Saturday, October 08, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

It has been a very long week filled with much political news, and I have been busy today with many things, among them, observing the High Holiday of Yom Kippur, so I do not really have much motivation at the moment to write a cogent narrative in a semi-proper format. Thus, I am just going to take a bit of a blogging short-cut and name some folks and give some random bullet points in regards to what happened to them this week. I am certain that there is going to be some stuff that I would mention that I will neglect to do so.

Barack Obama/Joe Biden- while the person at the top of the ticket once again reached a new job approval low in the daily Gallup tracking poll, his running-mate and Vice President continued to execute a lack of discipline with his mouth. Late in the week, Biden stated in response to a question, with a tone that was almost boastful that the Republican Party was strong enough to beat "both" of them. Apparently, he was referring to him and Obama, which was a curious way to respond as if there were a possibility that the ticket could be split up (putting aside a tied Electoral College leading to different Houses of Congress voting for a President and Vice President on different tickets) or that somehow people want to reelect him as Vice President. but are not sure on Obama.

He went on to say that people were unhappy and would blame the incumbent party whether they deserve it or not. Either this is part of a strategy that has the Democrats wanting people to think they are likely to lose, or more likely, Biden just cannot help himself. He is going to be quite entertaining to watch campaigning across America in the months ahead.

Side-note , what effect are these goofy left wing anti-capitalist protesters, who have been making a lot of noise in New York and in other major cities across America going to have on the race? Are they the left's answer to the Tea Party or are they just your typical spoiled rich kids who are now angry at rich people, but really cannot articulate what they are protesting? If I had more time and energy, I would have more to say on them, but I will leave it alone for now.

Chris Christie- he ended all speculation by saying that while he did consider his many previous no statements, he is not going to run for President, and will stay as Governor of New Jersey. This was no great surprise to me, but a tremendous disappointment to many Christie fans such as the columnist Bill Kristol. Perhaps the Governor, who is still under 50, will have another chance someday down the road, but he probably would need to lose a lot of weight first. I do think he would be a very likely Attorney General of the United States for a Republican President.

Sarah Palin- no great surprise to me or most others either, but she finally made it official in saying she will not run for the Presidency. Many of her most ardent online supporters reacted with shock and disgust. What were they expecting? Sarah Palin will continue to be a big name on the national scene, but now that the possibility of her seeking the highest office in the land this cycle is over, she may have to fight even more for the headlines down the road. It is worth noting that she is the first person on a losing national ticket to not seek the Presidency since Jack Kemp did not run in 2000. While it is possible she may run sometime down the road, for now she joins Dick Cheney and Geraldine Ferraro as the only major party candidates ever to be nominated for the Vice Presidency to have never also sought the Presidency in almost 40 years.

So, with Christie and Palin both out, the field is basically set, right? What was that I heard on the network news the other day about Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma looking at things? Probably nothing, since I did not see or hear it repeated anywhere, so unless Rudy Giuliani does something sudden, I will say the field is pretty much set.

Gary Johnson- what did he do this week, besides maybe get high?

Buddy Roemer- I read a blurb this week about his expressing solidarity with the far-left Wall Street protesters. If taking such a position like that will not get his name in the news, nothing will.

Rick Santorum- Had a reasonably impressive third place finish today at the Values Voters Summit Straw Poll in Washington D.C., but he is rapidly losing his chance to become the "Anti-Romney Flavor of the Month."

Michele Bachmann- did pretty poorly in that same straw poll, despite her urging conservatives not to "settle" on someone else who may not be as conservative as her. Even with the Palin question now off the scene, it just seems like Republicans who might have once considered supporting Bachmann have just moved on, presently to Herman Cain.

Ron Paul- he easily won the big Value Voters Straw Poll, proving his recent losing streak at straw polls was just an aberration. How did he do that? There must have been internet voting allowed. I have a strong feeling that if the voting was limited just to those who were attending in person, Herman Cain would have easily won.

Jon Huntsman- was the one major candidate to not attend the Values Voters event. He would not have gotten many votes if he did, but perhaps might have been pressured to give a firm answer as to if he is or is not a Mormon. When he was running in Utah, he very much identified himself as a Mormon, which most political figures in the state are, but as a Presidential candidate, he has given carefully worded responses to interview questions which make it appear that he no longer formally considers himself a member of the church.

Newt Gingrich- came in last at the Value Voters Straw Poll (which seems appropriate based on his personal life history) among the candidates who did attend, but still, some Republicans are pleading others to not count the Newtster out and that he can pull off a come from a back in the pack victory a la McCain 2008, or that he will at least emerge one of these weeks as the anti-Romney challenger of the moment.

I do not really think any of those things will happen, but I find it incredibly ironic how months ago, Gingrich's campaign was considered dead and buried, as his entire staff quit, presumably to eventually work for the Rick Perry Presidential campaign, and now Perry is in the race with Newt's old campaign manager managing his campaign, etc, and several state polls now are showing Gingrich ahead of Perry.

Mitt Romney- Political pundit Charlie Cook's latest column aside, he has to once again be considered a strong front-runner. An early as possible start to the political calender in Iowa and New Hampshire would only seek to benefit him. He certainly has many people very much opposed to his nomination (gotta pause to watch SNL do a Mitt sketch at this moment....good stuff, I think "boring" will carry the day in 2012.)

Anyways, polling out yesterday gives Romney a nearly insurmountable lead in New Hampshire, and with all his opponents fighting to be the alternative, the math continues to work in his favor. This week, he gave two speeches that were very well received by many conservatives. He delivered a major foreign policy speech yesterday in South Carolina, and today appeared before the Value Voters conference, in which he as expected, did not do very well in the straw poll, but perhaps came away as the big winner nonetheless, with headlines everywhere about how he was attacked for his Mormon faith.

