Saturday, January 21, 2012

Race for the White House

I am having a busy day today for reasons beyond my desire to follow today's South Carolina Primary, so my stream of consciousness thoughts may be somewhat less than normal today. Perhaps that is for the best, because I am a bit frustrated and flummoxed by the events of the past week, especially the attitudes of some people who claim to be my fellow conservatives. However, as Coach Ditka once said, "this too shall pass." Through the ups and downs of a Presidential campaign, and everything else, I firmly believe that the right thing will be done in 2012 and one year from today President Mitt Romney, after having been sworn in the day before, a Sunday, will ceremonially take the Oath of Office once again and embark on a mission to restore America's greatness.

A week ago, things were looking pretty good for Romney, to leave South Carolina with a solid victory, and all but a lock on the Republican Presidential nomination. This late afternoon, we are left with a different short term reality. In just a few short hours, Newt Gingrich, who played up his ties to the neighboring state of Georgia, is likely to win South Carolina after all, perhaps by a solid margin. Romney, who came in a distant fourth four years ago, is expected now to finish second, while the remaining major candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul battle it out to see who finishes third. A fourth place finish for Santorum could very well end his campaign while Paul will move on, regardless. In the meanwhile, former candidate Herman Cain and left-wing comedian Stephen Colbert, who plays the part of a bloviating right-wing pundit, have teamed up in a way in South Carolina that seems to matter most to the media and pop culture enthusiasts than any actual impact on the results.

The number of candidates are less than there were a week ago, which is one of the factors that has worked in Gingrich's favor. Sensing no possibility of a strong showing in South Carolina, and no ability to compete beyond, to my great surprise, news that Jon Huntsman was bowing out came on Sunday night. The next day, when a debate was going to be held that evening, he formally announced that he was supporting Mitt Romney, a distant cousin and someone with which his family has long ties, but also someone that Huntsman seemed personally embittered against during the Presidential campaign.

Thursday saw another debate and another candidate joining Huntsman in leaving the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seemed on the verge of an exit the night of the Iowa results, dropped out and endorsed Gingrich. While many of Perry's political establishment supporters and financial contributors are said to be likely to prefer Romney, whatever support he had among Evangelicals and Tea Party activists seemed more likely to pass to Gingrich.

There was some other news that was made on Thursday morning. While Presidential politics often moves at the speed of light, and the campaign had moved on to other states, official results certified in Iowa seemed to contradict the outcome we all thought had been established; that of an eight vote Mitt Romney victory.

While the party is officially calling it a tie, the certified results placed Rick Santorum in front by a less than 35 votes. Suddenly, there was a new huge talking point for Santorum, one for the media to use to harp on Romney and try to continue the premise of a nomination "horse race" and something that will be a matter of great confusion to historians and political junkies for decades.

While the Romney campaign appeared content to publicly recognize a Santorum win from early in the month after all, the truth is far more complicated. Eight precincts of the state, where unofficial results gave an edge to Romney, allowing him to have the extremely narrow statewide win, are simply not going to be counted, because of reporting technicalities. Everybody who cast a vote in those eight precincts, regardless of who they voted for, simply will not be counted. If all the votes from January 3 were counted, it is likely still that Romney would have finished in first. While he initially got all the positive headlines of an Iowa win, the media made much this past week about how he did not win the state after all. All of this makes the Iowa Republican Party and the entire caucus process look very bad and if Santorum is recognized in the history books as the winner, it ought to come with a huge asterisk.

In a way, the Romney campaign probably felt somewhat luck at the time that Santorum got those headlines, as his fledgling campaign, despite having received some influential endorsements, could have capitalized with that positive news to gain support at the expense of Gingrich, and to the ultimate benefit in today's results to Romney.

However, all polls seem to show that after all the events of this week, including a somewhat endorsement by Sarah Palin, who expressed a desire to not see the GOP primary fun end, Newt Gingrich has been surging in Georgia, and while Romney has not necessarily lost a ton of support, he is expected to suffer a setback tonight in the Palmetto State. I wish this were not the case, but I think it will be.

All front-runners, especially Republicans, usually do stumble in an early contest, unless your title starts with President and Vice President. That is likely to happen once again, despite the fact that for months, the conventional wisdom was that Romney could never win a big early contest in the Deep South, and despite the fact that historically, it is still extremely early in the process.

The media will go full bore tonight and for days though in talking about how the Republican race is once again "up in the air" and how Romney, who looked to be a strong front-runner in South Carolina polling not long ago had stumbled and may never recover. There will be nonsense talk of "brokered conventions" and "replacement candidates", but all of that is mostly just going to be talk that is designed to keep an interesting process going and to get as many people as possible to consume what the media have to offer.

So, after today, the Romney vs. Gingrich battle will be on as it has never been on before. In ten days, Florida will vote, and while Gingrich is likely to get a boost, Romney still has the edge there, and his campaign, and the GOP establishment will take to the airwaves and elsewhere to try to put Gingrich away, in what they hope will be the part of a permanent Campaign 2012 demise.

I do not believe this has been a good week for Republicans, but again, this is all part of the messiness of politics. I can accept the fact that others in my party may prefer a different candidate than I do, and that is what primary races are all about. However, these particular developments are a bit harder to swallow at the moment, because I simply think that Newton Leroy Gingrich is basically a scumbag.

That is not a new position for me, borne of this campaign. I have felt that about him for years now and have expressed that before.

