Some random thoughts on the passing scene (with apologies to Thomas Sowell).
1. Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Mitt Romney reflects the establishment view that Illinois means its over and that it is time to rally the Republican Party around Romney rather than continue a primary campaign that will, the argument goes, only drive up his negatives for the general.
2. Illinois was good illustration of the slow-moving train wreck that this primary campaign has become. Romney’s margin was decisive but still weak by past frontrunner standards. Conservatives still were lukewarm toward him, but did not embrace the alternatives enough to keep him from winning.
3. Rick Santorum is supposed to be the Rust Belt candidate. Perhaps if he stuck to his economic populist message he could have been, though that might have put a ceiling on his conservative support elsewhere. He has clearly lost that mojo.
4. Outside, Newt Gingrich’s fourth place finishes are becoming increasingly common. The rationale for his candidacy is hard to see. Santorum would no doubt benefit in some states and national polls from him leaving the race, but I’m not sure it would have much more impact than that. I think there was a period of time, probably before Ohio, when a Gingrich departure would have made Santorum a real threat to overtake Romney but that window has closed.
5. A slim chance still exists for Santorum and company to deny Romney a first-ballot victory at the convention, at which point all bets are off. But that window is starting to close too.
6. The “Etch a Sketch” controversy is a good example of conservative distrust for Romney. And it’s not a problem that’s unique to Romney: since Richard Nixon, Republicans have been running to the right in the primaries and then to the left in the general. Ronald Reagan was the exception.
7. Romney endorser John McCain is also a problem. Many conservatives held their nose for him in 2008, watched him lose to Barack Obama, and said, “Never again.” Romney is finding out that they mean it.
8. Paul Ryan’s right-wing critics are correct that he should cut faster — a balanced budget in 2040? — but are being shortsighted if they don’t understand this is mainly a debate about what Ryan wants to do with Medicare.
9. I very much doubt Tim Tebow will start for the New York Jets at the beginning of the season. Mark Sanchez just signed a large, early contract extension, Tebow’s biggest contribution will be improving the Jets’ recently lackluster running game, and this only makes sense inasmuch as this forces opposing defenses to prepare for both quarterbacks. But Tebow could be starting there by the end of the season, especially if 2011 Sanchez returns in 2012.
10. I feel badly for Tebow that this was his destination. I just don’t think this is his scene.
11. Ron Paul passed 1 million votes last night. It took him basically the entire campaign to manage that feat in 2008.
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