Tomorrow’s headline can already be printed: Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire. No surprise there. Romney’s long been leading in polls of the state, even as Republicans nationwide have hemmed and hawed about supporting him.
In the end, though, everyone agrees: Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee–whether the Republicans like it or not.
The lack of enthusiasm for Romney and the inability of GOP voters to coalesce around a single anti-Romney candidate gives tonight’s results and the course of the next few months a rather anticlimactic feel. This is, however, the state of things.
One wonders, though, about the “hidden” three in Republican politics. Each could very well have entered the race and drawn significant numbers of voters. That they haven’t could alternately indicate a personal choice to avoid the race, a perceived fatal weakness in their own candidacy, or a subtle fear that maybe this isn’t the Republican’s best year. This so-called Trinity? Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie.
By now everyone knows Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, there is no denying she is a force in conservative American politics. While I don’t think she could have won either the Republican nomination or the general election, she certainly would have shaken things up and polled better than Bachmann. It is even possible that she could have become the anti-Romney candidate. At the same time, entering the race would likely have tarnished her rock-star image and subjected her to more criticism than she wants. She is content, it seems, to be more symbolic than actual.
I know more about Chris Christie than the others. Until this past August, I was a lifelong New Jerseyan…and he was my governor. Nationally, Christie is seen as a tough-talking no-nonsense free market hero. But then, of course, his politics have little effect on those outside the Garden State. For those living in the state, his austere policies have created no small amount of resistance–especially from workers in the public sector. While everyone agrees that SOMETHING had to be done in New Jersey, the actions he has taken have frustrated many. Everyone wants the government to be more efficient–but not when it means their job. It is possible that his policies and in-state reputation would have torpedoed him if discussed on the national level.
While I’m not exactly sure why Christie didn’t decide to run for President, I suspect he would be more than happy to accept the offer of VP or a choice Cabinet post if his friend Romney wins the day.
Last is Jeb Bush. What to say? While again his legacy as governor of Florida is debated, he is widely known to have been pretty popular overall. More than once I have heard it said he is seen to be the best and brightest the Bush family has to offer. But then that’s the problem. As a Bush, he knows his name alone creates too many difficulties to be elected. At least this time. I suspect his political story isn’t over yet.
In the end, though, this is Mitt’s show now. If he locks up the nomination soon we’ll see how the national debate progresses, and in what way the Republican’s trinity of non-candidates and fallen contenders contribute to the electoral battle ahead.