The Most Depressing Republican Primary/Caucus Season Ever?

Some of you SAB readers may have noticed that I haven’t been spending a lot of time writing about Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the rest of the contestants in the GOP reality television show nomination race. I chime in now and then, but for the most part I’m having a hard time caring.

This last week, for instance, was one in which President Obama officially asked Congress for a $1.2 trillion hike in the nation’s debt ceiling. This was the second stage of the debt deal negotiated by Republicans in Congress last year, and will sail through Congress with no problems because under the terms of that deal Congress must pass legislation in order to stop it.

It’s all but a given that the debt ceiling will be increased, yet the moment was marked with nary a mention from the GOP candidates who were all too busy griping about Mitt Romney’s time spent being a capitalist as CEO of Bain Capital, a line of criticism that no less a liberal than AFL-CIO union boss Richard Trumka found appealing.

The question I find myself pondering at this stage in the game is whether or not one of these candidates can rise from the ashes of this dismal contest of losers with enough fuel left in the tank to deny Obama a second term. It’s hard to imagine it, at this point, though Obama will have his own problems with the economy, Obamacare and three years of failed policy.

The question among conservatives is whether they should hold their collective noses and vote for Romney the Inevitable or stay at home and guarantee the nation four more years of Obama, complete with liberal triumphalism at what they’ll characterize as a redemption of his policies, as well as a mandate for more of the same. That’s not something I can stomach, and I’ll likely end up voting for Romney (or whichever one of the not-Romneys edge him out) as a vote against Obama.

But there’s a lesson here for conservatives. Romney started campaigning for this office shortly after leaving the Governor’s office in Massachusetts in 2006, and he’s not really stopped since. Just like Ron Paul, who made a relatively strong showing on the margins of the 2008 GOP nomination race and has been one of the central candidates in this cycle’s competition.

Paul would be taking Romney to the cleaners, I think, were it not for his big digression from the conservative base on foreign policy issues (among other types of baggage), but that’s territory that has already been well-trod.

Conservatives can’t just tune in to national politics every four years and expect to have an impact. In this modern era of political campaigns conservatives are going to have to play the game like Romney and Paul have. Which is going to be hard to do because conservatives, by nature, aren’t joiners. They aren’t campaigners. As someone with a fair amount of experience with trying to get conservatives to all march in the same direction I can tell you it’s like herding cats.

But until conservatives can learn to play the long game like Romney, and to a lesser extent Paul, has they’re going to lose.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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