If Newt Gingrich Wins Florida, GOP Leaders Need to Step In and Back Someone Like Rob Portman

If Newt Gingrich wins the Florida primary next week, then the GOP is in for one disastrous ride. Mitt Romney will continue with his fixed, moderate Republican support and Gingrich’s lobbying, ethical violations, and generally uncontrollable zaniness will prevent the larger majority of conservatives from coalescing around him in a sustainable way. The campaign will drudge on until at least Super Tuesday and will undoubtedly hurt the party’s chances in November, no matter which one of them emerges the winner. If Republicans are serious about beating President Barack Obama in November, then they must drop these candidates. And if they do, they should nominate Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Portman’s name has been floating around the vice presdential shortlist, but deserves discussion at a considerably higher level.  Portman has an impressive legislative record as a staunch fiscal conservative. He has served in two cabinet positions, for which he’s received bipartisan praise for his cooperative, results-oriented mindset. He has foreign policy experience and, on top of it all, dominates elections in the critical state of Ohio. With this kind of candidate at the top of the ticket, the GOP doesn't just stand a shot at winning. They’d have a shot at a landslide.

Some might be hesitant at the idea of party elites coming in and strong-arming the delegates to vote for someone other than the declared candidates, arguing that those elites would never have the authority to usurp an American election. But the reality of the situations is that political parties aren't the government. They don’t have to let you vote. The parties’ only job is to choose a candidate that best represents their platform and can win in the general election. Honestly, it wouldn’t matter if Republican Party leaders chose a nominee other than the declared candidates, because GOP voters don’t like their choices anyway.  Even if it’s just this time around, the GOP must persuade the declared candidates to step down, and allow an undamaged nominee to move into the general election.

Now some people may say that long, drawn out primaries are ultimately good for the general election, and point to the Democrat’s last nomination cycle as proof. But let’s be clear: Romney and Gingrich are not the Democratic superstars of 2008. Hillary and Obama were essentially fighting over which one of them would get to be the most historic nominee in American politics, during the best Democratic climate in recent memory. Romney and Gingrich, on the other hand, seem to be fighting over which of them can be least popular with independents.  And in that kind of fight, Republicans lose.

In general, yes, democratizing the primary process is the best way to keep parties accountable to the people. But this time around, the system failed to produce, not only candidates that can win, but also candidates that the voters actually want. We’re stuck with a couple of washed up, years-out-of-office career politicians who can’t even get a majority of Republicans to vote for them, let alone stand a chance at winning the general. 

Or we could have Rob Portman. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons