So a little while ago (last March to be more precise) I put up a post taking an initial look at the Republican primary field going into the beginning of the season. And what a season it's been. Sex scandals, incoherent gaffes, inconsistent and garbled policies... man I miss Herman Cain. With Super=Tuesday results coming in as I'm starting to write this (though it will likely go up Wednesday. ed. note: or a week later), I thought it might be a fun exercise to go back and look at the first impression I had of each candidate's chances, and how they measured up. I'm going to write this in two parts, with Part 1 looking at candidates who have, as of this writing, dropped out of the race, and Part 2 will look at the remaining candidates, with an outlook towards how the primary season may unfold for them.
So, without much further ado, here is part 1. The original impressions will be in italics, and I'll try to use the order in which the candidates either dropped out or announced they weren't running. See if you can guess (without cheating by reading the end of the post first) which of the major candidates I missed. Here's a hint... it was a ten-gallon gaffe on my part.
Haley Barbour- Governor of Mississippi. He's got several ticks beside his name for any Republican Nominee: Southern Governor... check. Social Conservative... Check. Gaffe Prone... Check. Barbour, like many potential players in this race, seems to be as likely to shoot himself in the foot as put the best one forward. His record as Governor is strong, supporting small business and managing the recovery of the BP spill in Mississippi, but he has had a number of embarrassing slip-ups appear over the last year or so. With low name recognition, and many of the initial stories about him drawing national attention negative, it may come to pass that by the time he becomes well known enough to be a serious candidate, he will be known for all the wrong reasons and be dead in the water before he even gets going. Still has the potential to win a lot of votes in the South as a popular favourite son candidate however, so he does have to potential to stay in the race until the later stages.
Haley Barbour never got off the ground. As I mentioned, his gaffe prone nature led to his being defined by his negative tendencies. Also, his friendship with other former Governors (specifically Tim Pawlenty, one of the first to announce) caused him to both waffle on entry and was later seen as a reason for his not running.
Mike Huckabee- Social conservatives Heart Huckabee. Ok, that was not original at all. But seriously, this former Arkansas Governor is a TEA Party, and religious-social conservative favourite (as evidenced by his shock victory in Iowa in 2008). The major knock against his 2008 primary campaign is that he tried to ride a grassroots wave to the top without a national profile or organization to rival his opponents (a fact that was ultimately capitalized on by John McCain). While he hasn't been exactly proactive in trying to improve that situation this cycle (he is still sitting back and working for FOX News rather than getting into the pre-exploratory-thinking-hiri ng-researching phase that several of his opponents have been engaging in over the last month or two), his time at FOX and his use of his stature as fairly successful insurgent candidate in 2008 to expand his national profile since then have made him a formidable figure amongst the base. The question remains to be answered whether this will translate into a Palinesque advantage, but he should show well in Iowa again, making him an early front-runner, with a stronger chance to continue that momentum through later contests.
Huck decided, as most people thought he would, decided to stay at FOX and enjoy the Florida dreamhouse he and his wife recently built. While his presence in the race would have been interesting, the role of insurgent-conservative was one throughout the season which has been fulfilled by a variety of campaigns, leaving open to question what, if any, chance Huckabee would have had to repeat his early success of 2008. I guess we'll never know.
Mitch Daniels- The fiscally conservative Governor of Indiana seems to be leaning away from running. Much like Tim Pawlenty he lacks some of the national profile needed to mount a successful bid, but does enjoy both establishment and TEA Party support. If he decides to run he will likely be a strong candidate, but will need to begin soon in order to get his name into prominence in a big field of big names.
Mitch Daniels is another of the never-rans, making very clear around the time of CPAC last summer that he had no desire or intention of running. As weird as it sounds, I actually still consider him to be a darkhorse, long-shot potential nominee. Why you ask? I knew you would. The way the nomination contest is trending (i.e. quite likely long, fractious and divisive) we could end up seeing a real floor vote at the Republican convention for the first time in years, with a brokered convention a real possibility. Mitch Daniels, with his above noted social and fiscal conservative pedigree, as well as having largely kept his head down and avoided negative attention while the candidates have been slogging it out could leave him as a very viable and attractive option for the Republicans in this scenario. Incredibly unlikely. But could be an interesting storyline to watch.
Donald Trump- I left the Donald until last mostly because I was unsure whether or not to include him in a list of people I'm trying to consider as serious candidates for the Presidential nomination. His name recognition and business background would make him a formidable candidate in any election. The question is, after years of reality TV, commercials, and generally being a diva in the spotlight, would he be considered a serious candidate for either the nomination or the presidency? Could he satisfy social conservatives that his lifestyle (divorces and the like) can suit their strict criteria for acceptable behavior? I have no idea, but his entry into the race would make an already wild primary season into must watch political fare.
