John Hinderaker at Power Line writes the following about the departure of Herman Cain (bracketed “Points” mine):
[Point 1] What happened to Herman Cain is what the Democrats intend to do to whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be. They know they can’t win a debate on the economy or on President Obama’s record, so they will do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from those matters, which should be decisive, and instead turn the focus to the GOP candidate and his or her alleged foibles. [Point 2] If Republican voters allow that to happen by nominating a candidate with baggage that permits the Democrats to turn him into the next Herman Cain, it is all too likely that President Obama will be re-elected, with consequences that can hardly be overestimated.
Point 1 is something I have been writing about almost since the start of this blog, the need to defend Republicans and conservatives and Tea Party supporters against media smears regardless of whether you support the particular candidate. The David Frum wing of the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way, and frankly, neither does much of the conservative media. Piling on Sarah Palin was taken as a sign of moral and intellectual courage when in fact it was moral and intellectual cowardess. Many of those same people joined the Democratic pro-Obama mainstream media in piling on caricatures and distortions regarding Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt.
Point 2 is a truism, but begs the question of what is “baggage.” I surmise from John’s post that he is talking about Newt, as to whom the term “baggage” most frequently is used. But what is baggage in an election?
Personal faults and defaults will not factor in as much as long as not illegal, provided they are acknowledged and atoned for. That is why the social conservative vote has not written off Newt, or fully embraced other candidates without known personal baggage.
What about political baggage? That’s more problematic in a campaign. It’s the reason the Obama campaign has targeted Romney’s political “core.” As I pointed out before, it’s a theme which has worked in the past against Romney.
But my biggest issue with the “baggage” concern is that it is defensive. Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the media will deem that candidate to have baggage.
The purest of personally pure candidates will be faulted for being a religious nut and not hip enough to be president, someone from the white bread 1950s. Policies advocating personal responsibility and empowerment will be portrayed as cruel and favoring the rich. Advocacy of treating people according to the content of their characters rather than the colors of their skin will be protrayed as racially insensitive or racist.
So yes, don’t select a nominee with so much baggage that the nominee is unelectable, but think through what “baggage” really means, and don’t try to placate the mainstream media which will be against our nominee, baggage or not.