Conservative and grass-roots voters want the White House, but they want something more. They (and independent voters) have spent a decade watching the GOP wander in the policy wilderness. They don’t want just a choice, they want a leader—someone who will define a vision of the future.
It isn’t enough for Mitt Romney to talk (and PowerPoint) about the evils of ObamaCare. He has to disavow his own prototype of that health-care experiment in Massachusetts and offer a believable vision for market-based health care. It isn’t enough for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to talk about the problems of President Obama’s (and his own, onetime) support for cap-and-trade. The nation needs a free-market energy vision that advocates U.S. sources and reverses government-directed-and-subsidized energy. It isn’t enough for Mr. Gingrich to essentially say on national TV: Republicans should not mess with entitlements because it is too politically risky.
It isn’t enough because the GOP candidates will continue to be measured against the “doers.” Neither Mr. Ryan nor Mr. Christie may ever be tempted to officially join the 2012 race, but they already are—and will remain—at the center of the nomination battle. With every day’s headlines, they provide a reminder to voters that there is a serious wing of the party that is going to the mat over honest (if difficult) policy solutions on taxes, on education, on spending, on big government. If the talkers don’t rise to this level of leadership, they might as well go hold forth with The Donald.
The time for talking is over.