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Ask Matt Labash’s Idiot’s Guide to the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary

Matt Labash Columnist
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Dear Matt, I’m a conservative who plans to vote in the Virginia presidential primary next year. But I’m torn. There are so many Republicans running for president, I can’t make sense of the field. The non-crazy candidates are all boring, and the non-boring candidates are all crazy. Whom do you think I should support? —Matt C.

Maybe these crazy candidates you speak of aren’t crazy like you think. Maybe they’re just crazy about America. And maybe these boring candidates you speak of aren’t so boring. Maybe they’re……wait, no, you’re right. They’re really boring.

I’m not going to tell you whom to vote for yet, since the cycle is still young, and we’re not even certain who is running. I’m personally keeping a keen eye on the Bolton candidacy. Not John Bolton – Michael. I’m hoping he gets in. He used to date Marla Maples, so he might be due for a Trump-like surge. And I think he has posed some important questions that the other candidates have shied away from, such as “How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?”

The Daily Caller is so littered with politics, that in this column, I generally try to steer clear when it can be helped in the interest of offering the reader a little variety in their menu – some Jello salad to go along with their peas and carrots. But with another endless, dreary presidential season ahead of us, I’m not above doing some handicapping. It’s always dangerous to preserve your predictions in print. But I’ll plow ahead anyway in an attempt to alienate the entire field at once, praying that such preventative action now keeps me from being imprisoned on their campaign buses down the road.

Recently, the estimable Charles Krauthammer wrote a column laying odds on most of the prospective candidates. This got me to thinking, “What does he know that I don’t?” A lot, probably. He has his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, whereas, I minored in film studies at a second-rate state university (though if you have any questions about the influence of Italian Neorealism on the oeuvre of Keanu Reeves – I’m your man). So in cribbing Krauthammer’s device, I’m not pretending to be a Fox News All Star or anything, even if I do know Stephen F. Hayes personally (the “F.” is for “fastidious,” as you’d know if you knew Hayes, like I do). Still, I humbly offer An Idiot’s Guide to the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary:

John Bolton —  Don’t get me wrong, I loved his work in the Quaker Oats commercials and as a guitarist for the Doobie Brothers. But I never truly trust guys with walrus moustaches. What are they hiding in there? Odds of winning: 10,000—1

Herman Cain — Cain interests me. He’s got executive experience. He’s got the fire. He can pull in black Republicans – all fourteen of them. He’s the only candidate who wasn’t afraid to admit straightaway that he wants the job. (Though you have to be a near pathological egotist to envision yourself as leader of the free world, much of the charade of running for president is pretending that you don’t want to). That said, Cain used to run Godfather’s Pizza. The last time I ate there – let’s call it, 1985 – their deep dish was way too deep. If I wanted that much dough with my pizza, I’d order a loaf of Wonder Bread on the side.  Before I can endorse Cain, I need to hear more about his position on thin-crust. Odds: 5,000-1

Ron Paul — I like Ron Paul. He’s quirky. He’s un-slick. He says what he means, and has actual convictions. I sincerely regret not taking his buy-gold advice 20 years ago. Now that it’s going for around $1,400 an ounce, if I’d listened, I wouldn’t need to write this foolish column to pay for my Primobolan steroids (I’m trying to get  shredded like Paul Ryan, so that I look good by the hotel pool at the Republican convention in Tampa). There are many good reasons not to vote for Ron Paul, as you’ll find out if you ever attend a Ron Paul convention.

But don’t worry about those. If there’s one thing that scares voters, it’s honesty. And Ron Paul is way too honest to be president.  Odds – 30-1

Newt Gingrich — In many ways, the ‘90s was a great decade. It gave us the Internet, budget surpluses, welfare reform, and The Rachel hairstyle. Some things, however, are better left in the 90s: Reebok pumps, Zima beer, Ace of Base, and Newt Gingrich.  Odds: 25-1

Sarah Palin — I refuse to say anything negative about Sarah Palin, since every time I do, I spend the next six weeks digging out from vicious hate mail. Sure, it’s fun to speak my mind – free speech, and all that. But do I really want one of Palin’s Patriots cutting the brakes on my car? No, I might run over them accidentally. Then they’d really call me a RINO. So allow me to say that former Governor Palin is a lovely, talented woman who has a lot on the ball. I wish her nothing but success in her media criticism and reality show endeavors, as well as with her Facebook updates. What her fans lack in perspective, they make up for with passion. So here’s hoping that someone, if not Palin, can find a way to harness that passion and change America for the better. That said, she’s a poor man’s Michele Bachmann. Odds:  20-1

