Mitt Romney's most important endorsement: Meghan McCain

Truthfully, I’m a little jealous of her prescience about the Rick Perry campaign: Two months ago, I could no more have foreseen that he’d be fifth in today’s NYT/CBS poll, with just 6 percent support, than I could have foreseen that K-State would be 7-0 so far this college football season or that OU would lose to Texas Tech last weekend. Back then, I believed wholeheartedly in the Rick Perry promise: He would unite the establishment and the Tea Party, and, with his fundraising prowess and speech-making savvy, would sail to the nomination.

Then again, maybe Blogette has always bashed Perry for one reason and one reason only: Even with just 6 percent of support and low debate stamina, he’ll have surprising staying power thanks to his financial backers. His recent rollouts of important ideas — first his jobs plan, now his tax reform plan — have been well-executed, too. That all makes him a continued threat to Mitt Romney in a way Herman Cain can’t be quite yet.

And she wouldn’t want to boost a competitor because, apparently, Meghan McCain thinks Mitt is our man:

“I’ve been on team Romney for a year and a half, two years,” McCain said. “I think he’s the most qualified and I’m sick of personalities. I don’t need a rock star president and I never did, and I don’t care about celebrity. I think he’s the smartest, most capable and knows the most about the economy and can hopefully do something to fix our recession.”

Romney’s competitors, though, didn’t fare so well — starting with Rick Perry’s campaign.

“I never bought into it,” she said. “I wrote a column and took a lot of heat for saying I thought he was basically completely unqualified — I think I was right then and right now. … He’s wasting everyone’s time. … “It’s the same thing I think about Newt Gingrich: You’re wasting everybody’s time. This is obviously some kind of vanity project and I don’t think running for president should be a vanity project.”

First, let’s straighten out that last line: Running for president is always a vanity project. I don’t care if you’re Ronald Reagan. You don’t run for president without an ego (or, at the very least, a spouse with one!). Barack Obama might be more arrogant than most (as Ramesh Pommeru recently put it, the guy has “preternatural self-confidence”) and G.W. might have been more humble than most — but, by and large, the presidency is not a position for a self-effacing individual.

That said, the underlying principle of her point makes sense: Candidates should know better than to think they’ll score the nomination in their sleep. (Lest you think I thoughtlessly used that cliché, recall just how somnambulant Perry’s debate performances have been at times.)

But, unlike McCain, I don’t think either Perry or Gingrich are wasting our time (especially given that either of them could still win the nomination!). They might have assumed they were better prepared than they actually were — and, consequently, had to revise their strategies in a hurry just to arrive at the starting line. But they still have brought — and will continue to bring — valuable experience and ideas to the primary process. The candidates continue to refine each other.

After the Vegas debate, I fretted momentarily that all the chiseling had turned to chipping and that the eventual nominee would be so demolished by the time he or she reached the general that the fight would be as between the Winged Victory on the GOP side and Michelangelo’s David on the other. How could even a beheaded angel beat a young man in his prime? But I’m back to thinking the primary process works in our favor. In the first place, even though it might not seem like it, it diffuses the scrutiny. On any given day, a GOP candidate might get by with a silly slogan because the left has to respond to all of them — but let Obama say “We Can’t Wait” or “Greater Together” and the right would be hard-pressed not to pounce. Every proposal Obama puts forth receives rebuttals from all the GOP candidates. But, even more importantly, the primary forces the candidates to hone their defenses. Obama wouldn’t have won in 2008 if he hadn’t had to beat Hillary first (even with the financial crisis). So, let the games continue …

Oh, right. So what does this endorsement mean for Mitt? Not much. If anything, it just reminds Tea Partiers that he’s the establishment candidate whose time would have had undeniably come if it weren’t for them.

P.S. Here’s the interview in which McCain made these comments. She barely got them out before she descended into total lambasting of the highly knowledgable Newt Gingrich as “irrelevant.” I’d rather not go there, so I’ll just let you watch for yourselves: