Wall Street Journal
April 12, 2012
By Peggy Noonan
So what have we learned? The GOP presidential contest of 2012 is over. Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. What do we know now that we didn’t know in 2011, when the campaign began? Or what do we know that we already knew, but now we’ve been reminded?
We learned that primogeniture is still a force in the GOP. The next king is the firstborn son of the current king. In political terms, the guy who came in second in the last presidential cycle stands most likely to be crowned and anointed in the current one. Republicans, for all their drama, still tend toward the orderly and still credit experience.
Running for president is serious business. You need money, fund-raising networks, organization, a campaign. You have to get on the ballot in Virginia, you have to field full slates. Mitt Romney learned all this in 2008. He was the only non-newbie in 2012.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann did not fully comprehend what goes into the process. Newt Gingrich didn’t care.
We learned the system is newly open to vanity productions—Messrs. Cain and Gingrich, Donald Trump. We learned Super PACs allow freelancers, and freelancers feel no loyalty to the party brand. They’ll say anything, the larger impact isn’t their problem. They are there to sell books, to further their personal project. We will see more of this, on both sides. It will not leave the process ennobled.