Pundits who once pronounced Republican voters satisfied with the field of presidential contenders may have spoken too soon.
Herman Cain’s difficulties in handling a flurry of sexual harassment accusations–albeit launched by an overzealous, unfair mainstream media–have shaken confidence in his candidacy. Gov. Mitt Romney’s increasingly bold policy pronouncements may be too little, too late to convince the conservative base.
Gov. Rick Perry seems to have faded, and Newt Gingrich’s recent rise may not be big enough to establish him as the latest alternative to Romney. The other candidates are still trying to break into double digits, but aside from Ron Paul–whose isolationist foreign policy makes him unelectable–none has succeeded.
That has some analysts wondering if a new candidate might yet enter the race–and if so, who that would be.
Let’s consider the criteria that a late entrant would have to meet.
1.Well-known. Given that filing deadlines have passed in many states, a new entrant would have to run as a write-in candidate, or even a third-party candidate. That means, in turn, that any new candidate would have to be someone already familiar to Republican primary voters.
2. Thoroughly vetted. After more than a week of angst over Cain’s past, conservative voters may want someone who has already been through the mainstream media wringer. Voters will forgive a few flaws, as long as they are not surprises.
3. Experienced in government. Though conservatives want to make government smaller, Republicans also want someone who will make government better at performing its core functions. Private sector experience is a plus, but experience in government itself might be necessary for a late entrant to compete with the field.
4. Committed to conservative principles. The Obama administration and its radical allies in Washington and beyond have ignited a debate about the role of government in our society. A late entrant must be able to lead the conservative charge against statism in a way some candidates, like Romney, have struggled to do until recently.
5. Traditional, yet tolerant. A candidate who can defend social conservatives without alienating socially liberal Republicans could resolve divisions other candidates have not yet bridged.
6. Strong on security. Few Republican candidates have had the courage to stand up for a strong America abroad. Even Romney appeared to back away from Afghanistan early in the campaign. A new, hawkish candidate could fill the foreign policy gap.
7. Tough on corruption. With complaints about corruption becoming a common theme on the left and the right, but few Republican presidential candidates taking up the issue, a late entrant with a record of corruption-busting on both sides of the aisle could make a big splash among conservative voters–and attract independent voters as well.
8. Connected. Republicans want a Washington outsider, but also want a candidate who is connected well enough in official circles to build a capable campaign and administration. A new candidate with feet in both worlds could bring that kind of balance to the field.
9. Charismatic. Cain’s candidacy has demonstrated the hunger among Republicans for a candidate who can bring energy and personality to the 2012 contest.
10. Ready to fight. Above all, Republicans yearn for a candidate who is not only eager to stand up to Obama, but who also knows how to beat the mainstream media at their own game.
Do these criteria describe anyone familiar?
Someone who the establishment of both parties seemed eager to dismiss?
Someone who may once have been thought “unelectable,” but who may possess the winning formula that has eluded Republican candidates thus far?
Someone who declined to run, but who might, in these circumstances, reconsider?