Four Brokered Convention Prospects
With the way Republican candidates for the presidential nomination have risen and fallen, the prospect of Republicans entering their national convention without a candidate actually decided is real. This ought not to frighten us, though. The quality of presidential candidates has not gotten better since primaries and early caucuses started locking up the nomination before convention time. In fact, one might argue that presidential nominees in constant campaign mode -- recall that Carter became the Democrat nominee years earlier than anyone thought practical -- may produce better campaigners and worse presidents.
If the Republican convention begins without an anointed nominee, how would the brokering proceed? Hard feelings and negative ads against those who had been in the ring may make it difficult to choose any of those now running. A Republican who was generally liked, or at least not disliked, by the candidates now running and who could generate some spark might be the most appealing nominee of all. Who might that be? Here are four possible dark horse nominees who have hardly been mentioned, if they've been mentioned at all.
Bobby Jindal is extremely conservative and religiously serious. He is perhaps, the brightest person in politics today. As the son of legal immigrants and a "person of color" who was attacked by Louisiana Democrats via vile racial epithets when he first ran for governor in 2003, Jindal is someone who could relate to voters with non-European heritage. As a devout Christian whose parents have remained Hindu, Jindal can combine the passion of his faith with genuine tolerance. Having a Desi as president of the United States could also make our relationship with India, perhaps the rising superpower in the world, firm and strong.
Jindal also is a genuine expert on health care and medicine, having served in high federal and state offices covering those areas. There is no personal baggage with Jindal at all. His experience includes federal and state executive experience and federal legislative experience. He also is extraordinarily popular in Louisiana, which suggests real leadership. Indeed, a centerpiece campaign ad might be the actions he took, as governor of Louisiana, when the BP oil spill threatened the economy and ecology, compared with the risible inaction of our current president.
Carly Fiorina could also be a very good president. She was socially conservative in a California Senate race last year in which social conservatism hurt her with voters, and she spoke up for Sarah Palin when Palin was the Republican vice presidential nominee. Indeed, Fiorina is a perfect example of the new conservative Republican woman. She is also a breast cancer survivor, which means that millions of Americans can grasp just how tough she is.
Fiorina is a very smart cookie (it is hard to become CEO of Hewlett-Packard without being smart), and she understands just want America needs to do to survive and thrive with the information technology of the 21st century. Like Jindal, she has made no enemies in the Republican Party, and she has no personal baggage. Fiorina ran a tough campaign against Barbara Boxer in 2010, so Californians know her and appear to like her. She might be able to put California in play if the economy in the Golden State continues to slide.
Eric Cantor is an Orthodox Jew whose passionate commitment to social conservatism could attract serious Christian voters without troubling Jewish voters. Cantor's ACU rating makes him the most conservative congressman in Virginia, and he is also a very smart guy with background in accounting and finance. In debating Obama on the budget, he could probably run rings around our current president. As a Virginian, he could also help keep that state -- and probably North Carolina as well -- in the Republican column.
There are no skeletons in Cantor's closet, and the only real issue with his candidacy would be the public perception of what is happening in Washington now. As majority leader of the House, Cantor is one of the most powerful Republicans around, and he is intimately involved in the battle with Democrats in the Senate and Obama. If, eight months from now, American voters view House Republicans as doing the right thing and Obama the wrong thing, then Cantor might well be the perfect foil in the presidential race.
Susana Martinez is such a perfect poster child for conservative Republicans that the only question is when she is going to be on the national ticket. The child of American citizens of Mexican heritage, she does more than just relate to the sometime amorphous term "Hispanic-American." Martinez is a Mexican-American; in fact, New Mexico Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democrat, recently referred to Martinez three times as "the Mexican." If Martinez could garner substantial percentages of the Mexican-American vote, not only would she carry New Mexico and almost certainly Colorado and Nevada, but she might also put California in play.
The knock on Martinez is that she is too green. But she is not a complete novice to government, and, signally, she is a very popular governor in very rough times. Martinez, if elected, would have more executive experience when sworn into office than Obama did in January 2009.
A brokered convention is still unlikely, but if a dark horse candidate emerges out of such a situation, Republicans have some devastating potential contenders. Jindal, Fiorina, Cantor, and Martinez could each make a powerful candidate and a strong, true conservative president. So the left, which seems to have only one plan -- seek and destroy Republicans -- may backfire.