I remember in 1999 there was a gubernatorial race in Kentucky where the fairly unpopular Democratic incumbent was running for re-election, and the Republican party never really put out an official candidate against him. The woman who ran on the GOP ticket didn't have the endorsement of any major party official and was considered to be an embarrassment. The actually crazy erstwhile third-party candidate, Gatewood Galbraith, got about as many votes as she did, running on a platform of little else other than the legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp. (Voter turnout was quite low).
This reminds me of the current Republican primary situation in the absence of Mitch Daniels. The front-runner, Mitt Romney, spent last week getting blasted by the Wall Street Journal and National Review for his flip-flopping around about healthcare reform and individual mandates. Nevermind that in the past Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich also previously supported mandates, and that Paul Ryan admits his own plan for Medicare reform implicitly includes an individual mandate. The political left also wants to inflict the Al Gore problem on Romney. The two leading conservative media organs have pronounced Mitt Romney unfit to lead in an extremely critical campaign area-- so who's left?
If you saw Newt Gingrich on Meet the Press yesterday, it was pretty clear why he's unfit for office. David Gregory had an easy time needling him about his personal life-- his extramarital affairs and three marriages. Tom Coburn was quoted as saying Newt was the last person in America he'd vote for-- ouch. Rough paraphrasing by me:
Gingrich: "I've made mistakes in my past, but I've matured since then."
Gregory's comeback: "You were 55 years old when you resigned in disgrace and married a woman you had an extramarital affair with after your wife was diagnosed with MS. Voters are supposed to believe you weren't mature then??"
Gingrich: "I hope voters will judge how great my current marriage is. I've asked God for forgiveness and reconciliation."
Ron Paul, meanwhile, is busy talking about how the only reason anyone uses heroin is because it's illegal and how the free market would have ended slavery and discrimination without the Civil War or the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But of course it has nothing to do with the fact that he's a racist, right? But Paul generates grass-roots support among Tea Partiers and even college students that the other current candidates do not. He's like the Gatewood Galbraith of this election.
I'm eagerly hoping that Mitch Daniels is strategically sitting back watching these guys destroy themselves before pitching his hat in the ring to save the party from itself. I've been saying this for a while now, but if Mitch Daniels isn't on the GOP ticket, I won't vote for it. And I suspect most non-Southern and centrist Republicans and independents probably won't either. I have no doubt that everyone from David Brooks to Tom Coburn to the Koch Brothers are calling Mitch's office daily.
I also have no doubt that if he does drop his hat in the ring, his InTrade value will skyrocket.
Run Mitch, run!
The market (via InTrade) current predicts that Obama will remain President but have to contend with a GOP-controlled House and Senate in 2012. I think that could actually be fantastic as well.