20 Debates and Still No Candidate

Nobody inspiring and nobody convincing: Republicans are still searching in vain for an alternative to the unpopular Mitt Romney.

The air has all leaked out. About the only thing one can say about the candidates seeking the Republican nomination after 20* television debates is that the last four left standing are still talking and talking a lot. But none of them has anything to say, neither to one another nor to the American voters.

Instead of developing a conservative vision for America; instead of making clear exactly why people should want any of them to be president; instead of presenting themselves as clear alternatives, much less the only conservative alternative to President Barack Obama, all four of them persist only in trench warfare and minor skirmishes.

There are only six days left before the primaries in Arizona and Michigan and just two weeks until Super Tuesday, when Republicans in 10 states decide who will face President Obama in November.

No Clear Winner After Nine Primary Elections

But this selection process has long since given up on presenting new ideas, concepts and future plans and degenerated into how to gain tactical advantages and taking victory laps from debate to debate and election to election.

After nearly 20* debates and nine primary elections, the only thing that’s clear is that, counter to every expectation, there’s still no favorite. And that’s not due to the strength of the candidates but rather to their weaknesses.

For a long time, it seemed that Mitt Romney would be the inevitable nominee facing Obama. His war chest is overflowing, his organization is well-functioning and this was the second time around for him. Romney has invested five years in preparing for the battle for the White House and convincing Americans why the Oval Office should be his.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the Massachusetts ex-governor, but many Republicans have been at odds with him. No wonder, when he changes positions more often than any other Republican contender. Whatever the situation dictates, one day he’s liberal and the next day he’s conservative. He favored universal health insurance, same sex marriage, abortion rights and environmental protection laws before he opposed them.

Political opportunism determines his current position. He still can’t explain what qualifies him to captain the ship of state. He cites his business experience and thinks that entitles him to be called “Mr. Fix-it” and solve all America’s problems.

As a campaigner, Romney often comes off as listless and awkward. He constantly gives the impression that he thinks he’s not only entitled to be the Republican nominee but also to be president. It should be just handed over to him so he can finally get started.

Republicans Are Looking for the Anti-Romney

That’s why the Republicans haven’t given up on finding an alternative to him. But it’s slim pickings in the field of potentials. A good month ago, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich vaulted into the stratosphere but the critics were already in position, reminding everyone of Gingrich’s unpredictability and capriciousness. His star immediately fell.

For the past few weeks, Pennsylvania’s ex-Senator Rick Santorum has been Romney’s latest challenger. Santorum won a couple of primary elections and his conservative positions are genuine.

That being said, because of his extreme religious views — his opposition to abortion rights and contraception and his views on women in general — he doesn’t stand a chance of being elected president. But to a party that has veered so far to the right and has become so ideologically intransigent, he appeals to social conservatives. And not least because he appears so much more genuine than Romney.

It looks as though Santorum has a real chance of winning in Romney’s home state of Michigan. That would be a near-fatal blow since Romney grew up in Michigan and his father was a successful businessman and later popular governor of the state.

Santorum Botched Test in Arizona

Now, Santorum appears to be losing his luster compared to a week ago. The debate in Arizona on Tuesday night was considered an acid test for Santorum, but he dropped the ball. He lost his cool and was ineffectual in countering the predictable attacks by his opponents.

On the other hand, Gingrich rebounded. He again demonstrated his debating skills and now his star is once again on the rise.

There’s a fourth man in the race: Rep. Ron Paul, libertarian and hero to those who oppose both war and big government. But having failed to win anywhere thus far, he has no chance of being the Republican choice.

Thus, the desperate search for a credible anti-Romney continues — perhaps until the bitter end.

*Editor’s note: The original article listed 25 debates, but there have only been 20 so far.

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