The presidential election of 2012, regardless of the Republican nominee, is bound to be a fierce, no holds barred, bare-knuckle race.

The Obama machine plans to use its billion-dollar war chest to buy victory from the jaws of defeat by brutally negative attacks on the yet-to-be-decided Republican nominee.  He can’t run on his record, nor the “hope” and “change” his first term forced upon the nation.

The Obama campaign will be ruthless, and the American people will have to decide to stick with him or choose a new road to travel.  The course of action we take that would help him achieve his ends would be to nominate a moderate, an Obama-lite, who could be portrayed as the evil the public doesn’t know as opposed to the evil the public does know, Obama.

Some of my fellow conservatives, though a bit weaker-kneed than I, have expressed their concern about the loss of the race by the nomination of a “Goldwater candidate.”  Those same advocates urge us to nominate someone who is undeniably “electable,” even though they don’t reflect conservative values.  I understand their concerns; we must get Obama out of office.  What price are we willing to bear to do so?  Becoming liberal Republicans?  I, for one, say, “No, thank you!”

As for the comparisons, are any of our current conservative candidates running campaigns similar to the 1964 Goldwater campaign?  Parallels are extant, but short: Senator Goldwater, like our future nominee, faced an incumbent; thus ends the similarities.  The differences are what is key, and will propel the nominee, if conservative, to the presidency.

In 1964, the nation still reeled from the assassination of President Kennedy less than a year before Election Day.  Though the assassination was linked to a communist sympathizing extremist, the Democrats were able to use the opportunity to run against the opponent of extremism, which they successfully linked to Goldwater.  Goldwater’s most memorable quote from the race of 1964 was used, out of context, by liberals (in both parties) to smear Goldwater by saying he justified extremism, or at the very least condoned it.  He never refined and clarified his statement, giving his opponents an easier time in achieving their ends.

Goldwater was also successfully painted as an unabashed and unhesitating hawk, ready to partake in nuclear war with the Soviets.  The United States was at the height of the Cold War, with multiple incidents occurring less than 100 miles south of Florida.  The decade opened with the downing of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union, the Bay of Pigs incident occurred a year later, and the Cuban Missile Crisis stoked American fears of a nuclear holocaust in 1963. Goldwater was portrayed as an unstable warmonger by democrats and their proxies (though at the same time Johnson was ordering thousands of troops into Vietnam), not suitable for unsupervised presence in public, much less the presidency.  They answered his campaign slogan of, “In your heart you know he’s right” with “In your guts you know he’s nuts.”  They achieved their goal.

Another key difference was the approval rating of President Johnson as opposed to that of President Obama.  Johnson’s approval rating peaked at 79% in February 1964, seven months before the November re-election campaign against Goldwater.  Obama’s approval rating, as of today, peaked at 65.5% less than a month after his inauguration in 2009, almost 4 years before his re-election bid.  At this time in the 1964 election cycle Johnson enjoyed an approval rating north of 75%; whereas Obama enjoys 43%.  Unlike Johnson, the public doesn’t appear to be with Obama.

There is no doubt (in my mind, at least), that Obama and proxies will attempt to employ the same strategy used against Goldwater, no matter whom the candidate may be; however, unlike 1964, we also have an historic card to play: 1968.

The most memorable scenes from the 1968 election cycle were the protests, which culminated in riots outside of the Democratic National Convention and Mayor Daley’s police force displacing and arresting them by the hundreds.  The chaos outside the convention was mirrored in a more civilized form inside Chicago’s International Amphitheater.  In addition to the chaos outside the convention, 1968 was the unraveling of the Democrat coalition first formed in 1932 by Franklin Roosevelt.  The Democrat Party began to lose its appeal on “Main Street” as it became more associated with extreme liberalism which ran counter to the social trends of large swaths of American voters.  Johnson’s approval sagged as the chaotic summer ensued and the “Silent Majority” found its voice.

In these examples of 1968 we have modern parallels: the Occupy Movement, the crumbling of the coalition which elected Obama, sagging poll numbers and a Democrat Party which has lurched too far left for the liking of the American body politic.

To counter, there must be a bold contrast to Obama and the policies of national Democrats – not a pastel that can be mistaken with the failed liberalism of the current administration.

Obama has proven himself to be a master campaigner; however, when it comes to policy and presiding over government, he is quite the opposite.  The American people agree.  A November “Battleground” poll conducted by Politico and George Washington University found that 74% of respondents had a positive view of Barack Obama as a person; however, only 44% of the same respondents approve of the job he is doing (3% more than those who strongly disapprove of the job he is doing).  Even more damning, 75% of respondents think the country is on the wrong track.  Therefore, a candidate who can establish themselves as a clear contrast can win, especially if that candidate can instill confidence that their policies will solve the problems most Americans will be thinking about on election day: the economy, government spending and the budget deficit, and jobs.

Who can answer these questions?  A conservative who believes in letting the market run it’s course and self correct without “stimulation;” a conservative who will slash government spending to a reasonable level, will ensure neither government spending nor debt exceeds a certain portion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and support a balanced budget amendment; and a conservative who will unleash the ability of the American entrepreneur to create or expand businesses and put Americans back to work.  It is time for a conservative, not a moderate.  It is time for a Goldwater, not a Rockefeller.

Kenneth Depew // University of St. Thomas (TX) // @depewk