Saturday, May 21, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

After relative little activity on the Presidential front to begin this year, the long march towards the GOP nomination has really ramped up. The talk of the upcoming primary process is very much present on cable television and on the internet.

Since last week, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump have both formally ruled out potential bids. I predicted both of those things would eventually happen several weeks ago. For his part, Trump's announcement makes it clear that he has no plan to potentially seek the White House as an Independent.

On the other side of the coin, one of the candidates who is now formally in the race is businessman Herman Cain. Despite having never been able to win electoral office, or even achieve a GOP nomination, Cain is increasing in popularity with conservatives and many feel there is a vacuum he can fill. His announcement today in Atlanta was a fairly large rally, as he has a following in that city as a talk radio host.

Two Minnesotans will be entering the Republican fray. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty will formally enter the contest on Monday in the key caucus state of Iowa, while Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is believed to be planning an candidacy announcement by the end of the upcoming week. If she is still in the race by the time of the first voting next year, she will be the first significant GOP woman to ever reach that level.

Two other potential candidacies continue to have people waiting. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has said a decision will come fairly shortly, but as of yet, has given no formal hints. He did have a bit of an unfortunate accident with a door at a gym this week and required stitches to his forehead. The other name is that of former Alaska Governor, and first time mother in law, Sarah Palin. Most do not expect her to run, but the departure of Huckabee does perhaps leave a bit of an opportunity. She sent out a fundraising letter this week which sounded a lot like it came from a possible candidate for President.

All this activity on the Republican side, and the perception of the field being "wide open", also lead to some other names being floated as potential entrants. One of whom is Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter, and another is New York Congressman Peter King, who seems to be a bit taken with the idea that some people want him to be President. Neither would be likely to much of a force if they did run, but despite his previous claims that he will not run, some still hope that Texas Governor Rick Perry might decide to give it a go. If Perry were to run, he would garner serious attention.

Two big name candidates who are running for President, had quite different weeks. The one who fared better was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. At this point last week, many in the chattering classes had declared his eventual candidacy to be immensely damaged in the wake of his health care remarks that week. However, this week in Las Vegas, the Romney campaign held a National Call Day and raised a reported staggering $10.25 million dollars. The candidate has now traveled to South Carolina and is close to a visit to Iowa, signifying that he intends to compete in all contests. With Huckabee and Trump now out of the picture, national polls are now showing Romney with a lead. Suddenly, his campaign is back to looking a bit more promising.

One of the reasons for Romney optimism is perhaps the week held by a recent formal candidate, Newt Gingrich, who had about as bad of a week as any Presidential candidate in American history. Last Sunday on Meet the Press, Gingrich spoke out against the Paul Ryan Budget plan, and referred to it as "right wing social engineering." Suddenly, Democrats had visions of campaign ads dancing in their heads. Gingrich did much on that one appearance to hurt both his own long-shot Presidential ambitions and potentially the short term political standing of his party.

Gingrich was forced to profusely apologize for his statement and did so personally to Paul Ryan. He has indicated that he did not really mean what he was quoted as saying and that any attempt to feature his remarks in an ad would be false. To many though, it was basically a fatal blow to the Gingrich campaign. The former Speaker of the House has always been quite prone to saying enormously dumb things politically, and his early implosion of a candidate for office comes as no great surprise to me.

Furthermore, there were lots of other Newt stories in the news. Apparently, he has a large jewelry debt to Tiffany's which he will not talk about. In appearances this week, he was caught on camera getting a dressing down from a conservative over the budget remarks, was "glittered" by a gay activist, and had his cell phone go off during a speech, revealing his ring tone is none other than ABBA's "Dancing Queen." It is fair to say that only Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn had worse weeks than Newt.

The Republican contest is starting to get a lot more interesting, as the party will eventually put up a candidate to face Barack Obama, the native born Hawaiian, whose campaign is now raising money off of merchandise featuring his long form birth certificate.

One political figure, who most certainly is not eligible to run against Obama, but who is now more popular than ever among American conservatives is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A day after Obama, made a speech, in which critics have likened to "throwing Israel under the bus", in regards to the U.S. President calling for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders, Netanyahu, during a tense White House photo op, gave Obama a dressing down, in calmly explaining how he could not go along with the plan, as it would cause Israel to be no more than eight miles wide at some points, with sworn enemies surrounding it, causing the nation to be "indefensible." He likened negotiating with the Palestinian Hamas government as similar to the U.S. trying to negotiate with Al Qaeda.

This upcoming week, both Netanyahu and Obama will speak before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the reception that will be given to Obama by the audience, which will be heavily composed of Jewish Democrats, might be quite telling.

The issue is a very important one to me. Even if I did not happen to be Jewish, as an American, and someone who wishes for peace and liberty in the world, the survival and security of Israel, a staunch democratic ally of the United States, and crucial linchpin to the overall survival of worldwide Judaism is vital. What Barack Obama proposed this week is unacceptable and dangerous. I salute Bibi Netanyahu for his steadfastness and his courage. The fact that I am in a position to be supportive of a foreign leader openly criticizing the President of my own country, while in my country, is unfortunate but no less valid.

Political realities are such, where Jewish-Americans, who have historically represented a solid overwhelming vote for Democrats, will still vote heavily for Obama's reelection, but his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian matter, will have a profound impact on the political decisions made by Jews and non-Jews alike. A significant weakening of Obama's support among Jewish-Americans, as compared to the number he received in 2008, might very well be a crucial deciding factor in how the 2012 Presidential election concludes.