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Posted April 5, 2012

Tucker Carlson Sizes Up 2012 Presidential Contest for UVA Law Students

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Human Rights Study Project

Tucker Carlson gave a frank assessment of the politics of the 2012 presidential race at a talk in Caplin Pavilion on Tuesday.

Tucker Carlson, the conservative commentator, former "Crossfire" co-host and co-founder of The Daily Caller, visited the University of Virginia School of Law on Tuesday to offer his take on the state of the 2012 presidential race.

Contact: Brian McNeill

Carlson, who said it appears Mitt Romney has all but clinched the GOP nomination, said the Republican Party is facing a number of challenges heading toward election season.

The party's central problem, he said, is a lack of organization, brought about in large measure by the tea party's overthrow of the GOP establishment.

"[The press] misread the tea party completely in casting it as this wild-eyed, right-wing movement, which it never was," he said. "It was in fact a populist movement designed to undermine the people in power on both sides. The resentment among tea party people at Bush, [is] almost as strong as their resentment at Obama. They really, really hated Bush. They felt he sold them out. And Bush is sort of a metaphor for the whole party."

The tea party revolution has caused chaos for the GOP, he said, leaving the party unable to handle easily solved problems.

"Basically, nobody cares what any Republican bigwig thinks anymore," Carlson said. "So there's no one to impose order on the process. And there's no one, by the way, to deal with imminent problems on the horizon."

For example, he said, the party and Romney's campaign are ill-equipped to deal with the "existential threat" of Ron Paul's candidacy, given that Paul's supporters are completely loyal to Paul and have little interest in blindly supporting the GOP nominee.

"Let's say Ron Paul decides not to endorse Romney. He didn't endorse McCain last time; he endorsed the Constitution Party candidate. So let's say he endorses, I'm just picking this out of a hat, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee," Carlson said.

If Paul were to direct his supporters to back Johnson, he said, it could turn the tide of the general election.

"Could Gary Johnson get, say, three points in the general election? You bet he could. And would that mathematically ensure that Barack Obama is re-elected? Absolutely. Just do the math," he said. "There's no way the spread between the two candidates will be greater than three points, and all of those votes [would be] coming from anti-Obama voters."

In the past, he said, the party might have sent an emissary to Paul and made him an offer – say, the ambassadorship to Belgium – to get him to drop his bid and back Romney. Yet in the new status quo, the tea party would likely frown upon such a backroom deal, he said.

"What are they doing instead? They're not only ignoring [the problem], they're attacking Ron Paul," he said. "As if attacking Ron Paul would make him go away."

Assessing Romney's candidacy, Carlson dismissed the criticism that he has shifted his position on key issues.

"The normal rap on Romney is, you know, he's a phony. Of course he's a phony," he said. "But they're all phonies. All politicians are phonies and flip-floppers. The idea that he's being rejected because he's changed his mind too much? If that were the criteria, we wouldn't have anybody in politics because they all do that. By the way, smart people do that, right? Clever people adjust their assumptions based on the evidence. Dumb people stay the course, regardless of the evidence."

A bigger problem for Romney, he said, is the candidate's lack of credibility when it comes to attacking Obama's health care reform law.

If you're the Republican nominee, "you're going to run on that," he said. "That's your top issue. Well, let's see, there are 315 million Americans. There's only one who can't run on that issue. In fact, there are only two people in world history who have signed individual mandates into law. One is the president, the other's the guy running against him. What are the odds of that? Clearly, God is mad at the Republicans.

"Talk about being reduced to a butter knife in a gun fight," he added.

When asked if Romney's vice presidential pick might have a material effect on the race's outcome, Carlson said he doubted it. "I think he'll probably pick somebody boring and pale, is my guess."

Another audience member wondered if he thought Obama will win in November. Carlson said the race's outcome will hinge on whether Romney can keep the conversation focused on Obama's record.

"Obama has the advantage on every level," he said. "But here's how you know if he's going to win or not: If in October of this year, the conversation is about Obama, he loses. If the conversation is about his challenger, he wins."

The Law School's Student Legal Forum sponsored Carlson's talk.