Politics

04.03.12

Wisconsin Results: Mark McKinnon on the GOP’s Enthusiasm Gap

Santorum got swept. Romney hasn’t quite closed the door, but the party’s chance to fire up voters is over. By Mark McKinnon

I'm not going to pile on like much of the political punditry and declare the race for the GOP nomination over after the flameout in Wisconsin. It's over when Rick Santorum says it's over. And I suspect he'll take a close look at his comeback chances in Pennsylvania on April 24 before making any big decisions. But odds are he won't want to be embarrassed in his home state and fall victim to the Gore rule (if you lose your home state, you shouldn't be president).

Santorum's problem right now is not Mitt Romney; it's Newt Gingrich. Despite all the fanfare about Santorum needing the contest to become a two-man race, just the opposite is true. The only way for Santorum to make a real play would be for Gingrich to remain viable and attract enough delegates so that between them they can keep Romney from reaching a majority.

Alas, the wind has gone out of the gasbag we call Gingrich. And Romney is creeping ever closer to the inevitable 1,144 delegates.

What is really over, however, is any hope that the GOP contest would generate any real enthusiasm or great platform of ideas.

As we look back on the race, what do we remember?

Colonies on the moon. Nine, nine, nine. And “oops.”

Thanks to Michele Bachmann, we now know it was John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, not John Wayne, the Hollywood hero, who was born in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. We know that millionaire Mitt considers himself to be unemployed. That Jon Huntsman’s girls are very popular. That Tim Pawlenty blinked, and that Rick Perry can really step in it. 

We know that like his jackets, Ron Paul is a bit of a misfit in the party. That some of Newt’s ideas are out of this world. And though we’re still not sure Herman Cain knows who the president of Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan is, we do know Santorum took Bowling 101 for credit at Penn State. 

Meanwhile, the nation is faced with $15.6 trillion in debt, $118 trillion in unfunded liabilities (even before the $17 trillion hole in Obamacare), and an employment-to-population ratio stuck near a 10-year low.

President Obama should be vulnerable because of these numbers and more. His signature health-care plan is in critical condition, the pain at the pump is getting worse, and he appears more willing to negotiate concessions with Russia than with Republican leaders.

The power of his personality and the heat of his rhetoric may not excite as much passion in his supporters this time around, but the GOP needs to give the country something to vote for—not just to vote against.

It’s time for Romney to fire it up.