The ‘jobs candidate’ will prevail

The “invisible hand” that controls elections from behind a grand cosmic curtain had a surprisingly active week, swatting two major GOP presidential candidacies out of the race, first flicking Mike Huckabee’s and then Donald Trump’s. There is something so rational and logical about the way these things happen that I know the invisible hand exists. It’s not like a Santa Claus that comes bearing gifts whether you’ve been naughty or nice, a fantasy figure of childlike faith and parental intervention. This mythical appendage does what needs to be done and plays no favorites. The invisible hand has no particular ideology and certainly is not an early-poll watcher, but it still is prescient about where a race is going and who figures to be a factor.

Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump are interesting characters with a goodly share of supporters, and both would have been factors in the race, at least for a while. But neither fits what the GOP really needs right now. The invisible hand knew. I suspect that several other contenders and rumored entries will soon be thumped from the field, or their entry gate blocked. The ever-knowing one realizes that the GOP needs someone who can seriously address the nation’s economic woes. That’s the ticket for admission to this contest. Hollywood Huckabee has upped his X-factor in the entertainment realm, but done nothing to burnish his economic credentials. Trump, meanwhile, talks a good line, but the man behind the curtain knows that The Donald wouldn’t pass the oppo research test. As one cynic mused, “How did this man lose his shirt in the casino industry; no one loses money running a casino, do they?” And the casino file might have been only one of several ugly episodes in the Trump Chronicles. So, those two are gone. They had no jobs plan or economic recovery game.

ADVERTISEMENT
So where do we go from here? I think it’s Romney’s nomination to lose if he listens to the murmurs from the hidden hand’s voice. Romney is, first and foremost, a Mr. Fix-it when it comes to resuscitating companies and improving the bottom line. That’s what his Bain career was all about, and eventually he’ll figure out that he should spend more time there than defending indefensible healthcare policies of the past. No one besides Romney, or possibly Huntsman, has any credentials to speak economic and business truths to the Obama bunglers. There are a lot of good men and women seeking the GOP’s support, but only the two Utes can say what needs to be said. The rest of the poor field will be scrapping for the 30 to 40 percent that wants tax cuts, no healthcare and complete devolution of government. If each of these base-courting candidates gets a fair share of that libertarian core, he’ll still be far short of a minimum winning coalition. Meanwhile, the candidate who effectively and convincingly promises to restore American jobs and economic might run off with a winning share of the primary and caucus electorates. The jobs candidate won’t encounter nearly as much competition.

Some candidates evidently are convinced that tired old tax-cutting politics and libertarian dogma will capture the nomination. Even if only one candidate hewed to that line, I’m not convinced he or she would prevail. But when four or five candidates are espousing that cause, none is going to get the prize. With Huckabee out, the often-downscale social conservatives are without a standard-bearer, so I think they — particularly stressed in this recession — will be drawn to the jobs candidate.

I recognize that I have painted an oddly dichotomous choice — less government or more jobs — but that’s where we’re headed. Pick a side. The long hand of reason is watching with interest.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.