I usually wait until later in the year to publish this, but honestly—what’s going to change between now and the end of 2012? Time to leave this miserable twelve months behind and plan for the 2014 midterms.
This was a year in which conservative winners were losers: in 2012, most of the top conservatives demonstrated greatness despite falling short in their electoral, legislative, or judicial battles:
1. Mitt Romney – Governor Romney was never as liberal as his detractors insisted—he did nominate Prince of Entitlement Reform Paul Ryan as his running mate, defend capitalism in stark moral terms in rousing campaign speeches, and promise right up until Election Day to repeal Obamacare and issue a fifty-state waiver. He was never as incompetent as his opposition insisted—anyone who misinterpreted his harmless “gaffes” wasn’t going to vote for him anyway. Suck it up, conservatives: Romney was our best chance to beat Obama, the most consistently conservative of the final four primary candidates, and simply our best presidential nominee since Reagan. (Think about it.)
2. Paul Ryan – It was debatable whether Congressman and Pathway to Prosperity author Ryan could do more good by helping Romney get elected or remaining Chair of the House Budget Committee, so it’s hard to be too upset over his share in the GOP ticket’s defeat. After maintaining a low, peaceable profile on the campaign trail, Ryan emerged with his reputation unscathed and his fiscal aims untarnished. Four more years and he’ll be the perfect age to run as the conservative JFK—though he’d better take a stab at the Senate first, since our nation has only once elected a sitting House member President.
3. Scott Walker – The one big winner on this list, Governor Walker swatted away the gubernatorial recall effort—launched against him by Wisconsin’s teacher’s union Occupy types—with an even bigger margin than the one he won by in 2010, even if he couldn’t quite swing his state in Romney’s direction. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.3% under his Democratic predecessor to 7.3% (and 6.7% in April) in the 21 months Walker held office. Definitely on the 2016 GOP Presidential short list, or maybe our next Speaker of the House.
4. Anthony Kennedy – Everyone had their nervous eye on Justice Kennedy as the swing vote in the Obamacare ruling; turns out he was the principled one and Chief Justice John Roberts the treacherous sellout. After the decision upholding Obamacare, insiders publicized Kennedy’s efforts to first persuade, then distance himself from the hopelessly confused Roberts. After perusing Kennedy’s record and learning that his occasional liberal rulings were mostly on social issues—he comes closer than any Justice to a true libertarian—I developed a newfound respect for him.
5. John Kasich – The economy has been improving markedly in many states that recently switched from Democratic to Republican governors. After rescuing Ohio despite the tailwind of the national economy via his union-busting activities—second in force and effectiveness only to Walker’s—and helping push unemployment from 9.5% under his Democratic predecessor to 7.0% in September 2012, Governor John Kasich unfortunately was rewarded by watching Obama take credit for Ohio’s recovery and grab the state’s 18 electoral votes.
6. Mia Love – After energizing the Republican National Convention with tales of her Haitian parents’ immigration and lessons of self-reliance, this Mormon mayor from Utah and one-time aspiring Broadway dancer lost by a hair in her nationally scrutinized Congressional election. Commentators declared that Love “broke the GOP mold,” but failed to note that she “broke the black politician mold” of left-wing, grievance-mongering Democrats. The 113th Congress will be a lesser place without this firebrand who promised to join the Congressional Black Caucus, then “take that thing apart from the inside out.”
7. Artur Davis – One of the earliest Obama 2008 backers, former Alabama Representative Davis was a one-time campaign co-chair, and delivered one of Obama’s nominating speeches at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Davis stunned the political world earlier this year by announcing his switch to the Republican Party and his opposition to Obama’s reelection, and by speaking in support of Romney at the RNC in Tampa.
8. Susanna Martinez – In an instantly classic speech at the RNC, the U.S.’s first female Hispanic governor humorously related her political epiphany after a chat with two acquaintances who were trying to convert her to the GOP. Despite her and her husband’s being lifelong Democrats, the future New Mexico Governor’s support for small government, lower taxes, and a limited welfare state led her to conclude, “I’ll be damned. We’re Republicans!”
9. Marco Rubio – Though he lost the Vice-Presidential nomination to Paul Ryan, Rubio’s influence presaged the growing importance of the Latino-American vote and the necessity for Republicans to adopt a sane immigration policy—Romney’s one major policy weakness. The default choice for GOP Vice-Presidential nominee in 2016, Rubio made his way to Iowa just 11 days after the election and started wowing crowds while raking in fundraising dollars for fellow Republicans.
10. Clint Eastwood – Rachel Maddow snarked that the GOP wouldn’t gain one Romney vote as a result of Eastwood’s hilarious, absurdist appearance at the RNC in which he addressed an imaginary Obama in the form of an empty chair. Maddow’s right—the GOP isn’t impressed by vapid, conformist celebrities; our pulses are quickened by sturdy accountant types like Romney who roll up their sleeves and create wealth via bold business ventures rather than egomaniacs who bore us with politically correct cinematic trash.
Honorable Mention: Allen West – Tea Party mainstay West lost his House seat in a close election rife with voter fraud, but his two fantastic years in Congress have been well worth it.
- Republican governors reject healthcare law’s exchanges in Ohio, Wisconsin (thehill.com)
- Will Ohioan be GOP standard-bearer in ’16? (dispatch.com)
- Hugh Hewitt: A Memo for RNC Chair Priebus (hughhewitt.com)
- Governer Scott Walker for Speaker of the House. (politicalonevoice.wordpress.com)
- GOP leaders already jockeying for 2016 (newsvine.com)