Monday, December 19, 2011

The State Of The GOP Race

In this most interesting of election years, the Republican race remains oddly unsettled.

With real unemployment (as opposed to the far less realistic 'official' U-3 unemployment rate) hovering at between 13& and 15% and the president's approval ratings in the low forties, 2012 was largely seen as the GOP's to lose.

Instead, we're seeing something far different as a large number of Republican voters - some estimates are as high as one third - remain dissatisfied with the GOP field as they view the debates and approach the Iowa caucus.

A major part of the sour flavor of the current race comes from the fact that many people who identify themselves as conservatives and Tea Party adherents don't feel like they have a real dog in the fight, especially since Sarah Palin decided not to run.

The race has come down various attempts to try to find a 'not-Romney' just as I predicted; each not-Romney has had their moment in the sun and been revealed as disappointingly less than perfect. Let's look at them in turn:

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came into the race with solid Tea Party credentials. Given her intelligence, high principles and charisma, for awhile it appeared that she might be able to pick up a lot of Sarah Palin's support. Unfortunately, the fact that she's only been in public life for four years was underlined by a number of unfortunate gaffes and her own admission that she 'should have Googled Ed Rollins' before making the unforced error of hiring him as her campaign manager. Between that early false start and her remarks about an unidentified child getting cancer from a common vaccine, she may simply not be ready for prime time yet. Her results in Iowa are going to say a great deal about her future prospects.

Ex-Senator Rick Santorum
brought conservative principles and character into to race and a decent knowledge of foreign policy and national security issues, but he's been handcuffed by two things; his 18 point loss for re-election in Pennsylvania has convinced a lot of people he would be unable to win against President Obama, and his insistence on talking about conservative social issues is not exactly what people want to hear just now.In addition, his persona and speaking style seem to lend itself to being overshadowed by the more high profile candidates. Unlike some of the others, he's never had his moment in the sun yet. His showing in Iowa is also going to say a great deal about his future prospects.

Former Governor and Ambassador John Huntsman - yes, he's in the race too - is actually perhaps a better candidate than some people realize. Not exactly a man with the 'conservative' label associated with him, he nevertheless has some common sense stands on economic matters and on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to China, where he served as our ambassador. However that service, performed at the behest of President Obama has hurt his candidacy, and it's been difficult for him to get traction.

Texas Governor Rick Perry originally seemed like the 'anyone but Romney' dream candidate. To some, I'm sure he still is. Not only did he seem to have a solid reputation as a conservative, but he was the longest serving governor in the US - and the one with by far the best record on job creation. He surged in the polls as soon as he got in the race.

And then, the debates happened.

Not only did they reveal a position on illegal aliens that was sharply at variance with most of the GOP base, but they revealed that he simply was lousy in a debate format period. Perry's failure to name three government departments he would shut down after thumping his chest and announcing it has to rank as one of the most embarrassing gaffes in political history.

While his last couple of outings have been somewhat better, the image of him as a gaffe-prone, fumbling, pro-illegal immigration candidate who might be severely challenged to beat Barack Obama is going to be difficult to erase.

Congressman Ron Paul remains the bĂȘte noire of the Republican Party, a paleo-conservative who appeals to what could best be characterized as the diminishing Pat Buchanan, isolationist America Firster wing of the Republican Party.

He holds the distinction of being the one Republican candidate certain to cause a massive Republican crossover vote in favor of President Obama. In fact, as I mentioned before, President Obama and his handlers realize it too, which I think accounts for the sudden respect Paul in getting from the Obama Administration's media allies as well as Paul's higher profile and financial clout.

Paul may actually win the Iowa caucus, which is not an actual primary but amounts to getting one's foot soldiers out into the January snow in sufficient numbers to dominate the caucus voting. He has a very slim chance of actually getting the GOP nomination, but I think there's an excellent chance he may surface as a third party candidate in an attempt to siphon off a few Republican votes.

I group Speaker Newt Gingrich and Governor Mitt Romney together because in many ways they belong together, aside from being the two presumptive front runners. Both are, essentially, big government types, albeit leaning towards the conservative side. Both are known for changing their views frequently on issues like global warming, cap and trade, various social conservative issues and mandated government run healthcare among others. Both have performed well enough in the debates to appear 'presidential'. Both would likely operate as Theodore Roosevelt-style Republicans rather than as conservatives.