Ah, it's fun to remember the days of last spring when the Donald was actually a semi-serious name being tossed around with regards to entering he race. It never happened, although he has kept popping his head up (most notably as a potential debate moderator in the fall. This idea was trashed as it seemed like it would be more about Trumps celebrity-circus act than the nomination, in much the same way that the Donald's potential campaign was.
Sarah Palin- I could write several long posts about Palin. The former Alaska Governor, 2008 McCain VP pick and media darling (another of the FOX has a larger profile than any of the other potential candidates... which at this point in her career is not necessarily a positive thing. Her approach to 2012 has been odd (and prone to stumbling over self planted landmines) to say the least. She has shown herself to be a force in Republican primaries and elections (through the strong performance of her endorsees in the 2010 midterms, and the way she swayed numerous primaries to her TEA Party favourites), is able to draw copious amounts of media attention to her every musing and public statement despite refusing to talk to the mainstream media, is a FOX contributor, has her own (quasi) reality show. If you are aware that there will be an election in 2012, then it is likely that you know who Sarah Palin is. And that is proving to be a problem The more Palin people get, the more she goes from looking like a serious candidate to looking like a sideshow. From the moment she was plucked from relative obscurity in Alaska to be John McCain's running mate people have been questioning whether she had the gravitas, common sense, experience... basically name a quality... to be considered for higher office. The more she exposes herself, the less confidence Republicans seem to have in her ability to win an election, let alone govern. That being said, she is still the rock star of the race, and has the ability to draw huge numbers of her supporters to any event, raise a lot of money, and potentially win primaries on name recognition instead of organization. Her waffling over running is often cited as the main reason much of the rest of the field is waiting. Like her or not, Sarah Palin is going to continue to dominate the conversation about the GOP 2012 Primary until she decides not to run.
As I noted above, I could write about Sarah Palin's political activities over the course of the last four years forever. It's like the traffic-stats version of steroids. But I won't. I'm going to take the high road and merely note that, whether due to her intense (Grizzly-esque?) familial ties/obligations, media and other work commitments, or the fact that all polling data and everyone other than her (shrinking) legion of hardcore supporters indicated that she could not hope to win a general election, Sarah Palin decided not to run. Quite probably a wise decision.
Tim Pawlenty- The Former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty probably has a lot of viable positives and policy background. The problem is that I do not really know them. And this is not really my problem. It is Tim Pawlenty's. In a crowded Republican field of strong (but flawed) candidates, being a successful two term mid-western Governor is not enough to make you stand out. Lacking the national platform of the FOXes, or the history of a Giuliani, Pawlenty is one of several candidates who's candidacy is actually suffering through the late start to this primary season. He needs to have debates and news coverage soon in order to begin building a national profile relative to his rivals. Speaking at CPAC and other conferences will not be enough to get his name out there.
Tim Pawlenty. This one I think I got pretty much spot on. The first of the candidates listed so far both to enter and drop out of the race, Pawlenty's candidacy suffered from neglect... namely that of the media, electorate, and pretty much anyone who matters in the American body politic. His lack of name recognition as compared to the other candidates in a crowded field, and his lack of crazy in a field where it seems to be a necessary characteristic combined in his candidacy being, in essence, stillborn. He also happened to run into the campaign of a certain other Governor (who I missed in the original post... hint, he's from Texas) who stole the spotlight in the early days of the Iowa campaign, giving Pawlenty no chance to gain traction.
Hit Snooze on the Campaign: August 14, 2011
Herman Cain- The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza is the first person to have officially formed an exploratory committee. He is a conservative commentator in both radio and print, and a TEA Partier by nature. The odds against him are astronomical. He will not win the nomination.
Wow. Herman Cain. We hardly knew ya. I will admit that Herman Cain has (up to this point... c'mon, Run Sarah Run!) been the most pleasant surprise in the primary season. He combined all my favourite qualities in a Republican politician: dogmatic, equally capable of spouting incoherent gibberish and dishonest (and poorly thought out) policies in the same breath, gaffe prone to the nines, and chock full of scandals (he's got the gender-enlightened senses of Bill Clinton and Archie Bunker combined), and managed to combine them in a balanced, exuberant mess of a campaign that (in this topsy-turvy-anyone-but-the-fr ont-runner-field) somehow managed to hold the lead in numerous polls... until the explosion. It took revelations of a long standing mistress, complete with phone records, to take him down. He will truly be missed.
