Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Horserace for 10/29/11

I have a lot of things to say about the candidates today, so it's time for an updated horserace. First off, to make things simpler, let's dispense with the losers. Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer, and Fred Karger are all either single issue candidates or candidates who are not an ideological fit with the current state of the Republican party. Santorum is too narrowly focused on social issues, Huntsman is too liberal, Johnson is pointless since Paul is in the race, Roemer is only trying to get money out of politics, and Karger's one claim to fame is being gay (no point in being PC about it - that just isn't going to fly with social conservatives). None of these candidates have seen a bump in national polling the entire time they have been in the race, and with two months to go before the first primaries, I don't see it happening. Santorum may get a few votes in Iowa (or not) and Hunstman in NH, but other than that they are a sideshow. Their political careers would be better served by dropping out now and endorsing someone else. So, on to the candidates who, at least at some time in the past year, have been real contenders.

Michele Bachmann
As Ned Ryun of American Majority has recently noted (I've been saying it for a few weeks), it is time for her to go. Where do I start? From the beginning, Michele Bachmann was never qualified to run for president. Despite my admonition that her career would be better served by running for senate or governor first in order to develop some experience and expertise, Bachmann decided that running for President was just the thing she needed to boost her national profile. Unfortunately for her, that was the wrong decision. Despite a brief surge in polling that fueled a narrow Iowa straw poll victory over Ron Paul (that those two were the top choices should tell you all you need to know about how straw polls can be gamed), she promptly collapsed back to 3% in the polls as her flaws became evident on the campaign trail. Her campaign was never about the country, it was all about her. Her first blunder was attempting to establish a Tea Party caucus (now largely defunct) in order to position herself as the leader of the Tea Party in Washington. If you think that last statement is oxymoronic, well then you're smarter than Bachmann. She then ran around Iowa and the rest of the country touting her 27 kids and her experience as a tax attorney (thin as that may have been) as qualifications for president. She used the word "I" in her sentences more frequently than Obama. And then she made blunder after blunder. From shoving reporters, to saying vaccines cause mental retardation, to a series of misstatements, to hiring Ed Rollins only to have him publicly disown her later, to claiming that her NH staff was still working for her after they publicly quit, Bachmann showed that, as expected, she wasn't ready for prime time. The increasingly rosy campaign statements coming from her campaign paint a picture of a person in denial. I feel sorry for her that she isn't intelligent enough to realize that she's ruining her career, but then again I have warned her time and again about the path she was on. The sooner she drops out, the better chance she has to scrape together something, anything, from the shipwrecked remains of her presidential bid.

Rick Perry
Likewise, Mr. Texas is lacking in the department of hubris. Despite an enormous groundswell of support for Sarah Palin, Perry decided a while back that HE was the answer to the nation's problems. Whether or not his wife pushed him into it, Perry eventually began to believe the hype about himself. Despite rumblings that he had serious problems and his adamant denials over the years that he would not run for president, he became convinced that his greatness could not be contained in the small confines of Texas. With his corporate cronies sweet talking him with piles of cash, he jumped into the race with a swagger, supremely confident that he would naturally accept the coronation of the Tea Party and the establishment alike. Not so. Stung by his lackluster debate performances, an absence of grey matter between the ears, his liberal views on immigration, and a long record of corrupt, pay-to-play crony corporatism, he quickly slipped back to single digits in the polls. The former supporter of Carter and Gore may have been able to get away with being a political chameleon in Texas, where a relatively sleepy GOP was prone to overlook problems that could be washed away with corporate cash (and then only because Palin stuck up for her fellow governor and head of the RGA at the time of his last election), but his carefully groomed image didn't hold up to the glare of the national spotlight. Despite failure after failure, the MSM is still pushing a Perry "comeback" so Obama won't have to campaign much in 2012. Not gonna happen. Time for Perry to fulfill his promise and serve out his term as governor of Texas.

Mitt Romney
Romney doesn't really have a reason to run, other that he can. He believes in nothing except that he'd like a big promotion, as even the establishment is beginning to admit. With the recent piece by George Will and an unprecedented agreement between the grassroots and the MSM (though for different reasons entirely) that Romney is inconsistent to the point of incoherence and therefore unelectable, his residual front runner status from 2008 may be at an end. The only reason he was leading the race was because the 70% of the GOP who will not support him was undecided or split among the other candidates. As some of those candidates, i.e. Cain and Gingrich, become legitimate contenders, his support is evaporating. A recent poll put him in second place to Cain at 18%, down from his high of 30%. This is an election where ideology matters just as much or more than technical competence, and Mitt is sorely lacking in the former. The question then is what will happen to the establishment support should Romney flounder. Judging by the money, they'll be supporting Rick Perry. And that's something with which I'm very, very comfortable.

