Saturday, May 14, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

This past week, the contest for the Republican Presidential primary saw significantly more movement. While many in the GOP and in the media talk about the supposed "weakness" of the field, few Republicans believe that Obama is unbeatable. The party should be expected to be quite motivated in attempting to defeat the incumbent, whose post OBL kill bounce has now stalled, but who is still willing to pander to a portion of his base by musing that part of the Republican plan to secure the southern border might involve alligators in a moat.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and veteran Congressman Ron Paul both formally announced their candidacies. Former Utah Governor and recent Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman appears to be preparing to enter the field. On the flip side, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, perhaps earlier than expected, will make his intentions known later this evening on his weekly show on Fox News Channel. The timing and venue of this announcement and all conventional wisdom, including from those who might be in a position to know, indicate that he will not make a second campaign for the GOP nomination. It may very well be that his television bosses had given him a bit of an ultimatum to make his intentions known. Huckabee was close to and had a share of the lead in some national polls, in addition to having his name recognition lead to strong early poll showings in the important states of Iowa and New Hampshire. If Huckabee is indeed out of the race, and with Donald Trump's potential candidacy boomlet seriously floundering, the overall polling scene could dramatically shift in the near future.

The most important developments of the week though involve the two Republicans who would have to be considered those with the best chance of the nomination. One of which is the Indiana Governor who is openly flirting with a candidacy but appears reluctant to formally commit. There are many indications that establishment Republicans want Mitch Daniels to enter the race and that he would receive important backing from other sitting GOP Governors, in addition to former colleagues from the George W. Bush Administration. Many believe that Daniels wants to run, but that his wife Cheri is reluctant.

Never a prominent political component of her husband's career, Mrs. Daniels recently spoke to an Indiana Republican dinner. She may very well be among the most important person in the political universe over the next few weeks. If her husband does run, the couple will eventually be forced to contend with a chapter in their personal lives from the 1990s, which could be a big reason why they might choose not to run. A published report states that the couple divorced for some time, with Mitch keeping the children, while Cheri moved to California and married another man. A few years later, she reportedly divorced that husband, returned to her family remarried Mitch Daniels. While that family story may have had a happy ending, it would be the subject of enormous discussion and analysis on a national stage.

The entrance of Daniels into the race could effect, at least immediately, the perception of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the most likely nominee. While he polls reasonably well at this early state, against potential GOP opponents and against Barack Obama, many in the GOP claim to have serious doubts about Romney's viability. One major factor in that involves his signing a bill as Governor that provided universal health care coverage to his state's citizens. While this action was not a major sticking point used against him in his campaign four years ago, many on the right now claim that in the wake of Obamacare, that it makes him an unacceptable option. There are many differences between the health care approaches of the two men, but all these years later now, Romney finds his action as Governor as a sword to be used against him from both the left and the right.

This past Thursday in Michigan, Romney appeared to give a power point presentation, that in part detailed the differences between what he did and the federal Obama plan, which he insists he would repeal if he were President. Some on the right may have expected or hoped for Romney to completely disavow his Massachusetts plan, which would have given credence to a past narrative of Romney being a "flip flopper", but the likely candidate stated that he stands by what he tried to do as Governor, including a state mandate, and was prepared to hold to his principle on the matter, rather than political expediency.

As his campaign would have to expect, voices from both political wings weighed in claiming that Romney had seriously hurt his campaign and that this could be an issue that prevents him from being nominated.

Being an avowed Romney supporter, I certainly hope that is not the case, and I am confident that the emotional brouhaha that some conservatives are now claiming will pass. I maintain that those who did not take issue with "Romneycare" back in 2007 and 2008, are engaging in disingenuous revisionist political outrage. An example of that would be likely Romney opponent Rick Santorum, who criticized Romney's plan, but had no such qualms when he was a vocal Romney supporter during the primaries in the last cycle.

Romney's event this week was not designed to change anyone's mind or win anyone over to thinking that he did exactly the right thing in Massachusetts. Running away from his record though in this regard would be a bigger long term political problem. The candidate chose to go on record at this still early date to address the issue and to be clear that while he is proud of what he wanted to do on a state level, he never had any intentions of it being a national model, and that he now has a federal plan to deal with health care that conservatives would be in agreement with, if Obamacare is repealed.

The pundits and blogger types will act typically emotional and short sighted, but I think the issue will eventually retreat deeper into the conversation as the long political season ensues. The former Governor continues to quietly raise very large amounts of money in preparation for a protracted political battle. My personal view, as a Romney backer, is that he is not viewed as the front runner for the rest of this year and that people might even claim that he is "done for" as a candidate. It was at this point four years ago, that as much was said about the eventual GOP nominee, who in addition, truly was struggling to raise money at that time.

If that happens, a Romney candidacy "comeback", at the appropriate time, will look even more impressive in the eyes of the media and some voters.