Commentary Magazine


Fresh Faces

When a party loses a presidential election and suffers a wipeout in the Senate and the House, as the GOP did in 2008, there is, in addition to concerns about ideology, demographics, and message, a concern about where the next round of political talent will come from. But this is the most easily solved of a losing party’s dilemmas. After John Kerry lost in 2004, there was a Barack Obama. And after 2008, there are now lots and lots of viable, fresh Republican faces.

Matt Continetti spotted what I did last night — a new political rock star in Scott Brown. But he’s also right that “Brown is not alone. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are both fresh, likable conservatives who ran reform campaigns aimed at independent voters. In Florida, Marco Rubio is moving steadily toward victory while campaigning on similar themes. Who knows what talents will emerge in the years ahead.” The benefit of a wipeout loss is that old faces are swept from the scene and there’s room for the next generation of talent to emerge.

All these candidates — Brown, McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio defied the pundits who urged the Republicans to deploy a mushy centrism. Each of them ran conservative-themed campaigns aimed directly at the Democrats’ excesses. Nor do these figures seem bedeviled by some mythical “civil war” in conservative ranks. They’ve gathered support from Republican-establishment types and Tea Party protesters — not to mention a chunk of disaffected independent voters. None is tainted by a Washington D.C. connection (one was a U.S. attorney, the others were all state office holders). And they all have solid retail political skills and a good TV presence.

Once again, the pundits were proved wrong. There is no shortage of conservative talent out there. What those conservative up-and-comers needed was an opening to emerge on the national stage. They all found that opening a mere year into the era of the “permanent Democratic majority” — which, like so much else the chattering class has concocted, seems like a very silly notion now.