Michele  Bachmann  — A rich man’s Sarah Palin. Odds:  18-1

Donald Trump — In the past, I’ve had some ups and downs with Donald Trump. Once, while profiling him during his 1999 Reform Party exploratory run, I was temporarily forbidden from hanging out in his backstage dressing room at the Jay Leno Show because I’d mentioned that his hair looked like an abandoned nest. Back then, we didn’t have Google images. So this morning, I spent much time looking at photos of birds’ nests, and would belatedly like to offer Mr. Trump a retraction. His hair does not resemble an abandoned nest. As you can see here, Trump’s hair more closely resembles a well-tended nest. There are many establishment critics out there who say Trump is vain, that he is vulgar, that he has a 30-second attention span, and that this whole flirtation is just a marketing campaign. And your problem is? Have you looked around lately? Trump is different from your average American, how? Odds:  12-1

Mitch Daniels — The smart set loves him. But I’ve got one word for them:  VAT – the Value Added Tax. Here’s three more words for them – oil tax hike. Daniels has expressed a willingness to explore both of them. While I’m generally against ideological litmus tests (so long as people agree with me), with gas surpassing four dollars a gallon, you’re either with us, or with the terrorists. Odds of winning if voters come down with collective amnesia and/or start biking to work: 15-1. Odds of winning when his opponents start beating him like a rented mule with tax-hike issues if he gains traction: 500-1.

Tim Pawlenty — If you’re in search of a compelling reason not to vote for Tim Pawlenty, his cloying media handle – TPaw – is probably it. But why settle for just one? Since he’s been on the national stage, it’s hard to know who Pawlenty really is. Though in fairness to us, he doesn’t seem to know either. Among the “serious candidates,” it’s easy to think of him as the Not As Candidate – not as knowledgeable as Daniels or Gingrich, not as quick as Mike Huckabee, not as authoritative as Mitt Romney. But being the runner-up guy always puts you in striking distance. His best bet is probably to stay home from the Ames Straw Poll later this year, and to pray fervently that a meteorite hits the Hilton Coliseum, where it will be held. If the other serious candidates perish, then his mediocrity can finally shine. Odds: 10-1.

Mike Huckabee — I can barely watch Huckabee’s show, so I don’t. But he seems to enjoy it. The conventional wisdom of  the moment (always subject to change at a moment’s notice), has Huckabee making lots of  money, and dreading the horrors of the campaign trail. Why would he give up a pleasant life to do something as miserable as running for president? Since Huckabee has a better than fair chance of winning if he runs, his impulse not to makes me respect him more than I would if he did. Of course if he does run, there goes that incentive to vote for him. He will be nothing more than one of the vulgar herd. And we will again have to watch him butcher bass guitar solos and listen to Chuck Norris speak. Odds if he runs: 4-1. Odds of winning if he doesn’t: he will win the primary in my heart.

Mitt Romney — He’s safe. He’s attractive. He’s competent. He’s Mormon. So unless someone discovers that there are three Mrs. Romneys, there are no skeletons in his closet. Yes, there’s Romneycare. But it’s old news. And Romney can play that away. Now that nearly 20 percent of Americans’ income  is derived from entitlement programs, we are all socialists now, even if we won’t admit it. Additionally, Romney is nearly gaffe-proof, because if he makes a mistake on the stump, you’ll be too asleep to notice. I don’t know a single Republican who gets excited by him, including Mrs. Romney. But in the end, Republican voters will choose someone who gives the least offense (sorry, potential candidates Palin, Bachmann, and Trump), and who has the best chance of beating Obama. Romney, therefore, is the hold-your-nose and swallow-your-Sominex candidate. Odds: 3-1.

In the declared that they’re not declaring department, we’ll address two more, due to their popularity:

Paul Ryan — Good hair. Low body fat. Comes from solid Midwestern stock, so he’s not one of those hippies. Is smart enough to know that being president has little to do with changing the country (see Obama). So here’s hoping Republicans don’t ruin a good thing by drafting him before his work is done. Odds of winning if he runs: 4-1. Odds of running: 100-1

Chris Christie — Too portly to be president. (Side note to readers: here, I am using tricky reverse psychology. After nearly a year of garnering glowing national press, Christie is so used to everybody fawning all over him, that the best way to make him run, is to pretend that you don’t want him to. And to abuse him. So stop chubby chasing, conservative pundits.) Odds of winning if he runs: 2-1. Odds of running: he said he’d rather commit suicide. Faced with the current crop of candidates, I can relate.

To all prospective candidates that I forgot – you don’t have a chance anyway. Please save us the grief of reading and writing more pointless stories about you, and pack it in before you start.

The Weary One

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.