The most interesting part of last night's GOP debate was when Republicans were asked how they would run against Barack Obama.
They obviously haven't thought it through, presumably because the entire conservative movement is so Clinton-obsessed, they didn't seriously consider another scenario.
So, it was a jumble.
They made the predictable attacks on liberalism and government, and predictbaly not worrying about facts.
For example, Fred Thompson said Obama was in lockstep with the National Education Association, when Obama actually ticked them off by supporting merit pay for teachers. (The New Hampshire NEA endorses Hillary Clinton.)
Mike Huckabee claimed Obama supports legalized same-sex marriage, when in fact (like all the leading Dems) he only backs civil unions.
They also tried to make the "inexperienced" claim, failing to recognize that Obama is successfully rebutting that argument by discussing issues as fluently as everyone else on the trail.
But at the same time, they realize Obama is striking a chord with voters across the political spectrum.
Mitt Romney tried to out-"change" Obama:
They want change. Barack Obama looked at several senators steeped in long history in the Senate and completely blew them away in the Iowa caucus. It's a message of change. And when we sit down and talk about change -- Barack Obama and myself at that final debate, as you are positing -- I can say, "Not only can I talk change with you, I've lived it."
After drawing a purely ideological contrast, Huckabee contorted himself to try to out-bipartisan Obama:
I think we also ought to recognize that what Senator Obama has done is to touch at the core of something Americans want.
They are so tired of everything being horizontal -- left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. They're looking for vertical leadership that leads up, not down.
He has excited a lot of voters in this country. Let's pay respect for that. He is a likable person who has excited people about wanting to vote who have not voted in the past.
And we'd better be careful as a party, because if we don't give people something to be for, and only something to be against, we're going to lose that next election, and there are some fundamental issues that we lose with it.
Huckabee is a canary in the coal mine here.
But he like the rest of the GOP field, isn't offering much to be for -- outside of hatred for immigrants and unfair tax policy. To the extent they pay lip service to energy and health care, they hamstring themselves with rejection of responsive and responsible government.
Huckabee offers more populist rhetoric than his GOP rivals, just not the policies to back it up.
Republicans were already in a jam, running for office against a backdrop of massive conservative failure.
Now, facing the prospect of a candidate offering substantive remedies for the wreckage laid by Bush Era, willing to call upon our government to take the lead, and attracting support across the political spectrum, they're tied up in rhetorical knots.