Advancing a Free Society

2012: The Rock, Paper, Scissors Election?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Only a fool or a pundit would predict the outcome of the 2012 American Presidential election. I’m not much of a pundit, but I am a fool, so here are my predictions. I call it the Rock, Paper, Scissors election (and yes, I have registered that name). It works like this. Barack Obama would beat Rick Perry: scissors cuts paper. But Mitt Romney would beat Mr. Obama: rock smashes scissors. By this same logic, then, Mr. Perry squelches Mr. Romney in the Republican primaries: paper smothers rock.

You never thought picking elections was so easy. Unlike my colleague Dave Brady on the Boyd and Jill Smith Task Force on the Virtues of a free society, I haven’t even taken a poll. I don’t have a budget for one.

Then again, life is always surprising us. Who’s to say that rock won’t just this once mash paper? Especially if Republican voters have it clearly in mind that the real foe is Mr. Obama, the scissors, and therefore that they need a rock?

There are two ways for a partisan Republican to view the situation. The first would be to count Mr. Obama out. The country is in terrible shape, getting worse all the time, and as President Mr. Obama will take the blame (and deservedly so, as you see it). You’d then have the luxury of putting your eggs in Mr. Perry’s basket, as the social and fiscal conservative your heart desires.

Or you could figure that while wounded Mr. Obama is far from dead. Someone still has to beat him, and that someone has to be Mr. Romney. You know that Mr. Obama has raised tons of money, boasts a formidable organization, and has already shifted into full campaign mode, espousing positions whose only rationale is his determination to be re-elected. You know that whatever the broader public thinks of Mr. Obama, it doesn’t think much of Republicans either. As for the other Republican hopefuls, they’re hopeless. Sure, Ron Paul is a barrel of fun, but either the candidate is Mr. Romney, or it will be Mr. Perry.

So, Mr. or Ms. Obamaphobic Republican, what would you do? You’d vote for Mr. Romney, that’s what. As the wisest man in Texas put it recently (being wise he prefers to remain anonymous), Mr. Perry is the perfect candidate – for Texas. But Texas will go for the GOP in November regardless of the candidate. The election will be decided by independents elsewhere – including very far elsewhere.

In swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, independents aren’t likely to cotton to Mr. Perry. He not only seems too far to the right, but was rash enough to publish a book to prove it. Most independents are used to thinking that evolution is real, and not quite comfortable with thinking that anthropogenic global warming isn’t. They may be Christians themselves, but Mr. Perry’s Christianity is just a little too robustly political for them.

These same independents’ noses tell them that while Mr. Romney may tack to the right during primary season, his instincts are moderate. He’s deeply patriotic and committed to a strong America, which is good, but he’s a businessman and businesslike, what America needs.

Because defeating Mr. Obama is Job One, the Republican primary vote goes to Mr. Romney. I said that only a fool would pick this election, and I was right. But my folly rests on a theory. Call it the Low Testosterone Theory of American politics. According to the High Testosterone Theory (a variant of Voter Stupidity Theory), Mr. Perry sweeps all before him with that right wing feistiness and telegenic manliness of his. But this is the liberal’s dream or nightmare: that what Republican primary voters really want is some masculine counterpart to Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. It’s not what’s going to happen. No, because Mr. Perry would lose in November he’ll also lose in the primaries-- beginning by getting trounced in New Hampshire.

Still, even I am not a big enough fool to pick the outcome in November. That Mr. Perry couldn’t win obviously doesn’t mean that Mr. Romney would. I strongly suspect that he would, but I wouldn’t bet my wife’s (long vanished) family farm on it. The scissors could yet wear away the rock, one well financed scratch at a time. Even Rock, Paper, Scissors proves a game with less certain outcomes than you thought.