Excess GOP baggage

Bob Maistros Chief Writer, Reagan-Bush '84 campaign
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“Good morning and welcome to the GOP Presidential Airlines check-in desk.  Ah, Governor Mitch Daniels.  You’re on quite a roll here, with all your budget-cutting and union-busting.”

“Yep.  I just got off my trial balloon, and I think I’m ready for this trip.”

“Do you have any baggage to check?”

“Well, I am virtually unknown, follicularly challenged and colorless, and I’ve recently antagonized the entire social conservative movement.  And there’s that strange thing with my divorce and remarriage.”

“Yes, that’s a bit weighty, but here’s your boarding pass.  Next.  Governor Haley Barbour.  I see you’ve been picking up some chits as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association and are still sailing on your cred from Katrina and your RNC chairmanship.  So what baggage might you be carrying?”

“Other than my record as a tobacco lobbyist and the fact that many Republicans see me as an operator?”

“Hmm. Anyway, here’s your boarding pass as well.  Who’s next?  Ah, Governor Tim Pawlenty.  Another budget-cutter and reformer.  Any baggage?”

“There is the fact that I probably can’t win in my own home state.”

“That doesn’t happen to successful presidential candidates very often.  But welcome aboard.  Who’s next in line?  Mike Huckabee.  Had a great run out of nowhere in 2008.  I see you’re flying standby.”

“I’m making a lot of money and having a great time with my talk show and speaking around the country.  Plus there’s my Willie Horton moment with that cop-killer Maurice Clemmons whom I let out, and the Club for Growth hates me.  I’m going to wait a bit.”

“Probably a good move.  Well, here’s a surprise.  Former Senator Rick Santorum.  Darling of the social conservative set.  I can see you have quite a set of bags there.”

“There is that 20-point loss in my re-election campaign, my endorsement of Arlen Specter in 2004 and the virtual encyclopedia of controversial quotes the media will hang around my neck.”

“Still, it will be interesting to have you on the trip.  Ron Paul.  Coming up to the counter with a rabid following among libertarians and Tea Partiers.  What baggage do you have to check?”

“Frankly, we libertarians are always at war with social conservatives and the neocons.  Not to mention that my followers and I are just plain weird.”

“Nevertheless, you won the CPAC straw poll.  Here’s your seat assignment.  Mitt Romney, flying first-class as always, I see.  What baggage do you have with you?”

“Well, besides the stain of Romneycare, I’m a onetime private equity baron when Wall Street couldn’t be more unpopular, social conservatives don’t believe my conversion from being pro-choice, and evangelicals don’t like my Mormonism.  Plus even most Republicans see me as too plastic.”

“No problem.  And of course, here’s our star, Sarah Palin.  Seems you’re in the news just about every week, and appear to be the most popular candidate among Republicans.  But wow.  That’s quite a collection of bags you’re dragging along there.”

“You mean that little bit of stuff?  The Gibson and Couric interviews?  Attacks from Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan?  Tina and my front porch?  A couple ethics violations?  Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy?  My tussles with Levi, Letterman, and the legislature?  My monster negatives among independents?  My ongoing mudwrestling match with the Romney camp, with its latest round last week?”

“Don’t forget that one.”

“Oh.  You mean my quitting on the citizens of Alaska after just two years as Governor?”

“I’m afraid all that’s going to put you over the baggage limit for our GOP Presidential Airlines flight.  Can I interest you in a permanent seat on the Fox News Shuttle?”

Bob Maistros was the chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, a former Senate subcommittee counsel and a longtime public relations advisor for companies ranging from AOL to MTV to XM Satellite Radio. He now offers biting satire based on insights gathered at the front lines of headline-making corporate crises, political contests and the culture wars.