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Who Can Unite the Republicans in 2012?

9:30 AM, Feb 28, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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3. There are two striking exceptions to the general lack of overlap between the Tea Party favorites and the establishment favorites: Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. Ryan ranks 1st in the Tea Party poll, and Christie ranks 2nd. Since both men are also highly respected by the establishment, they have tremendous potential to unite the party and lead it to victory. Tim Pawlenty, relatively popular with the establishment in his own right, also possesses some crossover appeal, ranking 5th in the Tea Party Straw Poll.  Mike Pence would also likely have done well in the Tea Party poll, had he not been omitted from it after he opted out of the race — but he could always opt back in.

In addition to his popularity among potential voters, Ryan is also a highly respected — perhaps the most highly respected — member of Congress.  Sure, some establishment-types would probably balk at his “not waiting his turn,” but this nation-defining election doesn’t call for union-style, seniority-based thinking. This is an election that the Republican Party must win — for the sake of the country. 

Others who are wedded to convention or recent history might balk at Ryan’s coming out of the House of Representatives. But that’s where the action is, where the battles over Obamacare, the budget, and the future direction of this country, have been taking place. Plus, no one really believes that the chairman of the House Budget Committee is less experienced, distinguished, or prepared, than a partial-term, back-bench senator — yet Barack Obama showed the courage to run “out of turn.” Ryan should as well — because, in reality, it is his turn (just like it was Obama’s).

Christie, likewise, has already proven his mettle as a leader.  Though perhaps less experienced (in government) than Ryan, his unyielding, prosecutorial style would serve him well in a debate.  In fact, is there anyone you’d rather see on the debate stage, looking eyeball-to-eyeball with President Obama, than either of these two?  We’ve already witnessed two examples (here and here) of direct interaction between Ryan and Obama, and the prospect of interaction between Christie and Obama offers similar promise.

It’s simple, really: If Republicans want to be enthusiastically united behind a candidate who can lead them to victory in 2012 — and thereby save the country from Obamacare — they’d better coax these two (à la George Washington in 1789 and 1792, who ultimately decided that duty called) into the presidential race. 

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