Sliced out of the Race: December 3, 2011
Michele Bachmann- She's attractive, loud and beloved by the Tea Party... and no, I'm not talking about Sarah Palin! Michele Bachmann, Member of Congress from Minnesota reportedly is considering the viability of a run for the 2012 nomination. While her base-bonafides are VERY strong (chair of the congressional TEA Party Caucus), she has shown herself to be gaffe prone and inflexible. Her decision to put out her own TEA Party response to the President's State of the Union Address this year (though hastily embraced by the establishment) brought questions of whether she is a team player, and also whether she cares more about the GOP or Michele Bachmann more. She has strong negatives in a general, and is not likely to win many moderate independents ore right leaning Democrats over. While she may show strong among TEA Party primary voters, she is unlikely to win the nomination based on her electability deficit. This may mean taking TEA Party votes from a more serious candidate, say a Rick Santorum or Newt, and giving a boost to a Romney candidacy as a long term effect. Her shoot (off the mouth) first, ask questions later, style will make the race more interesting though.
Speaking of incoherent and gaffe-prone. The comparisons often drawn between Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin most often extend to the superficial: relatively young, fiery, hard-right conservative, attractive and loud (with a Midwest accent). To that I would, after a brilliant (as in shining, not genius) performance in her first national election, like to add gaff-prone, naive, inexperienced and light on policy qualifications. Though her willingness to openly express controversial and daring opinions (eds note: I say daring because of the frequency that she would make up facts and then challenge people to prove her wrong. Which they did. Repeatedly. And she kept challenging them.) was certainly endearing to this observer of political theatre (good comic relief is hard to come by), it does not serve well in things like stump speeches and debates if you're seriously intending on running for President.
Out of the Race: January 4th, 2012
John Hunstman Jr.- Recently retired Obama Ambassador to China and former governor of Utah. High on foreign policy/trade credo following his most recent job, Hunstman may be more of a VP/Secretary of State in waiting. His 2 major negatives, namely the Mormon issue (he is one, and evangelical Christians tend to be squeamish about Mormons) and his having worked for President Obama, would seem likely to preclude his making it through a crowded and potentially vitriolic primary season.
Poor, Poor John Huntsman. If you watched most of the multitude of Republican debates throughout the summer and fall, without knowing the names of the candidates or their standings in the polls, you would have believed that this middle aged, well groomed white man (as opposed to the several other middle aged, well groomed white men on stage) was unquestionably the most rational, well informed and electable member of the field in a modern, Western liberal democracy and should definitely be leading in the polls. Especially if the debate had anything to do with foreign policy. You would probably been right. Except about the polls part. This Republican electorate is not a moderate one. In fact, its not even a moderately-conservative electorate. The candidate who wins this election, in order to satisfy the increasingly empowered base, is going to have to satisfy the demand of the far right (which is the majority of primary voters, especially the loud ones) for a fire-breathing, liberal bashing, government hating, church going social and fiscal conservative who wants nothing better than to stomp President Obama in the general election, if not in an out and out bar-brawl. This is not John Hunstman.
Acceded to Inevitability: January 16, 2012
And finally we come to the one I missed. And the winner (although his inclusion in the non-winners post will tell you he's not really a winner) is : Rick "uh, uh, uh," Perry, Governor of the State of Texas. Perry was an interesting case of how to take a lot of positives in a Presidential Primary (bearing, closeness to the base, executive experience, regional support) and throwing them right out the window. He made gaffes. He seemed to have no original policy ideas. And he had this certain (to my senses anyways) sniff of aroma De Bush around him. Somehow he managed to twice climb to the top of the polls, and twice was unable to capitalize on his momentum, due to an ineffective and poorly managed campaign and the fact that, when put behind a debate rostrum and put beside actual competent political actors, he comes across like a five year old. Maybe that's harsh, but it may be a generous observation.
Tipped his Cap and Rode Off into the Sunset: January 19th, 2012
So that's the also-rans. May they find success and/or joy in their future endeavors. More importantly though, I think my predictions were pretty well spot on. Pat on the back for Paul.
Next post I'll be getting into the remaining four (provided tonight's Alabama and Mississippi primaries don't knock anyone out) candidates and going a little more in depth about their prospects for the election and beyond. We'll crunch some numbers, maybe get into some veep-stakes talk. It'll be fun. I promise.
Until then, here's to doing good things with good people.
Happy Monday (Please ignore the Mancunian reference... LFC 4ever, YNWA),
(ed. note: this post was written starting at around 11pm Monday night, and then finished Tuesday morning. Hence the slight disconnect between the salutation above, and the Super Tuesday references below. pb)
So. Um, it's been a little while. What can I say? Between school, research for a couple of projects I've been working on, hot stove season in baseball, and the fact that not being paid to do this, it's been hard to drag myself in front of the keyboard in order to post these little screeds online here. I'm sorry if you count on them for entertainment or (space-daddy forbid) information, but that's just reality. I'll try to do better. No promises though.
