Mitt Romney is to John Kerry as Minnesota is to itself.

Say what? It’s simple really.  History repeats itself.  Take a little 2004 and a little 1984 add a dash of 2008 and 2012 predicts itself.  Obama wins by a relatively safe margin.   No matter what you think you want to happen, you’ve got to admit – there’s no other viable option at this point.  I’m not looking at 2012 as a referendum on  taxes vs. services, because Obama isn’t the typical tax-and-spend stereotype from 25 years ago.  On the other hand, there’s no question that spending, the debt and the deficit have not-so-quickly become the priority for columnists if not voters writ large.  And as always, it’s the economy stupid.  Clinton 1992.

History repeating itself.

For example, the mistake the GOP is preparing to make with Mitt Romney is exactly the same mistake the Democrats made with John Kerry.  I don’t know if it’s the professional political operatives, the media-types or the party loyalists themselves, but someone tells the candidate to “play it safe” and starts spreading the message that the candidate is “electable.”  All the sudden, the really interesting candidate with something to say (Dean 2004) is dangerous and unelectable.   The problem? The safe, electable candidate is just enough to be competitive but not enough to actually win.

One possible lesson from 2004, “just any” Republican is not going to cut it.  In 2004, Dems thought that the Iraq war was bad enough that voters would react and send a message to Bush.  The focus was on Bush.  There was no reason/incentive to vote for Kerry.  The GOP has not made this election too much about Obama…yet, but the danger is not providing enough incentive for their candidate, whomever that might be.  One thing that could really make it interesting would be to let Pawlenty and Huntsman off the leash.  Like I said earlier, I’m not sure who exactly it is giving them “advice.”  But Pawlenty, for example, seemed ready to take on the establishment, but may have already made an irreversible mistake.  Why? Someone told him to back off.  Even this early, backing down or “playing politics” is enough to sink an otherwise interesting campaign.

Huntsman has yet to show his full campaign strategy but the GOP is already criticizing him for his role in the Obama administration.  In an election where seeming reasonable, measured and centered might be a major strength, his own party is going after the conservative former Governor because he accepted a position to represent the United States to one of the world’s superpowers.   I don’t know enough about Huntsman the candidate to make a decision on him but I do know that his role in the Obama administration should be a strength and it seems like many Republicans see it as just the opposite.

If I had to give advice simply based on the last few Presidential elections, I’d say Romney was a good-to-great governor but is not as electable as Republicans think he is.  He’s safe, voters know it and they need a candidate to vote “for” not an incumbent to vote “against.”

Let it get interesting.  I’m not saying by making it a sideshow involving Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann.  I’m suggesting allowing Pawlenty, Romney, and Huntsman have an honest debate about real issues before the whole nation.  Too idealistic? Almost certainly.

Speaking of Michele Bachmann…I don’t know if this is relevant to anything but I just wanted to make a quick observation about the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  This is a state that was known for Senators Eugene McCarthy, H. Humphrey, and Walter Mondale; now known for Ventura, Franken and Bachmann (yes, and Pawlenty too).  Minnesota is front and center as a result of providing two GOP Presidential candidates.  What got me thinking is whether Bachmann would even win Minnesota if she were the nominee?  Would Pawlenty? In 1984, Minnesota was the only state that Mondale did win.  If Obama is the Democratic Reagan, then the Republican candidate winning 1 state (or less) is not impossible.  (My high school politics teacher and mentor recently wrote to me about the woes of the Republican party and is cringing that I even wrote Reagan and Obama in the same sentence. Sorry, Mr. Anderson.)  Romney would win a few Red  states for sure.  Although, he might not win Massachusetts or Michigan (both sorta his home states).   Pawlenty would likely have a better chance at winning Minnesota than Bachmann (statewide vs. 6th District), but at this early stage, I bet neither is guaranteed.

I know Karl Rove made a career out of playing the electoral college math and know exactly what combination of states would guarantee victory, but he’s not running the show this time around.  And there’s nothing I’ve seen to lead me to believe that the GOP is going to treat the 2012 primary season any differently than they have the debt ceiling debate.  So, pardon me if I don’t have a lot of faith in seeing something different or interesting from a Republican candidate in the next year.  A year in the American news cycle is an eternity.  But then again, it’s been 7 years since 2004 and a tall, Massachusetts politician is running against a polarizing President.  I wonder if this time around it will come down to Minnesota instead of Ohio?  Wouldn’t that be fitting?

Thanks to Wikipedia for apparently sponsoring all the hyperlinks in this post.

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