Bad news: Conservative elites still looking for a 2012 hero

Daniels devastated them, Christie crushed their dreams, now Ryan’s ruined their last, best chance for a champion. Is there no straight-talking, centrist-ish conservative out there with a little entitlement-reform cred to electrify the “right-wing editorial board” primary?

Why not Romney? He’s centrist-ish, albeit neither straight-talking nor especially credible on reforming entitlements. One out of three ain’t bad.

The problem, in shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud…

“In some ways, [the current field is] less satisfying because this is a particularly policy-heavy moment and the most wonky of the wonky issues are front and center,” said Yuval Levin, the Hertog Fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “We feel the absence of policy intellectuals more.”…

“I would hope that whoever the Republican candidate is, he or she will not tell us that creationism or intelligent design is the equivalent of evolution — just another theory about the origins of the biological man,” said the syndicated Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who declined to weigh in on specific candidates, though Perry was recently recorded telling a young boy on a rope line that Texas schools teach both theories. “To put intelligent design on that level is like offering grade-school children a choice between astronomy and astrology,” he said…

“A lot of policy elites inside Washington ask themselves, ‘Who would I like to have dinner with?’ in this effete way,” American Enterprise Institute Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Danielle Pletka said in a telephone interview from Paris. “There’s all too much intellectual snobbery in the Washington policy community.”

Semi-serious question inspired by Krauthammer’s gut-punch to the I.D. crowd: Why aren’t more of these guys backing Huntsman? He’s centrist-ish to put it mildly, cosmopolitan, has come out publicly in support of Ryan’s budget, and is eager to set up camp on the elite side of elite/grassroots fault lines like evolution. He may be a bit too dovish on Afghanistan for some establishment hawks and his support for a larger stimulus with more tax cuts might be unpalatable to establishment fiscal cons (although maybe less so now with a double dip looming), but as a fourth or fifth preference behind Daniels et al., why wouldn’t they gamble on him? I assume that’s always been part of his longshot strategy — win over a few movers and shakers inside the GOP and then hope that their support plus the party’s deepening melancholy at the thought of nominating Romney will bring other big players around to his side.

The problem, of course, is that prominent conservatives don’t want to risk political capital on a guy whose polling “numbers” are an asterisk. At the same time, it could be that the only way Huntsman escapes asterisk territory is by first getting prominent conservatives to risk some capital on him. I don’t know how he gets out of that chicken/egg conundrum, which is probably why he won’t. But who’s left then for the conservative commentariat to back? Jeb Bush isn’t running either and somehow I can’t see a groundswell for Rudy Giuliani’s second take at New Hampshire. Maybe they’ll content themselves by taking the Anyone But Palin position. Some liberals see her candidacy as the best chance yet to end her career as a media/grassroots phenomenon; I wonder how many Beltway Republicans think so too.

Update: If Dean-o is for him, who can be against him? Click the image to watch.