The GOP’s Tough Decision

Hans Noel, a Georgetown professor who’s one of the authors of The Party Decides, which is the best scholarly work on presidential nominations, has an excellent interview with Greg Marx at CJR about the Republican field. His main point is that journalists should try to look at this from a less candidate-centered view and a more party-centered one. And this is a pretty poor prognosis for Michele Bachmann:

To take a candidate who occupies a very different position in the race, what would you look for if you were covering Michele Bachmann’s campaign?

Remembering what we were saying a little earlier, the party base is expanding and shifting. The Tea Party leadership might have a stronger voice now, and her support among them matters. But she’s got to have some support outside the Tea Party, or else she’s a factional candidate, and that’s not going to be enough to get her through contests that are not in Tea Party-friendly states. So I would be looking for, are there major party leaders who are either hostile to the Tea Party or just not deeply involved in the Tea Party who are supportive of her?

Thus far, the answer seems to be no. The good thing she has going for her is that someone has to win. Mitt Romney clearly seems unacceptable to important elements of the party. But relative to Bachmann, Romney can point to things like an endorsement from Rep Jason Chaffetz to demonstrate some support in rock-ribbed conservative circles. Still, what you’d really be looking for is endorsements of Romney from solid conservatives who aren’t Mormons. And this kind of void between Bachmann and Romney is why someone like Rick Perry seems to have an opportunity. The party is going to want someone with a clearer and more conservative record than Romney’s, but who looks more like a conventional presidential candidate than Bachmann.