Mr Toad and The Business of Nearly-Men

The Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States, at the time of writing, seems to be boiling down to a choice of two men most notable for their participation in business, rather than politics, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. Neither are the caricature which campaigns project to the world, and both are being tested by a GOP which is in a particularly silly and demented funk about policy and principles. The candidates are having to attach themselves to nostrums that are, well, frankly mad.

Watching them, however, made me think of past elections which seemed winnable and in which 'outsider' candidates could have made the grade. Mo Udall, in '76, for instance, would have made a wittier and more western mormon candidate than Romney, though I think that ultimately he would have lost to Ford. Wendell Wilkie would have run a virtual pastiche of FDR's administration, before dying in 1944, leaving an empty Vice presidency (his Veep, McNary, predeceased him) which would conceivably have devolved on Arthur Vandenberg--changing nothing, except the careers of Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, J.Edgar Hoover and Lyndon Johnson. FDR, as far as we know, didn't sleep with Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and then dump her as Wilkie did, but as president you'd like to think that he would not have had the opportunity. Then again, Anthony and Cleopatra and all that; perhaps he would have worn the rose of youth again for a strumpet who made a gap in nature....

Games like this are fun, and as a diversion, I thought that I'd list a few of the nearly men and set myself a goal of writing about them before November. The real world is disintegrating, after all, and anyone who wants to know what I think about it might as well read the blogs from four or five years ago. It'd also cheer me up, this exercise; as Chaplin said, life is a tragedy in a close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. My list of nearly-men and never-people (and women) is;

1. Robert F. Kennedy
2. Mo Udall
3. Wendell Wilkie
4. Henry Clay
5. George Clinton
6. Estes Kefauver and Harold Stassen
7. Rufus King
8. Al Smith
9. Gary Hart
10. Shirley Chisolm

and I'll also have a look at people who should, or could have been, like Thomas Marshall, Champ Clark, John McCormack, and at a troika of parliamentary alternatives to the presidency, starting with Blaine, Reed and Cannon. That'll keep me occupied.