oratory that out-fools the opposition is the magic bullet. But, if Romney spins his tires while chattering about his past successes, I don’t expect him to win. After the nomination is secured, he had better come out armed and ready or he will be just another lily-livered Bush, Dole or McCain nice guy who finished second.

    Comment by Heliotrope — February 26, 2012 @ 7:39 pm - February 26, 2012

  5. Governors can be a bad choice as well. Jimmy Carter was a governor before he was the worst modern day POYUS until Obama.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — February 26, 2012 @ 7:42 pm - February 26, 2012

  6. Way to make your case, citing two LGBT journalists. At least be honest as a libertarian/LGBT blogger that the Gay Left/Right does not want a social conservative as the Republican nominee. Nothing more duplicitous when both Romney and Santorum have their MBA and JD. Santorum has no problem responding to the Gay Left/Right aka progressives/libertarians. The majority of the Republican Party knows RINOs only pay lip service to social issues. Fight’s on after the federal government threw down the gauntlet with the contraception mandate attacking orthodox religion and the 1st Amendment.

    Comment by rjligier — February 27, 2012 @ 10:02 am - February 27, 2012

  7. The problem with Dole was his years in the Senate. He thought he was entitled to be the nominee. John McCain, bless his heart, was trying to get a sympathy vote for his years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton; ¨I´ve got the scares to prove it.¨ That and his promise to nominate strict constructionists to the SCOTUS is all that I remember from his campaign. We have got to make sure that we nominate winner. If Obama wins a second term he will get to moninate two or three more justices to the SCOTUS. All will be radical like Sotomayer, and Elena Kagen. Republicans could control the the White House and legislature for the 30 years after 2016 and the Obama Court will overturn anything that will be counter to their agenda and they will will legislate from the bench. His socialist agenda will survive him. What a scarey thought!

    Comment by Roberto — February 27, 2012 @ 11:54 am - February 27, 2012

  8. Perdon´, Sotomayor!

    Comment by Roberto — February 27, 2012 @ 11:55 am - February 27, 2012

  9. The issue is non-partisan. Sen. Obama winning was an exception. But it was going to be a senator that yr anyway. Generals are possible but they’re wild cards (Grant, Ike, Wesley Clark, Powell, Petraeus (last two, in theory). When I campaigned for Clark, his being a non-Senator was part of his non-Kerry cred.

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — February 27, 2012 @ 4:32 pm - February 27, 2012

  10. I´m still putting my money on Newt. I bele¡ieve that he is the best qualified of the remaining bunch. It was a shame that negative forces created dirt about him. I suspect either David Axelrod, considering one of the actresses lives in the same condo, or Mitt Romney. I have a feeling that his operatives are in possession of the late President Nixon´s bag of tricks.

    Comment by Roberto — February 28, 2012 @ 1:25 pm - February 28, 2012

  11. well if Senator Barrack Obama, who is such a miserable failure at being president, can win, then why can’t one of our guys?

    Comment by Mark — February 28, 2012 @ 4:11 pm - February 28, 2012

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