Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

– Narcotics Anonymous

Four years ago, the Republican Party faced what appeared to be a reasonably winnable presidential election. The expected Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, had blundered away what should have been a sure thing by her refusal to take a stand against the unpopular military occupations, as well as the failure of her campaign manager to understand the rules by which Democratic delegates were awarded, and so Republicans were facing a national neophyte who had never won a competitive election at any level.

Naturally, instead of selecting a candidate from the ranks of the popular state governors, the Republicans selected a corrupt, half-crazed senator that most Republicans neither liked nor trusted. John McCain ran what may have been the weirdest and most incompetent campaigns in presidential history, actually suspending his campaign when the financial crisis hit and ensuring that instead of riding the wave of national anti-Wall Street indignation to the White House, the man now known as President Goldman Sachs was elected.

One might have thought that the lessons of 2010, when the tea-party insurgency toppled Republican incumbents in hard-fought primary campaigns and a great wave of anti-government spending sentiment returned the House of Representatives to Republican control, would have proved enduring. After all, the titanic problems of federal debt and government spending have only gotten worse since that time, as the raising of the debt ceiling and assorted budgetary gimmicks have only dug the national debt hole deeper. The incumbent president is flailing and unpopular. It should be an easy win. But that is not the case.

Instead of building on their gains from 2010 and nominating a candidate who shares the tea-party’s spirit, Republicans have again turned to the most liberal, big-government, socially moderate candidate in the race. Mitt Romney isn’t popular with the party’s base, has no personal charisma, belongs to a religious cult, is tainted by his long-time Wall Street connections and is duly beholden to the usual collection of corporations and special-interest groups. He is such an obviously terrible candidate that, at various times, many Republicans seriously considered supporting Newt Gingrich, of all people, as a viable alternative. About the only way going into the 2012 presidential election with Mitt Romney as the standard bearer makes sense is if the Republican Party is placing gigantic bets in Las Vegas on an Obama victory.

This isn’t to say that it will be impossible for Romney to win in November. Obama is one of the worst and least popular presidents to ever decide to run for re-election instead of having the good sense to call it a career and hit the speech circuit as a one-and-done president. There was a time when I fully expected Obama to manufacture a family crisis or health scare to give himself an excuse to step gracefully out of a job he quite clearly hates, and certainly many senior Democrats were hoping that he would rather than drag down the rest of the ballot, but that scenario appears increasingly unlikely.

And now that Romney looks like the Republican nominee, Obama can be excused for thinking that perhaps he can win a second term after all. Few outside the black and Mormon communities are going to vote for either one of these men; the election is going to come down to which man is more vigorously voted against.

Now Romney is surely going to pick a vice-presidential candidate capable of mollifying the social and fiscal conservatives for whom he himself has no appeal. But even the rock-star appeal of Sarah Palin wasn’t enough to make up for the deficiencies of John McCain, and the most obvious choice, Marc Rubio, is ineligible.

It’s hard to summon up the energy to care, though. What is the real difference between President Goldman Sachs and President Bain Capital, after all? Is there a significant difference between Obamacare and Romneycare? In the end, when one considers the reality of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president, only one conclusion presents itself.

Run third party, Ron Paul. Run, Ron, run!

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.