Mitt Romney’s critique of President Obama is not that of Newt Gingrich, who has borrowed Dinesh D’Souza’s formulation that Obama’s views are grounded in the “Kenyan anti-colonialism” of his estranged father. Nor is it of the “Hitler Believed in Government-Run Health Care, Too” variety one hears among the lesser luminaries of talk radio. Romney’s critique is that Obama is a manager in way over his head, that he does not know what he is doing, and that his attempts to solve problems he does not understand are making things worse. This seems to me the more credible explanation. But if you are the sort of person who believes that President Obama is trying to destroy America, then Romney’s rhetoric is bound to prove unsatisfying, and you will go seeking sterner stuff — from Gingrich, from the cannier Rick Santorum, from also-rans such as Michele Bachmann or future also-rans such as Rick Perry, or from Ron Paul, if that’s your thing. Among my correspondents, there are many who are very plain about the fact that they would rather lose with Gingrich or Santorum than win with Romney…

For conservatives, it is a question of whether we choose a president based on who he is or based on what he can do. Those conservatives who believe that the way forward is to nominate the anti-Obama hold that Americans are so fed up with the president that they are ready to elevate a hardcore ideologue to the presidency. Andy McCarthy is representative of them when he writes that Gingrich is a “plausible candidate this time around, when in many cycles he would not be, because the main issue is Obama’s radicalism — the president has people frightened enough that what would appear to be insurmountable baggage in some elections could be cancelled out this time around.” But who are these frightened Americans for whom “the main issue” in 2012 is going to be Obama’s so-called radicalism? (And what do we call the 35 percent of Americans who support a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system? Insurgents?) Are we so sure of their support? In what states do they live, and why do they fail to show up in the polling data, which consistently find that voters’ main concerns are the economy, jobs, and related issues?