Who Will Be the GOP Messiah?

Barack Obama is so doomed politically that he sits behind his desk in the Oval Office with a vulture on each shoulder. And every day at noon, Joe Biden comes in dressed as the Grim Reaper, and they all play gin.

I know this because the Poll Gods tell me this. A recent McClatchy/Marist poll says that 49 percent of voters say they definitely plan to vote against Obama in 2012.

In addition, 52 percent of Americans think the Republican candidate will win (even though they don’t know who the Republican candidate will be). And nearly one out of every three Democrats agrees that Obama is finished.

Other polls have shown similar dismal numbers for Obama. But I say the Poll Gods are wrong. Not only can Obama be re-elected, but he is the favorite right now.

Why? Because Obama has one huge plus going for him. It’s called the Republican field.

And Republican voters agree with me. Because if Obama were really so weak a candidate, why would Republicans keep looking for a messiah to save them?

One day, it is Michele Bachmann. Then she poops out, and it is Rick Perry. Then he disappoints, and the party turns in desperation to Mitt Romney. Then the party decides it is not that desperate and turns to — I kid thee not — Herman Cain.

A CBS poll released Tuesday shows that Cain has moved into a tie with Romney for first place in the Republican field. (After the poll was released, ugly rumors circulated that Warren G. Harding had come in third, even though he has been dead for 88 years.)

So what do I make of Cain’s (meaningless) rise in the (meaningless) polls?

It is meaningless. And a sign of how badly Republicans are still floundering in their search for a candidate. Cain is a genial, harmless dodo who thinks running a country is just like running a business. But it isn’t.

In business, your competitors rarely strive to develop nuclear weapons like Iran (a subject Cain knows almost nothing about). In business, rarely do your competitors have the capacity to clash in ways that could involve the armed forces of the United States, such as China with Taiwan or Israel with its neighbors (two areas of the world that Cain has demonstrated remarkable ignorance about). And in business, you don’t have to feed the hungry, house the homeless or heal the sick.

True, Cain is a man with a domestic plan. Unfortunately for him, it is an utterly hopeless one. Whatever the economic merits of his 9-9-9 plan, it is doomed to political failure because, among other things, it would have Americans give up something they like — their home mortgage interest deduction — for something they won’t like: a 9 percent national sales tax that would be levied on top of state and local taxes.

According to PolitiFact, “In Florida, that would create a hypothetical tax rate of 15 percent in most parts of the state.” True, Cain’s plan offers benefits, but I want to see Cain win Florida and its 29 electoral votes in November 2012 lugging a 15 percent sales tax around on his back.

Yet the Poll Gods say Cain is hotter than a two-dollar pistol. (Though under Cain, a two-dollar pistol would cost $2.30 in Florida.) But this shows just how frantic Republican voters are. Cain could never win the GOP nomination — yes, race raises its ugly head — and even if he did, he could never win 270 electoral votes to beat Barack Obama.

I am not picking on Cain. I have said exactly the same thing about Michael Bloomberg every time he surfaces as a fantasy independent candidate. His aides tell me that Bloomberg is rich enough to wage and win ballot-access fights in all 50 states, he could self-finance his campaign with billions of dollars more than any opponent, and he could buy all the TV time in the known universe.

And I always say the same thing to them: Tell me the states Bloomberg will win. Write down the states that add up to 270. I am still waiting for an answer.

So who could get to 270? Romney could. Conceivably. And Perry. Conceivably. True, Perry is damaged goods today, but he is raising oodles of money, and reporters, lacking their own money, are very impressed by the money of politicians.

But could Republicans be unable to decide on a front-runner because they believe any of their candidates could beat Barack Obama?

No, they could not be so foolish. Though Obama now calls himself the underdog and told one crowd Tuesday that his 2012 efforts “won’t be as sexy as in 2008” and another crowd that “this election is going to be much more just grinding it out,” the fact is he is pretty good at grinding things out.

True, he presides over a lousy economy and a dreadful war in Afghanistan. But he also has some real accomplishments. He is a heck of a stump speaker and a pretty good debater, and has an experienced campaign staff.

I don’t believe staffs win elections; the candidates do. But a good staff can help.

And Obama’s campaign staff in Chicago has been doing many things — raising money, shaping strategy, developing a message — but it also has been doing just one thing: Counting. To 270.

Which it does awfully well.

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