Herman Cain
When people tell pollsters they support Herman Cain, they do not necessarily mean for president. Instead, they mean that they support his message and charming personality. However, when asked whether they can see him as president, you tend to get crickets chirping. As we get closer to the actual primary where voters must select an actual choice for the GOP nomination to challenge Obama for the presidency, they may not be so quick to pull the lever for him. Indeed, polling indicates that his support is very soft. It's as if people are saying yes, this is the direction we need to go, but they're not sold on Cain being the person to take us there. And they're also doing it to show that we don't have to accept Romney as our nominee. Let's take a closer look at Cain. After graduating from college with a degree in mathematics, he first worked for the Navy on ballistics. Eventually, he got into business and went to work for Pillsbury, where he turned Burger King around. He was later assigned to Godfather's Pizza, which he saved by shutting down about 80 stores and buying it from Pillsbury. Fresh off those successes, he was a natural choice to head up the National Restaurant Association. Essentially holding a lobbyist position, his friendly demeanor and quick wit soon earned him a spot on the Kansas City Fed. From there, he became even more involved in politics, becoming a radio talk show host. He ran for president briefly in 2000, and also ran for the senate in Georgia in 2004, losing in the primary. Though I wouldn't call him a crony capitalist, he is certainly no stranger to interaction, even collusion, between government and business. He now seems to be a perennial candidate, a. la. Christine O'Donnell. His support of Alan Greenspan and TARP were major red flags that should give anyone pause, especially in light of the almost universal disapproval of bailouts for big business anywhere except in the GOP establishment. Though his personal charm managed to get him appointed to some governmental positions, he has never actually won an election whose outcome was determined by the voting public. His lack of foreign policy experience, which he readily admits, is a huge problem. Can you imagine the leader of the free world saying he doesn't know or care who is the president of U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan and drawing a blank on foreign policy? These are the sort of things that voters will be evaluating as the campaign season progresses, and I do not think he will win. Nevertheless, his accomplishments are noteworthy and he will be a major player in the election, but he is ultimately destined for a cabinet post.

Newt Gingrich
As I posted recently, I have decided to support Newt. His support in the polls has been growing steadily. There are several reasons for this. Basically, he is the anti-Bachmann, because he is running a campaign of substance as opposed to one of hollow rhetoric. Gingrich was written off early on, both by the base because of "baggage" and by the establishment because he didn't follow the usual rout of kissing up to the powers that be, raking in their dough, and spending it on the permanent political class. Instead, he was doing this weird thing of investing in social media and trying to run a grassroots campaign. Gingrich? Grassroots? The establishment chortled. Ol' crazy Newt. As usual, however, Gingrich is a genius and turned out to be right. In fact, it probably helped him that he lost some staff in the beginning, because he was freed up to be himself and just talk to people face to face about solutions to put our country on the right path. Time and again he would win debates, yet the pundits continued to write him off. No more. These days, huge crowds flock to see him speak wherever he goes. The campaign is quickly expanding to early states, and many people are taking a second look. When Palin decided not to run, Gingrich became the natural second choice for many people who wanted a proven record of conservative solutions. To be sure, some people still harangue him about his womanizing during the 90's, but with our country in trouble and Gingrich practically the only candidate with a head on his shoulders and a record to match, many people are willing to take him at his word that he has settled down with Callista and matured over the years. Even his opponents have to admit, they'd love to see a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates between Obama and Gingrich. Let's face it, no one else is going to be able to take on professor Obama as well as professor Gingrich. Obama vs. Romney? Romney's flip flops and backtracks would kill him. Obama vs. Cain? Let's hope they avoid foreign policy. Obama vs. Perry? Have you seen Perry's grades? Besides, that undercuts the whole argument against Obama that he is a crony capitalist/socialist. The GOP is going to have to make a decision. Do we want to get serious about beating Obama with a conservative? Or do we just want to put up a losing candidate as a protest vote? Cain or Perry would fit that bill. But if we want to win, it's got to be Gingrich or (increasingly less likely) Romney, and if we want to win with a conservative, it's got to be Gingrich. I'd consider a loss with Cain over a win with Romney. But I'd much rather prefer a win with Gingrich.

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