04 November 2010

It turns out, "the most electable conservative candidate" is exactly who got nominated

I'm a little tired of being lectured about the supposed iron-clad rule of William F. Buckley, Jr. that one should vote for "the most electable conservative candidate." Or was that "the most conservative electable candidate?" Because that would mean something different, if you think about it.

Either way, the phrase has been over-used, mis-used and abused, and mostly brought out to hammer candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. So let me lay some things to rest here.

Exactly who was "the most electable" in the Nevada primary? Sue Lowden? Why? Because she's represented one state senate district for a few terms? That would have made her a formidable opponent to the sitting Senate Majority Leader, who's held statewide office in Nevada for decades?

Let me put it this way: I'll bet chickens to doctor's appointments that Sue Lowden would not have fared any better in the general election, and would have been painted as just as much of an eccentric as Angle.

Who else was there for Republican primary voters to consider? Danny Tarkanian? Tarkanian, though successful in suing his opponent for defamation in a failed state senate bid, has never won an election for anything. The sum total of arguments in his favor seems to be that his father was a very famous basketball coach. Enough said.

CNN's exit polls in Delaware tell us that voters would not have elected Mike Castle, either. That's not really provable, because it's an election that never took place, but the data puts a bit of dent in the ongoing claims that he'd have been a shoo-in to the Senate. Neighboring Maryland rejected the eminently "electable," likable, popular, mainstream Republican Bob Ehrlich for governor by a margin similar to O'Donnell's. Some states were remarkably immune to this year's "wave."

Ultimately, though, the sheer emptiness of the "most electable" dictum comes down to this: electability is determined by elections, and that includes primaries.

And that is the one really big flaw in the ongoing arguments for the "electability"of Mike Castle, Sue Lowden, and all those others that we were too stupid to nominate: they lost their elections.

You can argue that Republicans could have used some better candidates in places like Nevada and Delaware. You can't argue that they were ever on the ballot.

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