Republicans have an unfortunate habit. It’s a habit cribbed from the Academy Awards, in which Hollywood rewards somebody who has been around forever with a special trophy. Republicans have their own Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s called The Presidential Nomination, and it generally goes to dues-paying members who have spent their last few decades working for the party and clawing their way to the top. Members of the Republican Lifetime Achievement Award club include Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush and John McCain. The latest nominees for the Lifetime Achievement Award include Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, both of whom have the excitement factor of dish soap. Now those rebels inside the Republican Party are clamoring for an insurrectionist pick like … Mitch Daniels.
Democrats, unlike Republicans, treat their presidential races like good general managers treat their baseball teams: the most talented kid, no matter how little he’s labored in the minors, gets the call to the Big Show. Barack Obama is the Stephen Strasburg of politics: a nobody who suddenly developed a 100 mph fastball, jumped almost directly to the major leagues, and flamed out almost immediately. Bill Clinton was an Albert Pujols — a late draft pick who turned out to be immensely talented and then had a long and productive career.
In short, Democrats reward talent; Republicans reward hard work. And talent wins elections.
Republicans have to stop thinking about whether candidates have “paid their dues.” They have to stop worrying about whether candidates have labored for the party. They need to start worrying about whether candidates have the “it” factor.
There are only a few who do: Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain. All of them have flaws, however. Christie isn’t running; Palin’s character has been assassinated by the media; Bachmann is a congresswoman rather than a governor or senator; Cain has no political experience. All, however, would be better picks than any of the so-called frontrunners.
The best pick of all would be a first-term senator of minority ethnicity, with a charming family, an earnest style and the ability to speak off the cuff. He would be likeable without being common and brilliant without being pedantic. In other words, a less arrogant mirror image of Obama with conservative principles.
His name is Marco Rubio. He’s out there, and the Republican Party is foolish not to recognize him.