Saturday, June 11, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

It has been an interesting and fairly eventful week for the candidates who are or may decide to seek the Republican nomination for the Presidency.

While some, such as Buddy Roemer and Roy Moore toil along in virtual anonymity, others continue to be vexed by the ongoing and sensational sage of Weinergate. Rick Santorum had the misfortune of having his formal campaign kickoff receive virtually no coverage because of a Weiner press conference. Having complaints of his own this past week is Gary Johnson, who based on low polling, and being out libertarianened by Ron Paul has not been invited to take part in this coming Monday night's New Hampshire Republican debate on CNN. Instead, the Fox Business Channel set up some sort of scripted debate thing between Johnson and a Barack Obama look-alike. That is not very dignified for a Presidential candidate, but at least Johnson can take solace in the fact that he is not Weiner, who of course has his own problems with an undignified Johnson.

Moving on, while the most recent polls are showing good results for Mitt Romney, who picked up the first current Gubernatorial endorsement of the season, that of Nebraska's Dave Heineman, Tim Pawlenty also has been picking up some endorsements, such as the somewhat infamous South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, and revealed an ambitious economic proposal this week in Chicago. At the present, I still think that Romney and Pawlenty will come down to being the last two candidates standing and that it is certainly worth considering the possibility that next year, they could possibly be brought together for a general election ticket.

The Romney campaign made news late this week by deciding to skip August's Iowa Straw Poll, which the candidate had won four years ago. This time around, the Romney people are saying they are focused on actual contests and will not take part in any straw polls, including ones in states like Florida and Michigan which are considered must-win primary contests. While Romney skipping the Iowa poll (while maintaining that they will still play in Iowa next winter) puts the burden on Pawlenty to manage a first place finish this summer in Ames. It could be harmful to the former Minnesota Governor's campaign if for example the cadre of Ron Paul supporters deny him the momentum that he may need moving forward.

Otherwise, it has been a week of much speculation as to who may be getting in and who may be dropping out of the GOP field. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has gotten some mention as perhaps being open to running, after having some some time ago he will not. Rudy Giuliani is now being said by a famous pundit to be all but certain to run, and there is now great anticipation surrounding Texas Governor Rick Perry, who many now believe is very likely to run himself. A Perry run would be music to the ears of many Evangelical conservatives, especially in the south, who may be feeling a void in the field.

All the Perry talk takes the speculation spotlight off Sarah Palin, as many think that Palin would line up with a Perry campaign. The media has been pouring over emails from her tenure as Alaska Governor to an unprecedented extent for a non-candidate/non office-holder, but there has yet to be anything overly interesting unearthed. The longer though that speculation about the Perrys and Palins of the political world exist, the harder it may be for other candidates seeking to appeal to the red-meat loving conservative base, such as Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain to gain any sort of traction. Cain in particular has been rhetorically tracking very much to the right, saying things such as somehow suggesting that he would be reluctant to have any Muslim-Americans in his never going to happen anyway Administration.

Greatly fueling the Perry rumors are the developments this week that has put the Newt Gingrich campaign on life support. While four years ago at this time, eventual nominee John McCain's nomination hopes looked "dead", Gingrich's political situation is even more fatal, and I see absolutely no way that he can recover. After a disastrous campaign kickoff week, Gingrich disappeared from the public eye to a large extent, while continuing to fly around the country on expensive private jets. Most recently, he was on a two week cruise of the Greek Isles, which he has seemed to publicly insist was his wife's idea. All of this was more than enough for Gingrich's professional campaign staff, who all resigned this week en masse. In essence, the candidate was fired by his own employees. Many of Gingrich's former people have close ties to Rick Perry, and are now of course available to join his Presidential campaign.

Gingrich maintains that he is still running for President, and will take part in his first debate this Monday night in New Hampshire. Apparently, the former House Speaker plans to keep doing things in an unorthodox fashion, but will devote much of his time and resources to television debates and social media outlets. I have always said that Gingrich would completely flop as a candidate, but his inevitable exit from the race may come even earlier than I anticipated. Will he be able to hang on longer than Weiner?

So, in what has to be considered the first really big political event of Campaign '12, all eyes will be on the CNN New Hampshire debate set on Monday night. Several talked about potential hopefuls, including Jon Huntsman, will not be there, but Cain, Paul, Pawlenty, and Santorum will be making their second official debate appearances. Joining them for the first time will be Bachman, Gingrich, and Romney. It will be a crowded stage, but I would expect, that much of the time will be spent with all the candidates firing political shots at front-runner Mitt Romney. He can especially expect to be attacked on his health care record and for comments he made about global warming last week.

Governor Romney, whom I consider head and shoulders above the rest of the field, will definitely experience what it feels like to be a front-runner and having a bunch of trailing candidates gunning for him. How he responds under the pressure could say a lot about his long-term viability as a candidate and a potential nominee. While Romney seems to have the support, organization, and especially money to be in the game for the long haul, the entire remainder of the field will be spending several months trying to establish themselves as the "anti-Romney" representative of the field.

As a follower of politics, I will enjoy watching the campaign begin a new phase, starting on Monday, but as someone who wants to see the eventual Republican nominee be in the best possible position to win next fall, I hope they all do their best to keep Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment in mind.