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The 2012 GOP Nomination Is Too Important to Waste

8:59 AM, Jan 20, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Jeffrey Anderson has a characteristically perceptive piece over at NRO's "Critical Condition" blog on "Three Things We¹ve Learned from Repeal."

His most striking lesson has to do with the centrality of Obamacare to the 2012 election--and the centrality of that election to our future:

"This will set up a battle royale in 2012. On March 21, 2010, the day that the House passed Obamacare, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) declared, 'This moment may mark a temporary conclusion of the health-care debate, but its place in history has not yet been decided. If this passes, the quest to reclaim the American idea is not over. The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished. It is just a steeper hill to climb, and it is a climb that we will make!'

Several major steps in that climb have now been completed: promoting public knowledge of Obamacare's almost endless shortcomings, winning the election of 2010, and passing a repeal bill through the House. Several more are still to come. But, in the end, as has been evident all along to anyone who¹s been paying attention, this debate will not be settled by any entity other than the one that the Democrats were so determined to defy in the first place: the American citizenry.

Everything now points to the presidential election of 2012. Unlike President Clinton with HillaryCare, President Obama can¹t escape Obamacare. Unless the Republicans are foolish enough to send him partial-repeal legislation that he can sign, he is stuck with a horribly unpopular partisan monstrosity that essentially bears his name. He can tack to the middle on everything else, but he cannot--without the Republicans' help--tack to the middle on Obamacare. He cannot--unless the Republicans let him--make it merely somewhat less terrible and thereby attempt to save it. Apart from the prospect of Republicans playing right into his hands, only three possibilities remain: public opinion must shift; Obama must disavow Obamacare; or he must go down with it.

He wanted it this way. He wanted Obamacare to be "comprehensive legislation," passed without compromise and without input from the minority party. The fate of his presidency is now tied to whether or not he can convince people that they want this; that they want a government takeover of health care, an unprecedented consolidation of power in Washington, and a colossally expensive new entitlement when we are already $14 trillion in debt. More than anything else, the 2012 presidential election will hinge on these questions.

Republicans have pushed repeal through the House. Now, to push repeal to its conclusion, they must win the presidency. It will be a lot easier to win with someone like Ryan at the top of the ticket, someone who¹s been involved in the battles over Obamacare, who knows his stuff inside and out, and who can debate Obama and win. But whoever the nominee is, November 6, 2012, will decide the fate of Obama, the fate of Obamacare, and, to some significant degree, the fate of a nation that remains, as Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 1, "in many respects the most interesting in the world."

My conclusion from this? The 2012 GOP presidential nomination is too important to waste. And it's too important for candidates who might be successful to pass up. Any Republican leader who cares about the future of the country, and who thinks it's possible he or she might be the best nominee, should keep an open mind about running. Donors, activists and citizens should keep an open mind about who would prove to be the best nominee, and watch to see how they all perform--in Congress, in statehouses, in debates, and on the stump--over the next year. It's worth getting this nomination right.

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