Sure, I believe he is very intelligent, and I acknowledge the historic role he played in helping Republicans win the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, and I agree with him on most major issues, and needless to say I would vote for him over the miserable failure that is Barack Obama, but for the sake of the party, the country, and perhaps just basic human morality, such a publicly and privately dishonorable person must never be allowed to be the standard bearer for the greatest political party known to man. And that goes for that tramp Calista too.

Conservatives are angry these days (even me I guess). Angry about the economy, about the Obama Administration, and many other things. They are currently gravitating towards the candidate who bests feeds into that anger. Some anger is justified, but a great country and a great civilization is worth a lot more than just pure anger. Ronald Reagan was angry about a lot of things he saw as unjust, but had an optimistic positive vision. That is the vision I see in my candidate Mitt Romney, and that is the vision that will ultimately prevail, and will probably do so in a relatively short period of time this winter.

While I think Romney had two strong debates in South Carolina this week, there is no doubt that the perception is that Gingrich made a much stronger emotional connection. There has just been so much talk this week about Romney and when he will release his tax returns, and how many years they will be released for, and does he have money in the Cayman Islands, and what is his effective tax rate, that it was just hard to break through with anything else. I will say the Romney campaign needed to be and will need to be better prepared to deal with these issues moving forward, and I think they will. The Romney campaign will escalate the calls for Gingrich to release a bunch of information now as well in regards to his report to Fannie May and his past Congressional ethics rebukes.

To my great disappointment, all the anti-free market talk that has continued by Gingrich in regards to Romney's successful business career has not hurt the former Speaker. What are we conservatives thinking? When did we become combatants in the class warfare of the left?

In regards to tax returns, Romney is now saying he will release them, after his for the current year are completed in April, which is in line with when previous candidates have released theirs, and will do so for multiple years. To some, that is just not good enough, and the calls for Romney to release previous years' tax records will just intensify. Gingrich released just one year of returns on Thursday night, and said he will not release anymore. Santorum said he will not release his currently and Paul says he never will. The burden though is clearly on the "ultra-rich" Romney to go far beyond what anyone else is willing to do.

If I were to speculate on why Romney has been reluctant to give in to political pressure on the tax returns, I think it may very well have to do with the fact that he has likely given millions of dollars of his money in donations to his Mormon Church. As far as I am concerned, that is totally honorable, but a lot of Evangelicals in a state like South Carolina would feel differently about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and that was not something they wanted to deal with. In retrospect, maybe it would have been an easier battle to face than all this talk about tax returns.

Gingrich's week was aided mostly by his debate performances in which he expressed righteous (and manufactured) indignation against the moderators and panelists. Gingrich turned his ire on Juan Williams of Fox News on Monday night over a policy matter and on John King of CNN on Thursday night over a personal matter. Gingrich knew these tactics would work for him, and smartly played to his strengths, which earned him standing ovations from the audience, and fed into the completely false perception that Gingrich would make mincemeat of Obama in a debate.

The personal matter that Gingrich turned his advantage on Thursday night was the fact that ABC News had conducted an interview with his second wife, Marianne. It is no secret among political insiders that Gingrich had long conducted a secret affair with his current wife Calista before asking Marianne for a divorce, not long after she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A couple years ago, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich talked to Esquire Magazine in great detail about how her husband asked her to tolerate the affair. She seemed to paint a pretty devastating at the time, and the conventional wisdom was that when she made these charges now on camera, where far more people would see them, it could sink Newt once and for all.

But alas, Gingrich managed to turn all this to his advantage and make himself appear to be the victim of the liberal media, who were trying to kill his campaign just two days before a primary. During the debate, he denied that he had asked for an open marriage, but that does not take away from the fact that he most certainly had an extra-marital affair behind his wife's back.

In my view, conservatives, especially those who claim to be religious ought to be outraged by such an egregious breach of the Ten Commandments. Not too long ago, Rick Perry said about Gingrich in a debate that a man who would cheat on his wife would cheat at other things too, but of course, Perry decided that Gingrich was acceptable to him. Sure, it is possible that Gingrich and his wife found personal salvation through religion, but that does not mean he is worthy of living in the White House, where John Adams once prayed "may none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." Historically, we know that prayer has not always been heeded, but I certainly am motivated to do what is necessary to prevent a person in my party, such as Newt Gingrich, from having a chance to ruin my party's chances of victory in a general election.

Tonight, South Carolina will speak and the media, from both the left and right will have much to say about what they say. Tomorrow, the campaign moves on to Florida and beyond.

Republicans all agree that Barack Obama's "Hope and Change" have left our country for the worse but presently, there will continue to be an intra-party battle as to how to best counter that during this election year.

In 2012, I am not interested in beating down Obama personally. Sure, I do not particularly care for him, but I am far less interested in witnessing months and months of my party's new leader calling him names, appealing to people's fears, or just trying to score rhetorical points.

There is no doubt that the general election campaign is going to be quite heated and divisive to the country, but I would rather work to support a candidate and an eventual President, who offers optimism and his own version of hope and change. We are right on the issues, and on the issues we must fight, but America will also respond to a candidate who they can actually like as a person and think will make them proud as President.

The stakes are high this year and if you ask me, there is nothing that can be accomplished in a November 2012 Newt Gingrich concession speech, no matter how fiery it might be, or how fired up in anger a crowd may get, to compete with the possibility of actually winning the election, and removing Obama from office by the power of the vote.

I would rather watch a November 2012 victory speech and the only Republican who can deliver that is Mitt Romney.