Rather than focus on which candidate for president has the best ideas or which one will present the most dynamic contrast to the current occupant of the White House, the Republican chatter class is far too focused on the idea of "electability."
It's an amorphous term but powerful nonetheless. The fear of nominating someone who is unable to beat Barack Obama in the 2012 election—rather than looking for the most consistently conservative candidate who can win—is so powerful that it is allowing some people who should otherwise know better to make personal intellectual compromises they would have denounced as sell-outs in an earlier era.
In part this explains the consistent boomlets on behalf of candidates who have already taken themselves out of the race—like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—and others who some people seem to think would be the proverbial "sure thing" against Obama in 2012.
Unfortunately, aside from there being no such thing as a "sure thing," this kind of thinking runs counter to Ronald Reagan's oft-repeated maxim that conservatives need to paint in bold colors, not pale pastels—that they need to offer the voters a meaningful choice rather than simply promise policies that are a weak and less-damaging echo than those put forward by the current occupant of the White House.
It is far too soon for anyone on the Republican side to be worried about "electability." The focus should be on finding the candidate with the best plan to put America back to work, to repair the damage Obama and the Democrats in Congress have done to the economy, and for keeping the nation and her people safe in an increasingly dangerous world.
Instead the primary focus is on who can beat Obama in November, a line of argument that plays right into the hands of the mainstream media—which would prefer to keep the current president out of the conversation for as long as possible in order to increase his chances of winning re-election.
The GOP, if it really wants to win, needs to be more concerned about the issues that matter most to America: jobs, taxes, federal spending, Obamacare, the president's supercharged regulatory agenda, and all the other programs emanating from the White House that have kept the economy stuck in neutral since he came into office. The question shouldn't be, "Who is the most electable candidate today?" but, "Who has the best program for beating Obama in 2012?" Because that is what most voters—especially the critical bloc of independents who may be the deciding vote—will be looking at come election time. The best man—or woman—to take on Obama is going to be the one with the best ideas.