Saturday, December 10, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

With the Holiday Season now upon us, most Americans may not be paying too close attention to Presidential politics, but what has shaped up into a two-person GOP battle for the nomination continues to heat up.

Last week, most of the Republican candidates sat down with Mike Huckabee and guests for what was not really a debate, but just a series of brief interviews. I suppose I was not aware of the format when I did my post last week, and not much dramatic occurred, but there could be some fireworks later tonight when most of the GOP candidates will meet in an Iowa debate on the ABC network.

Let's briefly set the stage for tonight's nationally televised showdown.

Jon Huntsman is campaigning exclusively in New Hampshire and will not be taking part in the Iowa debate.

Rick Santorum continues to make a push for support in Iowa but has not moved up much in the polls and still looks likely to finish way back in the pack. However, he did receive the endorsement of Iowa's elected Secretary of State and appears to be more organized in the state than the candidate who is currently leading the polls.

Rick Perry, who once looked very formidable as a candidate, now mostly only makes news for gaffes, such as yesterday when he mispronounced the name of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and incorrectly stated the number of judges on the court. Hoping to break through, Perry is now doubling down on on the Christian card, hoping to appeal to the sizable number of Evangelicals who will vote in the Republican Caucuses on January 3.

Perry openly proclaiming himself as a Christian was something that I had anticipated for some time, and many may see it as his one hope to break through against Mitt Romney, who is of course a Mormon, a religion with which many Evangelicals are dismissive of, and Newt Gingrich who is a convert to Catholicism after making his one-time mistress Calista, his third wife.

Perry's new campaign ad certainly has people talking as he addresses the cameras and speaks of being a Christian and brings up the divisive issues of gays in the military and prayer in schools. These may not be the issues that most Americans are most focused on during these troubled economic times, but it may be Perry's only prayer in this race. That ad certainly will not win him any friends on the left.

Michele Bachmann actually seems to have picked up a few points the past week in national and state polls, while continuing to lag Gingrich and Romney everywhere. It is not as though the Congresswoman's campaign has received any sort of fresh breath of light, but simply relates to the exit of Herman Cain and how at least enough of his conservative supporters switched to Bachmann to benefit her a little. Ironically, those people were probably Bachmann supporters months ago, before they switched to Cain.

Few expect Bachmann to be able to win Iowa at this point, but if her support materializes, it could catapult her into one of the traditional top three spots in the state which signify a "ticket" on to future contests. With Gingrich leading the Iowa polls though, supporters of Romney, such as myself, are hopeful that Bachman, along with Perry and Santorum do well enough among the conservatives who have ruled out Romney to affect the overall results.

Could Ron Paul win Iowa? I would think it is not outside the realm of possibility. It is even more likely that he will finish second there. This is all a matter of amusement to the extent of Establishment Romney supporters, who despise Paul and almost everything he stands for, but may find themselves openly rooting for him Iowa as a means of stopping or hurting Gingrich.

Right now, Romney folks like myself are applauding the new Paul ads attacking Gingrich that are running in Iowa, believing they will eat away at Newt's very thin support. Others will make comparisons to 2008 and claim that Paul is playing the role of Huckabee, who may stop Gingrich who is leading in the polls as Romney was four years ago, to the ultimate benefit of the 2012 Romney, just like they did for John McCain back then.

Despite everything, Newt Gingrich continues to be the polling front-runner another week. It will be worth watching the debate tonight to see just how the moderators and fellow candidates go after him and how he responds. The back and forth between Romney and Gingrich, often fought out between surrogates, has increased in the past few days and there is still the belief among many Republicans and general political observers that "Newtmentum" just cannot last for the long haul.

Much of the political discussion over the past week, unfortunately from my perspective, has been about the proposed NewsMax debate scheduled for late December and moderated by Donald Trump. Right now, only Gingrich and Santorum have accepted the invitation to appear, as the other candidates have all ruled the sideshow out over the past week. It remains to be seen if the debate even takes place, but the notorious ego of Mr. Trump can be expected to continue hitting the airwaves to criticize the Republican candidates who dissed him. One of the reasons this debate was controversial was Trump's continued threat to run for President as an Independent if he is unhappy with the GOP nominee. I suppose I would like to see Trump throwing Gingrich and Santorum together for a tv fight Apprentice style and maybe he can fire someone at the end.

There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is currently trailing Gingrich in the polls nationally and in all but a handful of recently polled states. This has become of great concern to some Romney backers and many Republicans who simply want to win and conclude that Gingrich is far less likely of the two to be able to defeat Obama, despite the fact that he may deliver the more biting 10 second attack soundbites against liberals and the incumbent.

The question remains; do we want to beat up Obama and lose or is it better to just actually beat him and take the reins of power?

I continue to think that the overall dynamics of the nomination contest will ultimately fall in favor of my candidate, Governor Romney, even if it has to wait for an Iowa result that looks bad for Mitt, but would have the effect of rallying people to close ranks behind him and save the process, much like what happened when Pat Buchanan defeated Bob Dole in the 1996 New Hampshire Primary.

There is just so much to use against Gingrich, that rank and file Republicans may not be aware of, that it may just be too much, but if used narrowly and in a focused way, it could be devastating to his candidacy. Those who have worked with Gingrich, both openly supporting Romney and otherwise, have begun to become more and more vocal about how Gingrich's leadership style was erratic and ineffective.

Mitt Romney may still be waiting for the day when ardent conservatives embrace him en masse, but in Presidential politics, money and organization still matter, and it seems as if the Romney campaign is hoping for a quick strike and a win in Iowa against expectations, but are also quite willing to rebound in New Hampshire and other early states, or even battle hand to hand across the country in a drawn our war for delegates.

Finally, while it may not have gotten too much press coverage this week, some comments and a fundraising appeal by Mitt Romney appear to have gotten Barack Obama to cancel one of his many golfing vacations.