Saturday, August 06, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

The last week saw much fire and brimstone on Capitol Hill, as the Congress voted to approve the debt ceiling deal reached last week, much to the consternation of liberals and Tea Party activists alike. Amid much hot rhetoric and pointed fingers, the week also provided surprising, and what should be heartwarming moment for all Americans, regardless of ideology or position on the debt ceiling. Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returned to the House of Representatives, to vote yes on the deal, along with half of her Democrat colleagues.

The ongoing recovery of Giffords from serious injury in January, when she was shot by a would be assassin and briefly declared dead in the media, should serve to jog our memories about things said by Barack Obama and other Democrats at the time in regards to political rhetoric and civility. That is why voices on the left seem so hypocritical and shameful, especially the past week in ways they have referred to conservatives in regards to the fight over raising the debt ceiling. Conservatives have been referred to as "terrorists" and "hostage-takers" in addition to numerous analogies referencing a "gun to the head." Were they not calling for that type of thing to stop at the beginning of the year? Joe Biden, the infrequently visible Vice President was himself reported to have used the term "terrorists" to describe Congressional Republicans while in a closed door meeting with Congressional Democrats, who were also reported to have heavily used that term. Biden's office denied that he used the terrorism word, but apparently did nothing to discourage Democrats in that meeting who were using those words to him.

While many in Washington, from Barack Obama to Congressional leaders alike, breathed a sigh of relief that the U.S. would not face default, ideological believers on the left feel their President capitulated once again and Republicans got almost everything of what they want. I happen to largely agree with that assessment although Tea Party conservative types feel that they did not get what they should have out of the deal and that the economy could face drastic consequences because of it. Sensing this mood among activists on the right, most of the major 2012 GOP Presidential contenders opposed the deal, including front-runner Mitt Romney, who said last weekend that he could not support the bill. Those in the GOP who oppose Romney's candidacy have criticized him for not being more vocal on the issue before.

The American people, through polling also appear to be pretty sour on the agreed upon legislation to raise the debt ceiling, and while many would have expected the deal to please Wall Street, the stock market actually saw quite a hellishly bad day on Thursday. By the next day, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history anyway.

No matter how you look at it, things still look pretty dour for the U.S. economy. However, the fact that a default was avoided was especially good news for Mr. Obama, who was still able to make it to Chicago on Wednesday for a big 50th birthday bash/campaign fundraiser after he signed the legislation. It would have been a shame for that event to have been missed, as well as the other celebrity laden birthday celebration for the Partier in Chief in the White House. Almost everyone likes birthdays and turning 50 is a big deal I am sure, but this was another example of just how politically tone deaf Barack Obama remains during the worst economic times since the Great Depression, as he seems to revel in soaking up the fame and glory of his office above all else.

Now that the debt ceiling issue is off the front pages, attention will begin to turn to the Presidential contest and the next week for the Republican candidates in Iowa. Next Saturday, the Straw Poll in Ames will be held and that will get a large amount of media attention (although with the overall frontrunner skipping it, perhaps not as much as past open cycles.) I believe Michele Bachmann is likely to place first, although the potential exists for what would be an irrelevant upset victory by Ron Paul. The showing of Tim Pawlenty, who is now pulling his ads off the Iowa airwaves in order to focus on getting out the straw vote, could be crucial to the overall survival of his campaign. He also continues to lose campaign staffers.

Two days before the voting in Ames, the GOP contenders, including Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman who will not be speaking on Saturday, will meet for a debate in Iowa that will be broadcast on the Fox News Channel.

So, it will clearly be a big week for the Republicans currently running to replace Barack Obama. By next Saturday night, the "political death watch" will be on as to just how many Republican contenders may be forced to be the first active candidate to drop out of the contest. Besides Pawlenty, pressure will be steep for Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum.

While he is not really contesting Iowa at all, things also look quite dire for the campaign of Jon Huntsman, who despite great media anticipation as to his political promise, has not even come close to getting off the ground as a Presidential candidate. He also has lost some more staffers, and a lengthy story this past week in the Politico indicates a chaotic campaign in turmoil, filled with massive amounts of infighting and ineffectiveness. One example of this might be the fact that more than once now, Huntsman campaign materials have misspelled the first name of the candidate.

Not attending either the straw poll or debate will be Rick Perry. Now that August is upon us, this almost certainly has to be the month that Perry finally gets in or gets out of Campaign 2012. Right? He did spend today in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas taking part in a large religious revival meeting he helped organize. While many independent leaning "swing voters" might not be too impressed or perhaps even somewhat turned off by Perry's frequent proclamations of faith, it probably will not hurt him in attracting Evangelical support for a Presidential campaign.

The week also saw transcripts surface from Perry's time as a college student at Texas A&M. Needless to say, he was not exactly a scholar in those days. In fact, his grades were pretty bad. While that part of his past may not have much relevance in the kind of Governor he has been for his state or the kind of President he might be, it is likely to be a large focus of the narrative used against Perry among those on the left and in the media. The concept of various nationally prominent Republicans being " too dumb to be President" has been with us for decades, going all the way back to Eisenhower.

By this time next month, it is likely that Romney, Bachmann, and Perry will all be active candidates and all will be within shouting distance of each other in national polls. It will be a fascinating few months and they (and the other GOP candidates) jockey back and forth preparing for the early contests in the key states. As of the present, Mitt Romney, the candidate I am wholeheartedly backing, easily runs the strongest against the incumbent Democrat, as compared to the more currently visible Bachmann or the still lesser name recognized Perry.

I very much still feel that the concept of "electability" will be a major one when Republicans and those who would like one to be President actually go to the polls to pick a nominee of the Grand Old Party.

Putting aside party and candidate loyalties, political junkies should pay close attention to the developments in this primary process. Right now, most ardent Democrats, despite some disappointment, continue to back Obama and believe he will be reelected. Independent voters are far more split on the question, but polling indicates, perhaps because of media storylines, and the perceived political "greatness" of Obama and supposed "weakness" of the Republican field, think that Obama will win four more years. However, ardent Republicans seem to be increasingly more confident that he will lose reelection.

The current economic crisis and Obama's continued low job approval numbers make a candidate like Mitt Romney, who is focusing on jobs and the economy appears to be quite formidable as a general election candidate. However, he and his supporters may not want things to get "too bad" (besides for our genuine desire to see America be as great as possible) because if they do, GOP primary voters may be emboldened to believe that any Republican will be able to send Obama packing in 2012. That could lead to many of them supporting a more "ideologically pure" candidate other than Romney, such as a Perry, a Bachmann, or hypothetically even a Sarah Palin.

As bad as things get, that just may not be the case, politically. Economic conditions in the fall of 2012 will likely decide the election, but in politics, campaigns and candidates will always still matter. I hope Republicans will choose wisely when 2012 rolls around and I believe we will.