Saturday, June 25, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

This past week, Barack Obama delivered a major prime time address from the White House, detailing plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, right around the time of next year's fall campaign season. Voices on both the left and the right were critical of the Presidential plan, and dissatisfaction with Obama, including among his base, over his handling of Afghanistan and Libya has become more noticeable. Still though, there is little doubt that he is poised to once again be the Democrat nominee for President, with the prospect of not even facing any sort of major primary opposition. In fact, over the last thirty five years, the three Presidents who also were given an intra-party pass were reelected, while the three who faced such a challenge lost.

On the other side, the race for the Republican nomination continues to roll along. Early this week, Jon Huntsman formally began his race, and perhaps not to his liking, was endorsed, in a way, by a leading Democrat politician (one whose Huntman's family has donated thousands of dollars to.) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, when asked about Huntsman, said that he preferred him over GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, and used the occasion to launch some unprovoked attacks against the former Massachusetts Governor.

This coming Monday, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will make a formal announcement speech, in her native state of Iowa, and where she will hope to make a strong standing early next year. I believe Bachmann will be the first Republican woman to ever deliver an official campaign announcement speech. While she is clearly in the race, another favorite of many conservatives, Rick Perry, continues to remain publicly undecided, although reports have surfaced this week that he is certain to run, and will partake in his launch in August, very shortly before the Ames, Iowa straw poll. I will still say though that Mitt Romney's second quarter fundraising numbers, which will be released in July, will weigh heavily on Perry's decision. Speaking of the Iowa Straw Poll, Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter has paid a fee to participate, which might as well be considered a decision of candidacy.

Things continue to look a little less promising at the moment for two other Republican candidates, who at one time looked like major players. Newt Gingrich, after having his entire top staff quit earlier this month, saw his fundraising team also leave the unorthodox and troubled campaign this week. If his candidacy ever manages to return even to a perceived state of relevance, it will be one of the great political comebacks. The situation is less dire for Tim Pawlenty, who continues to fall further behind in the polls, but there have now been reports about how many of his staffers have not been paid.

Nearly every week, reports surface about more potential candidates on the GOP side. This week, a couple of politicians, who were believed to have ruled out bids, have once again been placed in the political rumor mill. Former New York Governor George Pataki is now once again openly saying he is thinking about running. He has done that before though, for a few different offices, and I do not think he is serious. Also, South Dakota Senator John Thune, maintains that he is sticking by his decision to not run, but has admitted that many of his friends and associates are talking to him in an attempt to get him to change his mind. For his part, Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican nominee John McCain is saying that he is not going to make another bid. Sigh of relief there.

With many months still to go, before the Republican nominee is decided, and with Rick Perry potentially being a major factor, my candidate, Mitt Romney continues to be in the driver's seat, as he has been visiting several states and rolling out the names of political endorsers. Due to that status, and evidenced by his recent debate strategy, Romney appears to almost already be running a general election campaign. That is a risky move for anybody, front-runner or not, but if it pays off, it could have long term dividends. Some on the right have gotten angry recently at Romney for perceived centrist or "RINO" rhetoric on health care or global warming, thinking he is taking the nomination process for granted. With such divided opposition on the right though, Romney may have the luxury of trying to see the big picture.

Presidential elections are usually decided in the middle, and next year may be no exception, but the Obama reelection effort may be forced to try to appeal to their base as a means of survival. While he is lucky to not be facing any primary opposition, the incumbent's standing in regards to enthusiasm among liberals is definitely not what it used to be, over both foreign and domestic issues. Depending on whom the Republican nominee winds up being, Team Obama may decide that they will have little chance to win over economically concerned moderates and Independents, but instead must pump out as many leftists as possible, to duplicate the historic 2008 turnout for Obama, and win reelection that way. The gay and lesbian community is especially important to Obama in regards to both financial and political support. A reversal of the President's position on same sex marriage (which would revert to a position he once held in the 1990's), might be something that is coming eventually.

Though his re-nomination is going to be a cakewalk, Obama may wind up worrying about the Democrat left and an intensity gap next fall. If the eventual Republican nominee is someone who can be painted as divisive or "ultra-conservative", the Democrats may have other powerful options, but it will be quite fascinating to see if an Obama vs. Romney general match-up winds up pitting a challenger who won a nomination running as a general election candidate, versus an incumbent who basically has to run a primary campaign during the general election.