In my view, it’s not about their policies. Americans prefer to vote for the candidate they would most enjoy inviting over for a beer (or root beer). This is why an unremarkable George W. Bush beat Al Gore; no one wanted Gore to sit down and pontificate about his brilliance. Bush would have swapped hunting and fishing stories or laughed about skipping classes in college; Gore would have bored you about how he invented the Internet.
Using the Cyclops beer/root beer test, here is how the Republicans stack up:
Ron Paul – He reminds me of everybody’s crazy uncle, the guy who is passionately opinionated while the rest of the adults alternately nod and suppress snickering. Then just as you’re giggling at his thunderous views (“There’s no proof that Iran has nuclear capabilities” or “The Federal Reserve should be eliminated”), he shows a hint of sanity (“We can’t afford to police the world. Let’s bring the soldiers home from Afghanistan”). The nephews might humor him and drink a beer with him, but they won’t vote for him.
Mitt Romney – The knock on Mitt is that he changes positions. (Joke: A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walk into a bar. The bartender looks at up and says, “Hello Mitt!”) But the biggest problem with Mitt is that he comes across as a stiff, rather unlikable CEO. Sure, he can understand a balance sheet, but we want our leaders to show warmth. And you don’t show your “regular guy” status by boasting that you own four vehicles and your wife has her choice of two Cadillacs. He needs to do more than wear Levis to pass the beer/root beer test.
Rick Santorum – This political “flavor of the week” is better at one-on-one meetings than running from his past. His comments on women’s roles are as toxic as his admission last week that politicians need to “take one for the team.” For all of his unproven appeal to blue-collar voters, you don’t win general elections by emphasizing your personal opposition to birth control. Some men might accept an offer to share a beer, but the vast majority of women wouldn’t come within a block of his patio. His best contribution to the Republican Party would be to give his regular guy sweater vest to Mitt.
Newt Gingrich – Okay, Obama is grinning from ear to ear, chortling at the chance of running against Newt. If women are leery about Santorum, they are aghast at the thought of a serial womanizer in the White House. In theory, he’s the smartest of the four candidates and probably the most fun with which to share a beer. But he is the consummate Washington insider eager to stir up a fight with Iran – and then there’s this thing with the opposite sex.
Mitt is still the best bet, but I’m not surprised GOP voters are still searching for Superman.