Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Thoughts on the 2012 GOP Candidates…

This afternoon, Sarah Palin announced she would not run for president in 2012. Her ostensible reason given was that she could have more influence as an outsider. Here are my thoughts….

First, Sarah Palin will never be president of the United States. This year was her best chance, but her power and influence came from the fact that she was seen as a central figure in GOP presidential politics having been the ‘08 VP nominee, and since the GOP of today doesn’t give second chances she took McCain’s place as one of inner circle of presumptive nominees. Four years later, she bows out of consideration, and the GOP is no more forgiving. Sarah will continue to have influence on the GOP field, and on the election, but from this moment it will be waning. She will probably spend another year or so in the public light, and then retire to Arizona with her family to enjoy the tens of millions she has made from her ‘fifteen minutes of fame,’ and I don’t begrudge her that reward; she has certainly paid the price for becoming a public figure and a lightning rod.

The interesting question is, why? I have to think that there were just enough to the revelations from the McGinnis book to make a presidential run a disaster for Sarah and the GOP. Certainly the Democrats are the champions when it comes to the politics of personal destruction, and in an environment where the incumbent Democrat president cannot reasonably run on his record, I fully expect Obama and the Democrats to go thermonuclear on their scorched earth progrom. The Democrats have no other alternative than to trash their GOP opponent, to persuade the electorate that no matter how bad they think Obama is, the GOP alternative is worse… and they will relish in making it personal. Maybe Sarah and Glenn Rice had a one-night stand, and maybe they didn’t, and maybe this is a he-said/she-said, and maybe like Monica it’s really no one’s business and has no relevance as to her suitability for the presidency… but it won’t play that way. I can’t say that I blame Sarah for not wanting to go through another year of what will make what has already occurred seem like nothing. I will say, however, that she had a good chance of winning as she was definitely the anti-Obama.

Chris Christie has also definitively announced that he won’t run in 2012, so we are left with the current slate of candidates. On the right we have Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann, a little further towards the center we have Rick Perry, with Mitt Romney by his lonesome in the center, Jon Huntsman to his left, and then on the fringe we have Ron Paul. I’ve deliberately left out Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich; both are extremely well-qualified and both are bonafide conservatives, but in this political climate neither is electable… and that is a real pity.

Mitt Romney is the polished, consummate professional in the race. His years of experience in closely-fought campaigns, winning and losing, plus his innate qualities as a businessman, have made him the best-performing of the candidates. He’s always ready with the perfect counter, he knows how to attack his opponents in a likable manner, and he has the appearance and demeanor of a leader. Of course, Romneycare, the Massachusetts universal healthcare approach that has proven to be suboptimal in Massachusetts and that served as partial inspiration for Obamacare, is the millstone around Romney’s neck; extremely unpopular with the constituencies Romney will need to win the nomination and the presidency. That issue combined with his occasional pandering and flip-flopping is why the GOP faithful want someone else to run that they can get behind. I believe he’d make a competent president in the way that George H.W. Bush made a competent president, but I don’t think he is the leader we need at this time.

Michelle Bachmann showed real promise earlier this year at the debates but her recent statements on Perry’s HPV vaccination program have, I believe, knocked her out of serious consideration for the nomination. In my opinion Bachmann wasn’t ready to run this time, but she will be a powerful force in Republican politics for the future.

Similarly, Jon Huntsman has a very good track record but he is seen as too liberal and a little too weird for the average GOP voter. Another person who would make a good president, but not an inspiring one.

I don’t want to waste time on Ron Paul, the Libertarian-leaning candidate. He’s very right on many things, and very wrong on many other things… certainly a good advisor but in my opinion he would make a poor president because the world doesn’t work the way he believes it should… and won’t any time in the near future.

Rick Perry came into the race as the Savior, the One who would save us from Romney. It hasn’t happened. No one gets to be a successful three-term governor by being stupid, but Perry often comes across that way just because he hasn’t taken the time to refine his messaging on his positions. While he has many good qualities that Republican voters are looking for, I think his positions on immigration, in-state tuition for illegals, vaccinations, etc., come across in the mold of a Nelson-Rockefeller-knows-what’s-good-for-you, and his declaration that people who disagreed with him on these subjects “didn’t have a heart” definitely hurt him with his target electorate. Perry is too authoritarian for my tastes; if I want to be lectured to I’ll vote for Obama.

That leaves Herman Cain. A mathematician by training, a businessman, an accomplished turnaround specialist, unassuming, with a bias for action and a willingness to put it out there. Cain’s rise among the other candidates is almost a fortuitous accident. Cain would make a good president, and might turn out to be a great candidate, and he will be able to come right at Obama like no other GOP candidate possibly can.

So, I think Cain will probably get the nomination as Romney and Perry tear each other up and take each other out and disgust the voters while doing so, and there is no other reasonable alternative. I’m looking forward to seeing him debate the One, because I think the American public is fed up with posturing and show over substance after four years of Obama.