...yet there is a jittery sense among Republican savants that Romney is a straw man, ready to be toppled, because the party has changed irrevocably. It has traded in country-club aristocracy for pitchfork populism. The Tea Partyers and talk-show hosts who define the new Republican Party believe in the opposite of primogeniture. They believe in the moral purity of political virginity. After Sarah Palin, amateurism has become a Tea Party hallmark. Herman Cain, the African-American business executive who was the Teasies' flavor of the month — before the debate — emphasizes his total absence of governmental experience, to roars of laughter and approval on the stump. In addition, the very structure of the nominating process has changed. It won't be a stately procession from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina to Florida this time. It will look more like the NCAA basketball tournament, only with two instead of four brackets: the Iowa bracket, which will feature the social-conservative and populist candidates like Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum — and perhaps Sarah Palin and Texas Governor Rick Perry; and the New Hampshire bracket, which will feature more-moderate candidates like Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, focused on the economy.
By the time summer 2012 comes around, we'll have a better sense of what kind of Republican Party we're dealing with—the Reaganesque elitists or the isolationist teabagger crowd—but right now, nobody has any idea who the Republicans really are, or what they stand for.