Saturday, February 04, 2012

Race for the White House

At this stage of the game, I would need to do daily updates in order to capture every significant development of the campaign season, instead of just once a week. Mindful of that, I am likely to continue missing many details of things that probably should be covered, so if there is anything that has not been addressed, please feel free to leave a comment about it.

Currently, we are awaiting results from the Nevada Caucuses, where GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney is likely to roll up a landslide victory, which will further cement the hold he has on winning the Republican nomination.

Tuesday night saw Romney's biggest win yet, as he won the Florida primary by 14 points, marking a dramatic comeback, from where he seemed to be just 10 days earlier in South Carolina. In spite of that, the spotlight that comes with being a likely nominee for President brings about all sorts of negative attention, from the media, from somewhat desperate primary opponents, and of course from the entire opposition political party. Governor Romney received a lot of criticism for all corners for a statement he made during a television interview this week, but it remains unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on the dynamics of the primary race.

Romney is still likely to be the GOP nominee, and it will be a nomination worth having. Democrats are of course enthused on recent government reports showing the unemployment rate continuing to fall, feeling that an improved economy will boost the prospects of Barack Obama for reelection. That is certainly a fair assessment, but cases of course can be made for the fact that the economy and the job market remain far less rosy than some wish it to be. Voters who will vote on the economy will do so based on what they feel in their lives and those around them, rather than politicians' attempts to frame a narrative or what the media says. I think we are still a far way off from the American people deciding the economy is in good shape or that Obama deserves credit for some kind of turnaround.

Of course, a lot can happen in nine months, and the economy will get much focus in the general election and internationally, there seem to be a lot of international matters that deserve more attention and could play a major part of the national campaign, especially as it relates to current and potential events in Iran and Syria.

In the meanwhile though, we have now reached the month of February, which is expected to be very good for Mitt Romney, starting tonight in Nevada, and then on Tuesday in some other states he is expected to win. We can take a look next week at the states that will vote this coming Tuesday, as well as final results from Maine, where the Ron Paul campaign seems to be making their biggest push for an upset victory.

Nationally and in the eyes of the media, Romney's chief GOP opponent continues to be Newt Gingrich, who needless to say has had a very bad two weeks. Running far behind in the final days of the Florida race, his campaign released a robocall to the state in which Romney was falsely accused of denying Kosher food to Holocaust victims in nursing homes. I think that was probably one of the most sleazy things ever to be said publicly in a GOP primary race. It is of course an example of how Gingrich continues to flail and wallow in self-pity on the campaign trail. I certainly was not surprised when he failed to call Mitt Romney to congratulate him after Florida, which would be typical campaign protocol, or to make note of his victory while on stage to his supporters. In those remarks, Gingrich spoke as if his election as President was a sure thing and pledged his "life, fortune, and sacred honor" to the effort. Gingrich in this campaign continues to remind me of Charlie Sheen in his meglomania.

Gingrich has a Las Vegas press conference scheduled for after the results are announced tonight, leading some to speculate that maybe he has had enough, but Gingrich has stated he will stay in the race until the convention. It might be close tonight for second place between Gingrich and Ron Paul in the Silver State. Some believe the former Speaker could potentially wait out February and win some southern states during March's Super Tuesday, but it seems more to me like his campaign is quickly running out of money and I think Rick Santorum will surpass Gingrich as the "conservative alternative to Romney" before too much longer.

One of the more intriguing developments of the week involved a former potential Republican candidate, who at least is thankfully now confirmed to not be planning a third party effort. Businessman and celebrity Donald Trump had decided to make an endorsement of a Presidential candidate in Las Vegas and media reports indicated that Newt Gingrich would be the one to get the nod. Gingrich is reported to have happily been telling this news to his staff on Wednesday night. However, as Thursday unfolded, for whatever reason, those reports turned out to be inaccurate as Mitt Romney was the one to receive the endorsement.

The two businessmen appeared together in a flash media appearance as Trump strongly endorsed Romney and the candidate thanked him, while also appearing anxious to leave the scene as soon as possible. I could not blame him for that, but I do not think it would have been smart politics to explicitly reject Trump's endorsement and it might help a bit with "very conservative" voters who like Trump's tough talking rhetoric. Of course, the no third party run thing was the most important aspect of it all.

The endorsement press conference was perhaps well timed as well though to change the previous day's news cycle in which Romney fell victim to a self-inflicted political gaffe while speaking Wednesday morning in an CNN interview. Romney was not the first nor will be the last candidate to misspeak, especially when they are likely heavily sleep deprieved, as I expected was the case here.

During the interview, Romney stated that his campaign was not focusing on the very poor or the very rich but on the "90-95 percent" of Americans who were suffering the most. It was clearly an inartful way to express a point but the full context of what Romney was saying in about 15 seconds was clear and would not be considered controversial. However, it is very easy for political opponents to take four seconds of a candidate saying something like "I don't care about the very poor" and using it out of context to paint an image of an out of touch wealthy person, which of course puts aside the fact that he also said "I don't care about the very rich" in the same sentence.

Romney was attacked by the left for insensitivity towards the poor, despite the fact that he said he would protect a safety net for them, and from the right for perhaps even believing in the safety net concept at all. I certainly do believe that is behooves conservatism to care about the poor and wanting to see them move from a life beyond government dependency and I have no doubt that Mitt Romney believes that as well. I believe he was tired and misspoke and will be more careful in the future in how he states things. Heaven knows Barack Obama and Joe Biden have said some very dumb things over the years.

Still though, it was a political firestorm that Romney did not need on the heels of a big win in Florida. I certainly do not think it is any kind of catostrophic event for a campaign, and all indications are that it has not had much negative effect for Romney yet both in terms of having a lead over his remaining GOP opponents or continuing to be extremely competitive in national matchups against Obama.

So for supporters of Mitt Romney, such as myself, these are exciting times and compared to our mood two weeks ago tonight, we have much to be happy about. The candidate now has Secret Service protection, which of course if things work out as planned, could be a part of his daily reality for the rest of his life (decades in the future hopefully.)

Let there be no doubt though that once these primaries end, the general election will be a hard fight. The incumbent's campaign, Democrat and liberal organizations across the country, and much of the mainstream media will be pushing very hard for "four more years" and will have no reluctance to attack or distort the life, record, statements, character, and intentions of Mitt Romney to do so.

Unfortunately for Democrats, my party seems poised to nominate the one candidate who may have what it takes to withstand all that they can throw at him.