Saturday, July 16, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

It is the Dog Days of Summer and in the nation's capital, Elephants and Donkeys continue to battle 0ver the pending deadline to raise the debt limit or see the potential of a default in the U.S. economy, leading to potentially catastrophic circumstances. The political aspect of the battle is very crucial for both Congress (and in particular the Republican House majority) and for Barack Obama. Thus far, the negotiations have failed to produce much progress and there is likely to be continued bickering in the days ahead. A free-falling economy could prove impossible for the incumbent President to overcome next year, while Capitol Hill Republicans remember coming up on the losing side politically the last time they haggled with a sitting Democrat President seeking reelection. My hunch though is that some compromise will be worked out between Obama and the Republicans. Neither side (putting aside the economic consequences) are likely to play the political game of chicken all the way to end. The risks are just too high for both sides, even though ideological activists from both sides may be less than pleased by any compromise piece of legislation.

Despite a horrible 2010 midterm for his party and poll numbers that continue to creep lower amid chronically bad economic perceptions, Obama and the Democrat National Committee revealed this past week that they raised a staggering amount of money; over 80 million dollars in the past quarter. That is both indicative of the fact that there are some highly successful "fat cat" wealthy Democrat bundlers who are bringing in the cash, and also that wealthy liberals, no matter how much they may be griping publicly or behind the scenes, are still willing to pony up for their President and party.

It is a political certainty that next year will see Obama and the Democrats are well financed as perhaps any candidate in the history of the country, and they will use that money to spend heavily on negative ads against the eventual Republican nominee (perhaps even before it is official), but despite the fact that Obama will perhaps have more money than all the current GOP candidates put together, the election will almost certainly still come down to being a referendum on the incumbent's record.

While many Republican bundlers appear willing to bide their time and see how the GOP race develops, Mitt Romney has been the only Republican to have really raised any sort of a substantial amount of money. Newt Gingrich is heavily in debt, Rick Perry is still weeks away from a likely kick-off, Rudy Giuliani (along with Sarah Palin) appears now more likely to take a pass, Tim Pawlenty continues to struggle on the money front, and even the seemingly surging campaign of Michele Bachmann raised a not too impressive amount of money in the past quarter.

Romney continues to have a sizable cash advantage for his party, and holds leads in both New Hampshire and in national polls. Further bolstering his claim to be the most electable Republican, polls out in the past several days from the early caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire show that any early presence there is paying off for him, as he is polling ahead of Barack Obama in those states. A recent poll out of Florida shows the exact same thing. These are states that are near must-wins, or in the case of Iowa, definite must wins, if Obama wants four more years, and even a billion dollar campaign war chest might not be able to save him, if his approval ratings do not turn around in time.

Elsewhere on the GOP front, Texas Congressman Ron Paul has launched the first serious ad buy of the campaign and also announced that he will not seek reelection to the House in 2012. Besides his more "convinced" supporters, few give Paul any real shot of capturing the GOP nomination, so it is likely that the political career of the father of a Kentucky U.S. Senator will be drawing to a close. Paul's decision to retire from Congress (which is welcome news to many Republicans) also leads to speculation as to whether or not it might make him more likely to accept the nomination of the Libertarian Party (which ran him as their candidate in 1988) or another third party. Few believe he would have any intention of formally endorsing the Republican victor anyway. If Paul were to take a third party route, cases could be made as to how he could hurt both Obama and the eventual Republican nominee at the ballot box.

Getting back to the Bachmann campaign, polls from the past week confirm that she is running second both nationally and in New Hampshire, and now has appeared to move ahead of Mitt Romney into a first place standing in Iowa. That puts great expectations on her in the Hawkeye State both in regards to next month's Straw Poll and next year's Caucuses, especially since Romney is skipping the August event entirely and may or may not invest heavily in trying to take first at caucus time.

Bachmann has received more media attention in the past week than any other candidate and is proving to have potential to be as much of a cultural lightning rod as Sarah Palin ever would. From her signing a pledge which critics claimed said that black families were better off under slavery, to her recent decision to leave her family's church (which is something Barack Obama of course was forced to do in the last Presidential cycle) to her embarrassingly inaccurate pronunciation of the Yiddish word "chutzpah", every thing she is doing is being put under a microscope. The fact that she is an often brash conservative woman only generates more heat from those who dislike.

The same can be said about her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann. Former President Bill Clinton's role in his wife's 2008 campaign proved to be a political headache and liberal activists, the media, and Hollywood celebrities appear to be sharpening their knives for what could be a long and elaborate campaign to focus on the current Republican candidate's husband. In particular, are revelations that the Christian therapist has been involved in medical therapies designed to cure homosexuality. While both Bachmanns are denying that they are "anti-gay", statements have already been found from both that have generated a lot of political outrage on the left.

That is only half of the story though. A whisper campaign has already begun, and has been talked about by celebrities such as Bill Maher, that is sure to get louder as the media will be looking to find any sort of evidence to prove a certain rumor, which if true, would almost certainly end all Presidential hopes of the Congresswoman. They believe that Marcus Bachmann is gay.

While there is currently absolutely no credibility to those allegations, this is likely in the weeks and months ahead to turn into an ugly sub-chapter of Campaign 2012.