By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Another good day for Mitt Romney

Now that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s national ambitions are a thing of the past — left behind on the extreme southern stretch of the Appalachian Trail — it’s interesting to think about the number of up-and-coming Republican stars who’ve been taken off the board in the past year. Five (including Sanford) come quickly to mind.

Two — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — were damaged by their own party, pushed in front of the public long before they were ready. Hype-versus-reality questions aside, Palin and Jindal were routinely described as rising stars until, suddenly, they weren’t.

Jindal can certainly recover from his poor performance in delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s national address last February. All he has to do is not act like a dork the next time. But the arc of Palin’s post-running-mate political career has already been determined: hero to the right wing of her party; pariah to everyone else.

Sanford’s finished. So is Nevada Sen. John Ensign, although at least his sexual indiscretions do not include a secretive flight to Argentina. I must confess I’d barely heard of Ensign before learning that (1) he’d been unfaithful in his marriage and (2) he was a possible presidential candidate.

Finally, there is former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, chosen by Obama as his ambassador to China. Huntsman hasn’t been tainted (except possibly in the eyes of a few partisan Republicans), but he’s not going to challenge Obama in 2012.

As Rich Lowry observes at National Review (via Talking Points Memo), Mitt Romney may be the last candidate standing by the time the ’12 campaign rolls around in earnest.

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  1. lkcape

    Romney? Last man standing?How is Massachusetts ever going to dispel the image of producing only flip-flop politicians?

  2. Patricia of Trakai

    By 2012, is Romney going to be considered "the candidate from Massachusetts" or "the candidate from New Hampshire"?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Or the candidate from Michigan? Or the candidate from Utah?

  4. ShelT

    Sorry, but the whole Mark "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" Sanford story makes me smile. Another self-righteous GOP presidential hopeful derailed. He could say "no" to the TARP, but not to the TART. Romney still fits the Hollywood Central Casting image of a president, but has a lot of people in his party who don't like him. He's smart enough to avoid the kind of trouble Ensign and Sanford brought on themselves, but if I were Mitt, I'd let the lawn grow and not worry about landscaping the manse until 2013.

  5. Steve

    Don't count Palin out, at least in the primaries. It's two years until the games begin, and that's a long time. She's very popular with a significant proportion of what passes for the Republican party these days, so I expect she'll raise plenty of money.

  6. O-FISH-L

    So because Sanford and Ensign cheated on their wives they are somehow disqualified from the Presidency? I thought basic cheating got you one term as POTUS and serial cheating got you two terms, or have those rules changed since the 90's?

  7. lkcape

    May I remind the naysayers of ttrack records of the Kennedy boys? (Apologies to Dan.)

  8. David Rogers

    ShelT gets my vote for the best sanford quote of the day: TARP/TART

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: There are some oddities regarding jobs and possible payoffs with Ensign. The whole Sanford thing is just too weird.And let's not rewrite history. The public didn't know about John Kennedy at the time. Gary Hart had to drop out of the '88 race. Bill Clinton might very well have been derailed in '92 if there had been any real proof of his affair with Gennifer Flowers. And John Edwards has been absolutely hammered since his affair was revealed.

  10. Peter Porcupine

    DK – if I get drunk and run somebody over with my car, can I too be called a GOP presidential hopeful? Like Patches?In what universe was Ensign a presidential hopeful. I had never HEARD of him. Sanford? Once on a 'long' list for Veep, but a real contender?Romney. Huckabee. Brownback. Gingrich. Pawlenty. I like some better than others, but these are bona fide candidates. Getting into trouble does not make you a political contender outside the MSNBC universe.

  11. Tony

    Umm, or California, since he has a mansion there too.Romney, BTW, has sold the Utah property and the Massachusetts property. He says he wants to make sure he registers in Mass., but no one has seen the new house yet …I would add to this list Newt Gingrich who is on, what, his third marriage and never saw a twinkie he didn't want to bang? Flipping through the news recently and listening to him lecture us/U.S. about "God" made me throw up.That all said, sure, folks make mistakes in their marriages. No one is perfect. But, if you're thinking about running for president, and you're off on a vacation with your mistress, you need to be locked away in a rubber room – not thinking about 2012.

