Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There can be only two

In a recent column, Mike Littwin simultaneously condemns and engages in the practice of lumping Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann together in the Republican presidential nomination contest. He's hardly the only one doing this -- many political journalists seem to believe there's only room for one conservative woman in the contest. Later in the same column, he seems to suggest that Bachmann or Tim Pawlenty would quickly dispatch with the other, since there can only be one Minnesotan in the race. Meanwhile, Holly Bailey tells us that Jon Huntsman has to distinguish himself from Mitt Romney, since there's only room for one moderate Mormon former governor in the contest.

Still, for my money, no one seems to be falling for this trope harder than Time magazine, which has likened the GOP nomination contest to a March madness bracket. The metaphor only works in the narrow sense that there are currently many competitors and there will eventually be only one, but the mechanism for determining the winner is obviously entirely different. Every candidate will appear on the New Hampshire and Iowa ballots.

Let me just make a quick point here: in the long run, there's only room for one candidate, period. By this point next year, the Republicans will have settled on a single nominee. Prior to that, of course, there may well be just two candidates competing in the post-New Hampshire primaries and caucuses. But there's no reason those candidates can't be two women, or two Minnesotans, or two Mormons, or two Protestant white guys (although no one seems to have concerns about that).

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