RINO might rise from brink of extinction

September 11, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND |

As it stands at this point in time, President Obama is unelectable. As it stands at this point in time, any candidate with strong ties to the tea party is unelectable. As it stands now, any conservative candidate who does not have strong ties to the tea party is unelectable.

Do you think Ross Perot is kicking himself for running in the wrong year?

Of course, I routinely scream at the TV talking heads, "They do know the election is next year, not this year, right?" That's why I felt the need for all the "as it stands at this point in time" caveats on the opening.

The lousy economy is splendid news for the Republicans, provided it hasn't come a year too early. As it stands now, there's no Republican gorilla in the room that can beat Obama without some friendly cooperation from the unemployment rate.

And while it's certainly possible that things could be worse a year from now, odds are probably better that there will be some positive, if modest, stirrings in the economy.

On the housing side, we've heard that a "second wave" of foreclosures is about to hit, but we've been hearing that for six months or more. The theory is that many foreclosures have been held up in court as the banks' fraudulent robosignings are adjudicated. Once that logjam breaks, we're going to be right back where we were two years ago.

But two other things are at work: Many of the foreclosures that are on the market now are slowly and quietly being reabsorbed into private ownership. And the ones that are not selling are rotting. When the foreclosure story is written, an interesting figure will be the number of homes that simply caved in, or had to be bulldozed. A lot of this surplus inventory might simply disappear, which oddly enough might be the best thing that could happen to the housing market and the worst thing that could happen to the banks. So it's kind of a win-win.

The other important figure, the unemployment rate, is harder to parse. Joblessness is worse than the 9.1 percent rate (which would still indicate, in a glass half full kind of way, that 91 out of every 100 Americans are at work) would suggest. Perversely, an accelerating economy might even cause the rate to go up, because those not currently seeking a job might start.

So if housing is trending up and unemployment is trending down a year from now — a very plausible scenario — President Obama is likely to have a relatively easy ride, assuming the Republican candidates we know of today.

But what if they don't? The only entity more unpopular than Obama today is the tea party, because while it might have saved Americans $50 in taxes, it has cost them $20,000 in their 401(k)s. Further, another tea party mantra is repeal of Obamacare. Tea partiers think they have the people behind them on this one, but don't bet the house and lot.

Health care is a very real issue for many unemployed and underemployed. What new jobs there are out there generally do not come with benefits. So while those on the outside looking in might be inclined to vote for new blood on the basis of jobs, they might think twice if they risk losing any shot at health care.

The tea party might honestly believe that more people would rather see the deficit cut in half than have health care benefits — but this is why the tea party remains a minority.

Yet as long as the tea party controls the Republican party, the chances of a moderate winning the nomination are 50-50 at best. And if a moderate does win, will tea party folks hold their noses and vote for him anyway? Given their thoughts about compromise, don't bet on that, either.

But the most intriguing matchup next fall would be a tea party candidate up against a president presiding over an economy still mired in quicksand. Voters might stay home in droves.

If ever a third-party candidate would stand a chance in America, however, this might be the necessary scenario: An out-of-favor president up against an out-of-favor party.

So who would we turn to? Who would stand a chance? Yes, it might be a return of the long-maligned, all but extinct RINO. The moderate Republican, derided as "Republican in Name Only," the one all but booted out of the Republican party as it's now defined. A breed epitomized by noncrooked parts of Richard Nixon. Fiscally conservative, environmentally liberal and socially unaffiliated.

Boring? You bet RINOs are boring. But couldn't we all use a little boring right about now?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. His email address is

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