Saturday, October 01, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

As I anticipated last week, the Presidential fortunes of Rick Perry look far worse now based on both general election and primary polling. This has allowed Herman Cain, on the heels of his surprise Florida Straw Poll victory to receive attention and credibility as a potential surging candidate. Sarah Palin's plan to decide on a Presidential run "by October" has apparently come and passed without an answer, while Mike Huckabee despite some online buzz yesterday about a potential re-consideration of a bid has re-stated that he is "comfortable" about his decision to not be a candidate in 2012.

Interestingly enough, he taped a segment that will air on his Fox News weekend television show tonight featuring 2012 frontrunner and former rival Mitt Romney, who Huckabee once seemed to intensely dislike but now may favor over Perry, based on some old grudges. If Huckabee were to suddenly run, it might be seen of having the curious effect of hurting Perry and helping Romney, though Perry seems to have done a good enough job of helping himself with much of his support apparently going to Cain, who has seen polls this week where he is well ahead of Perry in the important state of Florida and nearly tied with him (and close to Romney who is back in front) nationally, according to a Fox News poll.

Previously in the year, when Cain was receiving attention, he said some things that hurt his chances, and time will tell if he will do so again. The candidate, who confirmed that he was close to dropping out of the race a couple times already this cycle before his big showing last week, made headlines by saying that many of his fellow African-Americans who support Democrats are "brainwashed" and for also declaring that if Rick Perry were to be the nominee, he would not be able to support him "today" over Perry's immigration stance. Cain did say he would be able to support Romney (as he did in the primaries four years ago) despite problems on the health care issue. While I ultimately think Cain would support any eventual GOP nominee (since I just do not believe it will be him), that kind of conditional posturing might not sit well with Republicans who want to focus on defeating Barack Obama above all else.

Before I turn to the biggest (in more ways than one) political player of the week, let's examine the past week for the Obama-Biden campaign. A good thing happened for them and for America yesterday when a prominent terrorist leader (though not exactly a household name in America) was killed by a drone attack in Yemen. I am happy whenever an Al Qaeda Islamofacist is killed, and will applaud the Administration's policy of killing them but this particular situation is a little interesting. Anwar al-Awlaki is actually an American citizen, having been born in the United States and has never been charged with any crime or act of terrorism. In fact, the cleric was once praised in American publications as a so-called "moderate" leader in the Muslim world.

While I have no doubt that he was a genuine danger to America, his specific ties to terrorist acts are a little murky and if it were the Bush-Cheney Administration that had sent a drone to kill him, instead of trying him, as an American citizen, in an American courtroom, the left would be apoplectic. There has not been much criticism of President Obama though for it, with the exception of libertarian Republican candidates Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.

Also this week, both President Obama and Vice President Biden have gotten in some political hot water for remarks they have made. Speaking before a Congressional Black Caucus event, Obama, who is now adopting the mantra that he is a "warrior for the middle class", called upon the audience members to "stop complaining" and exchange their bedroom slippers for marching shoes. This particular rhetorical flourish did not sit well with some, including California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said that Obama would never have made such a statement to another group of supporters, such as Hispanics and Jews.

Later on in the week, Obama was quoted as saying America had become "soft" and the notoriously undisciplined Biden made remarks in which he inferred that the economy now belonged to the incumbent Democrat Administration and not it it's Republican predecessor and that the 2012 election would be a referendum on Obama and Biden. Facing as difficult a political environment as they do, statements made by the presumptive Democrat ticket, which will be used against them, certainly cannot help.

In the meanwhile, Republicans keep attempting to gain endorsements and advantages in their race, as the primary calender picture remains quite muddled as states jockey for position (and anger others) in trying to exert their influence. It's all too complicated to go into now, but it looks increasingly likely that the first voting contest will, like four years ago, occur in the first few days of January. That can do little but help the front-runners, who all respect to Herman Cain granted, remain Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The two of them were as aggressive as ever this week in sniping back and forth in the press and over internet ads over health care, immigration, job plans, and other things. While a month ago, Perry looked to many as being a political juggernaut who had deeply harmed the Romney campaign, the events on the trail, especially three debates, have reversed those fortunes as Perry now is the person who needs to make a comeback as Romney looks like he is back in front, in what is still a relatively early point in the process.

Polls have shown that nearly 2/3 of Republicans are satisfied with the present field, but there continues to be an attitude of "who else might be out there." With Perry, the flavor of last month now looking a bit melted, attention is once again turning in a big way to first term New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a tough-talking, labor union confronting fiscal conservative. While some of Christie's positions, if they were more well known, would not exactly thrill Republicans, many are now clamoring for him to run as the best chance to defeat Obama and usher in a new era of conservatism.

For months, Christie has adamantly declared he would not run and was not ready to be President. It seems as if he has declared non-interest in the race every couple of months at least. At the beginning of the week, the speculation started again, as Christie traveled to the Ronald Reagan Library in California to give a major policy speech. While conservatives liked most of what Christie had to say, and while some audience members practically begged him to run for President, the Governor seemed to firmly indicate that he was still not interested in running. Privately, he was said to tell donors in more blunt terms to count him out.

So, that would appear to be that, right? Well, the last couple of days have seen even more reports, citing unnamed sources and "advisers" says that Christie was once again re-considering based upon the encouragement he received in California and by things said to him and his wife recently by former First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. I still remain very skeptical that Christie is seriously considering a run, but if he is, he is going to have to commit in literally a matter of days. If by next weekend, he has not stated any sort of interest, then people will really need to move on.

I do not think Christie will run because he is a smart man who cares about his family, which includes school-aged children. It might be very controversial to say, but I think that Christie's weight would raise concerns , both legitimate and not, about his ability to effectively and hypothetically serve as President, and that it would be a terrible political distraction that would be nearly impossible to overcome in the minds of many voters. I guess that makes me a "Girther."

Wrapping this up, all the speculation about Christie and the sudden acceleration of the Cain Train may indicate serious disappointment and doubts about the Perry campaign, but I remain unconvinced that they represent a long-term threat to the potential of Romney capturing the nomination or being a strong general election candidate, against an unpopular President, whom he already fares pretty well against in polls.

Some believe that Christie running would be a big blow to Romney, a fellow Northeast Governor who appeals to moderates and pro-business Republicans. Some Romney supporters might be tempted to switch to Christie at least temporarily, but I think above all else, a hypothetical candidacy by Christie would just be another example of the "Anti-Romney Flavor of the Month" attempting to take off and thus splitting a segment of that vote further, as Romney,while not beloved by the party base at this point, continues to remain pretty steady.

Many Republican voters are certainly not sold on Mitt Romney yet, but with each passing week, and with more and more challenges to his status as a leading contender not materializing as expected, the time may eventually come where those Republicans stop fighting the inevitable and embrace the Mittster for good.