Frist out, Mitt one closer

As I wrote in last week's issue, Mitt Romney keeps getting closer and closer to being the last viable conservative standing for the anti-McCain right wing to rally around for the GOP Presidential nomination. Today, he moved one step ahead; The Wall Street Journal's Washinton Whispers reports that Senator Bill Frist won't run.

Two years ago, at the Republican national convention, Frist was considered one of the most likely to get the nomination: he was solidly conservative but without the frothing Rick Santorum reputation, is one of the best fundraisers in the business, and had the apparent blessing of Bush insiders including Karl Rove.

Frist did everything wrong between then and now. Most notably, his Terri Schiavo shenanigans put the froth on his public perception.

Making himself Senate President made it easy for his fellow Presidential-minded Republicans to thwart his goals and make him look bad --  did he get to take credit for any significant legislation? Perhaps the most glaring example was when he got pushed into pressing the "nuclear option" of changing the rules to allow easier confirmation of reactionary judges... and then had McCain and others thwart him by negotiating a compromise that kept the old rules in place. Frist looked like an evil, rabid partisan to moderates, and like an ineffectual loser to the right wing.

Presiding over the GOP's loss of the Senate was probably the nail in his coffin, although he still could have made a very strong run at the nomination. His decision to stay out is a big help for Romney; expect to see him making a big play for Frist's fundraisers, staffers, and allies, particularly in the South.

[by David S. Bernstein]

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