Matt Lewis

Will fielding better candidates magically fix the GOP’s problems?

Despite never having fallen in love with Mitt Romney, I am decidedly turned off by the those who suddenly want to throw him under the bus. Romney was never going to be a dream candidate, but he was the best in a decidedly weak primary field.

He has earned our respect.

Having said that, I think there’s something to what Byron York says here: “Voters want to believe in a candidate. If Republicans find that candidate, they will win.”

This doesn’t mean the GOP should ignore the demographic ticking time bomb (losing 70 percent of Hispanics is utterly unacceptable), nor should they postpone introspection. But it is very clear that — in this modern TV era — charismatic candidates are a prerequisite.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were prime examples. And Barack Obama, like him or not, is a charismatic and compelling candidate.

And here’s what we still don’t know: Can Democrats can replicate the excitement and enthusiasm when Obama’s not on the ticket?

We were all shocked that he was able to recapture the 2008 magic in 2012. But what if Obama wasn’t on the ticket at all? Could Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton turn out young people and African-Americans in equal numbers? We will have to wait four years to see.

Mitt Romney is a good and decent man, but (as evidenced by the number of “frontrunners” that emerged during the primary), he was never going to be the second coming of Reagan.

So yes, of course, fielding a charismatic and visionary candidate is better than fielding a generic Republican. And this is not just true at the top of the ticket. Consider some of this year’s failed senate candidates.

But even if you buy into this “Great Man” theory of campaigning, it still doesn’t mean the GOP shouldn’t be introspective or evolve. It’s hard to control who runs for (and wins) a nomination, but movements and party organizations can work on policy ideas, outreach, and infrastructure.

Think of a football team. Of course having a star quarterback is the most important thing. And sometimes you even build a team around the “quarterback of the future.” But there are a lot of other factors that go into a winning season.

Having said that, it is worth noting that at least some of what happened Tuesday night can probably be attributable to a cult of personality — not to a changing America.

At the end of the day, the candidate is the message. And the good news, of course, is that the GOP bench is full of star power.