Perhaps Romney will lose votes of any bigoted Evangelicals in the GOP who did not already know Romney was a Mormon, but I think that anybody who really cared about this was already aware, and thus Romney will benefit (especially to a general electorate) based on events, both planned and unplanned and how they will reflect on the person I still think will be his only true obstacle to the nomination; Rick Perry.

Herman Cain/Rick Perry- these two really need to be bunched in together as they seem to be competing for votes directly with each other as they vie to become the alternative to Romney. Right now, if some polls are to be believed, Cain is the national front-runner, which would mean that for the first time in American history, both major parties have African-Americans in position to face each other.

Cain has done some impressive things on the campaign trail to get where he is, and it is not out of the question that he could have a good showing in Iowa, but I do not think he is a viable candidate for the nomination. Some Perry folks might even accuse him of being in cahoots with Romney, as Cain seems to be continuing to be more critical of the Texan and of his possibility of offering strong support down the road than to Romney, whom he endorsed in 2008.

Even if Cain did come in second or even win in Iowa, I do not see how he would be able to build from that moving forward in the race, considering his lack of organization and money compared to other candidates. I think Cain is smart enough to know he is not really going to be President one day, which is why his formal campaign is a bit more like an informal book tour and branding effort. The longer that Cain appears viable though, the harder it is going to be for Perry to rebound.

Speaking of the Texas Governor, his quarterly fundraising figures were quite impressive and a reminder of all the buzz that surrounded his candidacy before the widely panned debate performances. However, two stories this week regarding Perry took up much of the political oxygen surrounding him and I think makes it more difficult to change the narrative away from the perception that Perry is unelectable in a general election.

First, the Washington Post published a story in which it was alleged that a hunting lodge that Perry and his father leased many years ago contained a rock in which a disgusting racist word appeared. The Perry campaign states that the family painted over the rock at the earliest possible time, but it remains unclear as to just how long it might have been allowed to remain there. My personal feelings are that any single day that took place where someone who had the authority to get rid of such a horrible thing but did not do so was a day too many.

I do not know just how accurate the story is, and what all the facts are, and I think it would be completely inappropriate to label Perry as a racist, but I am also a bit perturbed at the response of some of my fellow conservatives who just reflexively called the story a "liberal hit job" that was grossly unfair to Perry, without giving any consideration to as to what the facts or the overall political ramifications might be.

When asked about the story, Herman Cain said that if true, it displayed a level of racial insensitivity. Some on the right then in return got upset at Cain, feeling he fell into a liberal trap and played the race card. Many speculated that Cain criticizing Perry, along with other anti-Perry rhetoric would have the effect of stopping his momentum, to the benefit of Perry.

From the quotes I read from Cain regarding the Texas rock, I cannot find anything to criticize Cain on. I do not think he crossed the line in describing it as racially insensitive or that he unfairly accused Perry of any unproven action. It makes perfect sense to me as to why a black person (who happened to also be unfairly attacked this week by a liberal white television personality for what that white guy perceived as not being active enough in the Civil Rights Movement) would be offended by the N word. All thinking Americans should be offended by that horrible word, and I think people on the right do themselves a disservice by putting more emphasis on trying to defend Perry for something that his campaign is not even specifically denying as opposed to holding back on attacking a black man for wanting to stand up against an historically hateful word and all that it represents.

I strongly do not think the vast majority of conservatives or Republicans are racist. I think the fact that Herman Cain is doing so well presently in the polls is proof of that, but I also think that we need to a better job, as it relates to the historic use of the n word, or things such as the Confederate Flag, in realizing that not concern about bigotry and past injustices is being overly sensitive or playing of the race card.

Yesterday, the Perry campaign signed off on a pastor from a Dallas megachurch, who has endorsed Perry to introduce him. In those remarks, Pastor Jeffresss claimed that voters should chose Perry, a "born again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ" over Romney, who he declared a "good, moral man." Backstage, the pastor later stood firm by remarks he had made in the past which stated that Mormonism is a cult and that Romney, while a good man, (whom he would support over Obama) is a member of a cult.

The speech that Perry gave to the group yesterday was well received, but nobody is talking about it because of the whole brouhaha surrounding what an apparent campaign surrogate said about Mormons and cults and how he believed voters should take religion into consideration in picking a candidate. People are asking if this was raised in a deliberate way by the Perry campaign to harm Romney. I do not know if any hard evidence can be found on that, but after a first statement in which the campaign refused to denounce Jeffress's remarks, a later statement came out which stated that Perry does not believe Mormonism is a cult.

I have already typed far more than I planned, so I cannot offer full analysis on this, but this is a campaign subplot to be watched. Today, the noted conservative William Bennett harshly criticized Jeffress on stage and stated that he had the effect of overshadowing anything else that was said at the political event and that he did Governor Perry no favors. Considering the weak showing by Perry in the straw poll, (finishing far behind Paul, Cain, and Santorum), that has to be at least partly true.

When Mitt Romney took the podium, he pointedly applauded Bennett for his remarks and later on gave a warning against divisive rhetoric, specifically aimed at the person who would be taking the podium next, and who was known for making inflammatory remarks against Mormons, Muslims, and gays. It was perhaps a mini "Sister Souljah Moment" for my preferred GOP candidate, and I hope he will continue to stand up against bigotry, whether aimed at him or others.

I hope my ramblings on the week in politics will make some sense to me when I read this back one day years from now. For now, we can all look forward to the next GOP debate on Tuesday evening. It would behoove Rick Perry to be better prepared and perhaps realize that right now, Herman Cain is at least a temporary threat to him.