Bruce Bartlett, perhaps inadvertently, picks out an interesting theme for the 2012 Republican primary:

On Saturday, the pizza magnate Herman Cain announced that he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. While he has to be considered a long shot, he has something going for him that could make him surprisingly viable: his strong support for the so-called Fair Tax.

The Fair Tax is a proposal that has been kicking around for at least 20 years. It would replace all federal taxes, including income and payroll taxes, with a [30%] national retail sales tax similar to those levied by the states….

(…)

While radical and controversial ideas are generally viewed as political albatrosses in general elections because they appeal only to a fringe element within one party, they can be very valuable in primary campaigns. Especially in a divided field with no clear favorite, such as Republicans have today, proposals such as the Fair Tax energize true believers and provide contributions and manpower that can propel an outsider into contention.

If you follow the link and read Bartlett’s breakdown of all the bizarre magical-thinking assumptions that have to pan out for the “Fair Tax” to not be a complete disaster, you will see that it is not just “radical” or “controversial,” but rather more like “completely batshit insane.”

In other words, Bartlett seems to be suggesting that the quickest route to legitimacy in today’s Republican Party is to be a complete and utter raving loon.  And not without reason.  Look how quickly Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann became darlings of the American right – it wasn’t in spite of all the crazy shit they say, it was because of it.  (Conversely, can anyone name a policy idea as “radical and controversial” as the Fair Tax that has catapulted a Democrat to stardom instead of ridicule?)

So since Republicans always love to give Democrats free advice on how to make people like them more (“Americans love corporations and war, and they think teachers, seniors and unemployed people are greedy moochers!”), I will attempt to return the favor and give the rest of the Republican primary field a little help in beating back the imminent Herman Cain insurgency:

Ron Paul – You already want to abolish the Fed and bring back the gold standard.  Don’t change a thing.

Newt Gingrich – You need to stick to your guns on making young people pass an American History test before they can vote.  I only ridiculed you because your unstoppability terrifies me to the very core.

Gary Johnson – You’re pro-choice, pro-civil unions, pro-immigration, pro-pot, anti-death penalty and anti-nation-building, so you’re beyond help.  But if you still want to make a go of it, I recommend playing up your love of nullification and opposition to child labor laws.

Tim Pawlenty – Your best chance is probably Creationism or declaring that the Earth is flat.  And perched on the back of a very bland and uncharismatic tortoise.

Mitt Romney – Between Romneycare, flip-flops, Mormonism, and strapping the family dog to the roof of your car, your only chance is a Hail Mary of crazy.  I recommend declaring that not only is Barack Obama’s birth certificate fake, but that he was planted here on Earth by giant alien spiders to prepare the way for their invasion fleet.  I know it’s kind of a heavy lift, but I don’t make the rules.

Jon Huntsman – Mormon, moderate, and served in the Obama administration?  See above.

Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, John Bolton – Nope, you’re good.  And if you don’t run, you can always make lots of money advising Hunstman or Romney.

Rick SantorumWho?