Can Perry, Bachmann, or Romney Save the Republican Party Brand?

It seems unlikely any of the lead candidates will be able to save the party's toxic brand.

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And you can be sure that Obama will do everything he can to pin the toxic Congress on the GOP nominee. Which brings us back to the question of a GOP Sister Souljah moment. Can we expect Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, or Mitt Romney to publicly disassociate him or herself from the party's toxic brand? [Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]

Take them one at a time. The embodiment of the no-compromise style the public disdains, Bachmann seems congenitally incapable of such a move unless it's a reverse Sister Souljah moment, where she castigates her party for being insufficiently beholden to its base.

Then there is Perry. While the last Lone Star governor to run for president couched his conservatism as compassionate and cast himself as a "uniter, not a divider," Perry has a history of being a rhetorical bomb-thrower who relishes a fight, and not someone given to apologize for taking hard lines. His lunatic comments about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's efforts to stimulate the economy being potentially "treasonous" are classic Perry. He has shown some willingness to buck conservatives on immigration. But he seems an unlikely candidate for a stand against movement orthodoxy, especially because he seems to be positioning himself as the thorough-going, unwavering conservative in the race, in contrast to the abject flip-flopper Romney. [Read: Perry Wrong on Texas Secession Question.]

The former Massachusetts governor, ironically, seems perfectly capable of a Sister Souljah moment, but he is also ideally positioned for it to backfire. Clinton's rebuke of Souljah was a logical step in a long-term effort to move his party to the center. Romney, by contrast, has spent most of the last decade trying to burnish his conservative bona fides. Publicly breaking with the right after securing the nomination would only reinforce his reputation as a transparently say-anything politician.

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