If Mitt Romney, who declares his candidacy today, actually gets the Republican nomination, out of default or disgust with the rest of the field, Americans will have the chance to reprise 1976 when they, in effect, voted to leave the White House unoccupied by electing Jimmy Carter to take a breather from Watergate and its aftereffects.
Still in shock from Nixon and offended by Gerald Ford’s pardon of him, Americans turned to a former governor whose chief appeal was “I will never lie to you,” but who was otherwise clueless about dealing with a failing economy and a dispirited nation.
What Romney’s candidacy would offer next year is not Hope but Respite. For those who blame Obama for everything but the weather, an Empty Suit in the Oval Office would offer transitory relief from hate and rage but little else, as Carter proved by responding to higher oil prices and inflation with a fireside chat wearing a sweater and complaining about a “national malaise.”
With Sarah Palin and Donald Trump sharing bad pizza to make Jon Stewart apoplectic and Herman Cain, who had marketed bad pizza, rising in the polls, traditional Republicans and Independents might be willing to settle for Mitt’s white-bread persona.
But before that can appeal to Tea Partygoers, it will have to be toasted and slathered with fiery spices and sweets. Romney, who has shown himself willing to stock his cupboard with anything that works, will certainly give it a try but even he might gag on what it would take to win them over.
Update: The Republican reality quotient is reflected in Romney’s willingness to admit in New Hampshire that global warming actually exists, while Palin is in his home state, babbling about how Paul Revere “warned the British.” Empty Suit is looking better every day.