Will conservatives have to sacrifice principles for the presidency?

Do you want to work for a friend or the president? It was the question posed to the Ryan Gosling’s character in the Ides of March, the new George Clooney movie about a campaign manager trying to work through the muck of a presidential race.

The point in the movie was that sometimes you have to get down and dirty in order to make sure your candidate is the one who wins.

Conservatives face a similar issue with this nomination process. Do they nominate someone who really appeals to conservatives or do they nominate someone who can get elected.

Up until a week ago, I wasn’t sure they could have both.

The polls for soon-to-be-former President Obama basically couldn’t get much worse. The latest CNN poll has the confidence in Obama in an utter free fall with a 46% approval rating versus a 50% disapproval rating.

Couple that with an even more damning number, 59% of people believe Obama’s policies will fail, and the Republicans look like they just have to pick a “don’t screw this up” candidate.

Keep your head down, keep reminding people about how bad the economy is, don’t say anything stupid and we’ll be dine.

Obama won in 2008 with just under 54% of the popular vote, won GOP strongholds like Virginia, and played on the downtrodden public faced with massive personal debts, unemployment, and an overall bleak outlook following eight years of GOP rule.

It’s worked before, why can’t it work again, this time against Obama?

Oddly, the only Republican candidate currently polling ahead of soon-to-be-former president Obama? Mitt Romney, a candidate the Tea Party and conservatives would detest running on a Republican ticket.

On the other hand, if you’re a conservative, do you want to stand on your ideals or do you want to have the Oval Office?

If Mitt Romney is the only candidate who can beat Obama, regardless of his conservative stripes (they’re certainly lacking compared to Herman Cain, Rick Perry, or even Ron Paul), isn’t he already better than what we already have?

Obama won in 2008 by saying he’s not George W. Bush. He painted McCain as Bush 2.0 and won the election largely because people were so pissed with the status quo.

Not only has our current and soon-to-be-former president not improved on the status quo, for most people it’s gotten worse.

Couldn’t anyone beat him?

Well, not exactly. As I noted earlier, the only Republican candidate polling ahead of Obama is Romney and even that support has waned with some pollsters showing Obama with a lead, although within the error margin.

However, among likely Republican voters, Romney is running neck and neck with Herman Cain. Cain leads in South Carolina and Iowa while Romney leads in Florida and New Hampshire.

Obama is down four points or more in some places against a generic Republican, but has been crushing most of the actual candidates when they’re laid side by side.

Except Romney

Just last week,  NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had Obama running 11 points ahead of Cain but just 2 points ahead of Romney.

According to the latest Rasmussen poll Cain has two points on Obama (43/41) while Romney is running a point behind Mr. Soon-to-be-former (43/42), any interesting shift, but not necessarily a permanent one.

Romney is the only candidate in the Republican field who has consistently polled with Obama.

Certainly plenty has yet to be determined when it comes to this campaign.

Cain has unseated Rick Perry as the favorite among conservatives after Perry’s uneven performances in the debates. Conservatives would much rather have Cain on the ticket than Romney, but for weeks, Romney has been able to stand toe to toe with Obama.

Maybe we’ll learn more about Cain in the coming weeks and months of this campaign. If the Tea Party has anything to say about it, we certainly will.

Maybe he can hold onto this momentum and the American people will get behind his message. Can he match Obama on the debate floor? Can he match his charisma and charm? Will Obama’s oratory skills once again mask the fact that he’s woefully inadequate as a candidate?

Cain’s recent surge in popularity has shifted the polls to the point where he’s suddenly competitive with Obama, but will it last? Perry’s popularity didn’t, neither did Michele Bachmann’s.

For the moment, this election though looks like a two-horse race: Romney the closet liberal moderate, and Cain the conservative.

Do you want to stick to your principles or do you want to have a Republican president?

I’m still not sure we can have both.

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One thought on “Will conservatives have to sacrifice principles for the presidency?

  1. […] in October, I wondered if a truly conservative candidate would come to the fore and be electable. The debate isn’t […]

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