Alright. That's out of the way. So lets talk politics. Today (Tuesday March 6th, 2012) is Super Tuesday in the Republican Primary (It's also Karaoke at the Mercury Lounge here in Ottawa, starting at 10pm, hosted by yours truly... come one, come all) and the situation is... interesting. From a host of ridiculous and unsatisfactory candidates when we started this whole process (see my post from May 26th) we are down to three remaining candidates for the GOP nomination. I know, I know, the ballots and mainstream media will tell you that Newt, Mitt, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are all still in the picture, but realistically Gingrich and Paul are pretty much tilting at windmills at this point (both figuratively, and they hate Green Energy... apt), so I count them as a single candidate. Think the "other" option on a survey. Doesn't really contribute to the conversation, but makes everyone feel like they can get their opinion out.
As of this morning, according the the RCP data, Romney is currently holding a 12.7% lead in national polling data, with a 100 delegate lead over Santorum. However, that delegate lead represents his holding a total of 173 delegates out of a total of 1144 required to sew up the nomination, which implies that he has some serious work to do yet. Every time Romney has managed to gather momentum to this point (the initial "win" in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida) something has come along to toss a road block in his path to the nomination. First there was the re-evaluation of the Iowa results, with Santorum being awarded the win (and the delegates). Then Gingrich stomped him at the South Carolina debates. Add in the proclivity of Romney (in a populist GOP electorate) to drop pearls of gaffe-dom along plutocratic lines ("two cadillacs" , "I Like Firing People" etc.) and the candidate of inevitability (not named Barack Obama) is now facing a likely long and protracted nomination fight which may go as far as a floor vote, potentially leading to a brokered convention.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (and I'll be honest here, this is not the candidate named Rick that I thought would be hanging in with Romney for the long fight) has presented Romney with just the precise type of populist, social conservative opponent that could serve to not only push Mitt to the limit, but also to further fragment the GOP base, while forcing Mitt to drift rightward rapidly in order to win the GOP nod for the top ticket slot. This is not where Romney will have wanted to be when he set out his campaign strategy for this race. He still has a (massive) monetary advantage, and the establishment support he always expected (see the Cantor and Cobourn endorsements from the weekend) but, come the general election, he will face the real challenge of having to beat the Obama Machine (which I have reverentially referred to before. They're really good at elections folks.) with a divided, likely jaded conservative base and having had to adopt increasingly right wing talking points (which will make for great ads from the Democrats to scare independent voters), and will have to do this in an economic environment that looks like (he typed hopefully) it will be trending in a positive direction in the fall, will quite likely be far too much for a tired and drained campaign to win.
As I've said (ad nauseum) before;
November 2012- Obama Wins
*PS.(For the record, Obama is currently leading Romney by 6% at the national level according to the latest RCP amalgamation) pb
So, it's been a while. Like a really long time. Almost (but not quite) 6 full months. Suffice to say, I've been remiss in my posting duties. But apparently the world didn't end while I was away fro our little home on the web, so I'm going to try and get back here a little more often
Well, we've hit the beginning of the end of the silly season where Washington politics is concerned (as far as that season can ever be considered to end... I mean people still use the words "President" and "Palin" in the same sentence without the obligatory "will never be elected" being attached, so there is some element of silliness still present) as the serious GOP presidential contenders line up in front of microphones and begin to repudiate (spelled with a "d", not an "f") past positions that seemed reasonable and useful at the time (say, if you were trying to get elected governor of a moderate state... Mitt and Tim, I'm looking at you here) but are potential liabilities if you are running for the nomination of the Great Reactionary Revolution of the Right, also known as the Republican nomination for President. I, for one, couldn't be happier. As much fun as it was going to be talking about Donald Trump, his hair and his mistresses, watching the MTV Rock the Vote edition of Cribs featuring Mike Huckabee and his FOX sponsored Florida Dreamhouse (foreclosure not included), the Haley Barbour-Joe Biden Gaffe-In special, and Mitch Daniels- ok, lets face it Mitch Daniels and fun don't really seem to go together- it's nice to think we may have hit a point where those of us watching this race unfold can actually talk about politics and policy. Until of course Sarah Palin does something newsworthy, at which point the silliness will return. But I digress
Hope everyone's weekend was fantastic. I spent mine (absent from our little home on the web here) writing a couple of papers (one of which I may try to reprise here on the blog.... stay tuned) and generally getting my course work under control. It's crunch time in the world of Paul (which made the incident involving my laptop and all of my paper notes, my water-proof bag, and the canteen that decided to spontaneously open inside my bag this morning all the more convenient. My screen now makes it feel like I'm typing this inside an aquarium. But I digress
Big news. At some point in the next few minutes a vote will be held in Canada's Parliament (which I can see from the window where I'm writing this) here in Ottawa on a motion of non-confidence in the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper. The motion has the support of all opposition parties (unless the absence of The Prime Minister and Jack Layton of the NDP for the last couple hours signaled the negotiation of some kind of backroom deal. Conspiracy theorists have at it.) and will pass, meaning that the minority government will fall, and we here in Canada will have an election in 5 or 6 weeks' time