Morning Jay: The "Yes...But" Republican Field
6:00 AM, Mar 9, 2011 • By JAY COST
Reagan had to battle Bush for some time thereafter, but this was a real turning point in the race: where Reagan shook off the tag that he was too old, too tired, and too complacent to be the nominee.
This is what each of the candidates for 2012 will be chasing over the next few months. It doesn't have to be as dramatic a moment as the Nashua debate, of course. Even so, all of them will be looking to overcome their perceived limitations, to prove that in practice they are mostly upside with very little downside.
The modern nomination system is an asburdly inefficient process. It goes on way too long. It costs far too much. It sets party allies against each other in open and often uncivil conflict. But it does have the advantage of thoroughly vetting the prospectives. Each of these candidates will have a chance to deal with their theoretical downsides. Huntsman will have a shot to disavow Obama. Pawlenty will have a chance to generate some buzz. Romney will have a chance to answer for Romneycare. And so on. That's one thing that the seemingly interminable primary campaign is good for.
Final point. There is a chance that none of these candidates can rise above their theoretical weaknesses, that fears about all of these candidates come true. It has happened before. But it's just too early to start betting whether that's going to happen this time around. We have to see these candidates on the stump for at least a little bit before we start presuming that none of them are up to snuff. And, to cultivate that patience, we should remember that old 1980 GOP debate in Nashua, which should remind us that Reagan wasn't really Reagan until after he had won.
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