  12. Aaron Read

    Romney in 2012? I seriously doubt it…Palin may appear to be a pariah, but she's also already proven to be reasonably successful at raising funds – a key marker.Romney blew through piles of his own cash and yet was never taken seriously. And that's really the problem: Palin successfully pulls off that "honest" appearance that Dubya did so well. With Palin, you get the undeniable impression that what you see is what you get.Romney, by contrast, has more flipflops than a beach house and never managed to come off as anything BUT a total phony.Plus, to paraphrase Chuck Lorre's amusing vanity cards: "Wasn't Christian Then, Still Not Christian." If Romney ever gets far enough in the Republican primary for it to be him and someone else, that someone else will relentlessly hammer his Mormonism…and that WILL derail Romney. Conservatives can't stand the idea of a non-Christian being in the White House; especially one that has a religion that has ties to polygamy in the eyes of the public. Why, that's one step away from gay marriage!! And we all know that means it's a slippery slope (pun very much intended) to bestiality, patricide and even, God help us, peace without honor. ;-)Hell, look at the repeated, desperate, pathetic attempts to paint Obama as a Muslim…with the rather implicit message being that all Muslims are terrorists, or at least "bad". Republicans are never afraid to play the religion card.Palin isn't nearly as smart as she likes to think she is…but she's not the bonehead she comes off as, either. She has strong political savvy and she has serious hotness going for her. It's a safe bet she's the frontrunner for the Republicans in 2012. However, I think it's an equally safe bet that Palin's divisiveness will draw out a more centrist Republican from nowhere; someone who, by definition, we just don't know about and won't until the election gets more into a fever pitch…the desperate times that will allow desperate measures.

  13. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Read – I am sure that women in government everywhere will appreciate your listing of physical attractiveness as a component of political viability. You are offensive.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    PP: But where is the Republican candidate who's prettier than Mitt?

  15. mike_b1

    Hehehehe….Republicans are nothing but draft-dodging, tax-and-spend-loving, tax-dodging, wife-abusing, almost-in-the-closet cheaters. Who knew?And their taste in women! Just AWFUL. Even Italy's octogenarian politicians have better taste in their hookers.

  16. Adelle

    Huntsman is the current governor of Utah, not the former governor.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Adelle: Good catch. Just fixed.

  18. acf

    The segment of the voting public that Romney has been vigorously courting since he was first elected governor is the far right religious crowd. I think he did that at the cost of his possible support in the rest of the electorate. The far right alone, is not enough to carry an election. He may sell himself to the kind of activists that move primaries, but to the pragmatists that may see the Republicans' current behavior as toxic to winning national elections, he may have cost himself any further victories.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    acf: I agree with you completely. Romney either has no understanding of who his voters are, or has concluded that there aren't nearly enough of them to win the nomination. If it's the latter, he was wrong — a mainstream conservative technocrat might have beaten McCain.Although every time Romney pops up, he reminds us of what a poor political performer he is. Mitt has always looked better on paper than on the field.

  20. Dot Lane

    "Mr. Read – I am sure that women in government everywhere will appreciate your listing of physical attractiveness as a component of political viability. You are offensive."Those "Hoosiers for the Hot Chick" buttons worn at the GOP convention must have really really offended you then, Peter, as must have the conservative writers who went on ad nauseum about how attractive Sarah Palin is. No matter how you slice it, physical attractiveness *is* a component of political viability and Sarah Palin made sure to play that up as much as possible. Hell, even Richard Nixon recognized this, saying Republicans needed to find attractive women to run for office.

  21. Peter Porcupine

    Ms. Lane – yes, as a matter of fact, I was offended. I was equally offended by media treatment of Hillary Clinton (remember the wrinkled, red eye on Drudge?).I'm sorry, but attractiveness is NOT a component of ability, it's a distracting coincidence. Look at how marginalized Breck Boy Edwards became.

  22. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Not to deny the existence of sexism, but a certain level of physical attractiveness is an absolutely necessity for a politician, whether male or female.Since you bring up Hillary Clinton, I have been amazed by her enemies' characterization of her as some sort of fat, hideous-looking hag. In fact, she is about as ordinary-looking as one can imagine — which is probably exactly what it takes for a woman to be a successful politician.

  23. Dot Lane

    PP:No one said attractiveness was a component of ability, so let's not dissemble. It is a component of electability however, and to say that it isn't a factor in how one views a person is naive. While this may be overstated in historical importance, the differences between Nixon and Kennedy on TV in the 1960 election factored into people's perceptions of each man. Going back further, if you read the survey polling data when Eisenhower ran for President, people, when asked for a free form answer, often mentioned his smile, his bearing, his appearance of authority, but often couldn't name specific policies Eisenhower stood for. Looks count. Bobby Jindal found that out the hard way, when he walked out onto the national stage looking like he was wearing his dad's suit and gesturing like he belonged in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. In an ideal world, that shouldn't matter, but in our youth oriented celebrity culture, it does.

  24. Steve

    Hey, Dan – how about this angle on the story: The State newspaper (the newspaper of record in SC) had the emails between Sanford and his mistress SIX MONTHS ago, and sat on the story.Dan at Xark has the story.

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