Saturday, June 04, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

Before discussing the week's events in the Presidential campaign, I would be remiss if I did not play proper respect to the true political story of the week and perhaps the decade: Weinergate. The jokes practically write themselves, so I will refrain. I can prognosticate though that "Distinguished Member" from New York will now never be one day talked about as White House material.

Yesterday's economic report for the month of May was certainly disappointing to many Americans, as the unemployment rate is now once again up to 9.1 percent. It was two years ago, that the Obama White House pledged that if their stimulus package was enacted, the rate would have been down to 8 percent by the end of 2009. The continued economic perception by the country is definitely a serious vulnerability for the incumbent party and President. While there is a long way to go in picking a Republican nominee, at the end of the process, there certainly will be one, and based on these factors, it should be quite worthy having for whomever emerges.

This month, candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman are expected to take the next formal steps towards running, whether they be an official announcement, or an exploratory committee. However, most of the news this week involved two more well known names from the 2008 cycle.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whom I am proud to personally support in his campaign for the Oval Office, formally stated his candidacy at a farm in New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon. While supporters and Granite State political luminaries were present, it was a fairly low key political staging event, that would not exactly remind people of the way that previous perceived party front-runners would announce their candidacies. It certainly differed from the huge event and soaring rhetoric utilized by Barack Obama when he kicked off his run in 2007.

It seems to me as if the Romney campaign is deliberately trying to run a lean public campaign at the moment, while organization and money are being widely put together behind the scenes. For one thing, Romney has fairly decent name recognition in the party, based on his previous run, and is thought of early on as a very serious contender for the nomination. I believe the campaign also recognizes the current "anti-establishment" populist thread that seems to be permeating among many conservatives. Romney, at this point in the cycle, does not want to see "inevitable" or too front-runnerish, but will hope to get the appropriate media "bounce" with supposed "momentum", later on in the process, even if it is phrased as a "comeback."

Along those lines, I have to think that the campaign was probably not too offended on Thursday, when Sarah Palin's bus tour rolled into New Hampshire, very close to where Romney gave his speech, and received the lion's share of media attention. While Palin's timing this week, may or may not have been coincidental with Romney's announcement, the media narrative was that she overshadowed him and that it was bad for his campaign. The Palin vs. Romney theme was only compounded when she was asked about Romney, and she used the opportunity to criticize him on the health care issue. The very same day, Rudy Giuliani was also in New Hampshire and had similar remarks. Giuliani continues to claim that he is seriously considering a second bid of his own. While neither Palin nor Giuliani are likely to be at the next debate in mid June, Romney will, and as the current front-runner, should expect to take all kinds of incoming fire.

The Palin bus tour of the East Coast did receive a great deal of coverage this week, as reporters tried to follow her around to historic sites, without a set schedule put out by the Palin people. At one stop in New York City, the former Alaska Governor ate pizza with media mogul and former pretend Presidential candidate Donald Trump. The two were quite chummy. I wonder if they discussed Weinergate.

Later on in the week, while in New England, Palin attempted to recount the tale of Revolutionary Era figure Paul Revere, who American children learn about in school (at least I did), and gave a somewhat original interpretation of his famous "Midnight Ride." The awkwardness of her remarks certainly do not do much to allay critics who say that Palin does not have the "gravitas" to be a serious contributor to the national political debate. As a Republican, it has gotten harder for me to defend her on that front. I think she has gotten a bad wrap in many regards, but at times, she comes across as a sitcom character.

Certainly not lacking in gravitas from my perspective of course, is Governor Romney. Media types and folks in both political parties continue to claim that his chances of receiving his party's nomination are perilous. However, with the economic news of this past week, and the fear that Americans have about their own financial futures, the candidate with a proven record on economic matters, and who is basing his campaign on that area of expertise, might be running at just the right time.