Both Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Governor Romney has the executive experience of running a state Newt Gingrich lacks, Unfortunately, his signature achievement while governor of Massachusetts was state mandated healthcare, the direct ancestor of ObamaCare. The Massachusetts plan has been an abysmal failure, and Romney has continued to be associated with it because he's refused to plainly label it as such.

Governor Romney also has the executive experience of being a successful businessman who created jobs and wealth in the private sector. Even his missionary experience as a Mormon comes into play, where he performed with grit and determination amid difficult circumstances and rose to become the head of Mormon missionary activities in France.

Governor Romney also has the distinction, to my mind at least, of giving serious thought to international affairs and national security issues. And he's attracted a top notch group of A-list advisers in these matters because of it.

His main drawbacks? Aside from his association with the Massachusetts health plan, he has the problem of being known as the governor of a very left leaning Northeast blue state at a time when the GOP's strength is concentrated in the South, West and Midwest. His 'likeability ' factor remains in question, with Governor Romney still polling in the 20's among his own party in spite of months of campaigning. And because of his personal wealth, he's an ideal target for the sort of class warfare campaign President Obama will unleash. Nevertheless, as respectable conservative pundits like Ann Coulter have said, he might be the best thing going so far.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has the advantage of being demonstrably bright and quick on his feet mentally. Many of his supporters associate him with his time as Speaker of the House during the Clinton Administration, the last time Big Government was actually shrunken a bit. Even before that , Gingrich and a few outspoken supporters challenged the status quo in Congress, and eventually delivered a GOP House majority in 1996 that forced changes in how things were done in Washington.

On the minus side,there are also people who remember the arrogant, impulsive, loose cannon side of Gingrich's persona as Speaker, including a number of people who worked with him in Congress. It's an open question as to whether that side of his mercurial personality has changed to the point he would be an effective president.

There's also Gingrich's rather colorful and complicated personal life and his long history as a Washington insider that are going to give a great many people pause when it comes to voting for him as president.

Frankly, there isn't anyone in the above list who has so far excited the Republican base. It remains to be seen if any of the above can overcome their drawbacks and rise above the field.

Not surprisingly, there have been more than a few noises abou tother candidates getting into the race. Because of the way this year's GOP primary schedule is set up, it's actually quite possible that a new candidate could jump in, as Sarah Palin pointed out.

For that matter, from a very different part of the political spectrum , no less than former Florida governor Jeb Bush sounded off with an article on conservatism that could very much be seen as a testing of the waters.

Politics, like nature in general abhors a vacuum. It remains to be seen if that vacuum gets filled from someone who's already in the ring or from someone new from out side it.

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louielouie said...

aside from ff excellent assessment, the media will again determine/appoint the president.
playing into this will be republicans abhorrence of anything conservative, responsible, and/or anything approaching grown up.
in short, this was their election to lose. and they will.
whomever they nominate, will be as effective as john mccain in the debates against hussein.
this election will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that americans are dumber than a sack of hair.
they may very well give congress to the repubs and the dumm mass boehner. then just to show how smart they are send hussein back in a landslide.
then set back and blame the republicans for all of hussein's incompetence/mis-governance.
hell, i bet holder will even declare oklahoma illegal.

Fabian Pascal said...

I agree with the comment. Obama will be elected and, without electoral pressure, will accelerate American demise, realign with the Islamists and likely pressure Israel to give up its nukes. The Republican party will crumble and the public will blame everybody but themselves.

Coulter a "respected pundit"? If that's who conservatives respect, no wonder they're losers. She's dumb as a door.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul is the only candidate who can save America from the banksters.

RON PAUL 2012!!!!!!!

Rob said...

Hello FP,
Respectfully, I disagree with you about the following:

a)It's by no means certain Obama will be re-elected. The odds are against it. The odds on the Democrats retaking even one house of Congress are even longer.

b) Israel isn't going to give up its nuclear weapons regardless. They saw what happened to Khaddaffi.If necessary, Israel is going to align with a new best friend, with china the most likely candidate..especially after the oil and gas come online in the next year or so.

C)I agree with you that the GOP may very well crumble if they lose this election. However, in the unlikely event it happens, that will also lead to an immensely strong and conservative party for 2016. Remember what happened to the Whigs and how the Republicans first came to be.

An old southern proverb I'm fond of: 'If it don't come out in the wash, it come out in the rinse.'

D)Ann Coulter dumb?!? You obviously have never read one of her meticulously written and sourced books. You may not agree with her conclusions, but I doubt you can disagree with her facts.