Thursday, June 09, 2011

2012 Republican cattle call

So: who are the Republicans going to run for president against Barack Obama in 2012? Do they have a candidate? Oh, they’ve got plenty of candidates, former candidates, and potential candidates. I’ve got a list of 23 here, including potentials and also-rans. It paints a particularly dismal picture for the Republicans, one not seen since the Democrats’ 1972 field, or the Republicans’ in 1964. Still, since you’re going to be hearing most of these names tossed around until at least next March, and some possibly after that, you might want to know more about them. So I’ll do what I can to shed some light on these losers… er, I mean, candidates.

The 2012 Republican field, including dropouts and those who haven’t declared yet, is, in alphabetical order:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) – She’s a darling of the social conservatives, and has been for a long time. She’s a stronger candidate than I gave her credit for earlier, but I remain doubtful that she could win in the general election. She could win the nomination, though, which will make for an interesting dilemma for the Republicans. She’s expected to announce her candidacy soon. She’s scored Reagan and Huckabee campaign veteran Ed Rollins, who apparently sees something in her. This is significant.

Gov. Haley Barbour (MS) – Here’s an example of how all politicians wind up believing their own hubris, to some extent. Barbour is probably one of the best-connected Republicans alive today. Yes, he’s the governor of Mississippi, but he’s also the former head of the Republican National Committee and a longtime lobbyist in Washington. While lobbying for more money is an essential skill in running for president these days, Barbour isn’t served with the “lobbyist” title. He already dropped out of the presidential race last month, though he was a favorite among Republican insiders, for what that’s worth.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (FL) – Speaking of Republican insiders, what’s all this talk about Jeb Bush maybe getting into the race? He won’t, but it says a lot about the dire straits the Republicans are in when they start talking about pinning their hopes on a Republican governor named Bush. I don’t know what this guy’s going to do with the rest of his life, but he sure isn’t going to spend the next year and a half of it running for president. Maybe in 2016, but I doubt even that. America still has Bush fatigue; even Republicans have to acknowledge that. Even Republicans named Bush.

Herman Cain (MI) – The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and opinion columnist is running for president, and has something of a following already. Granted, he’s already demonstrated that he’s not terribly interested in or informed about foreign affairs, and can’t tell the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In other words: he’s got a pretty good following among Republicans. Can he win? Hard to say. Not to be too blunt, but I don’t see a black man getting the Republican nod for president.

Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) – Here’s another guy who’s not running. Many Republicans are pushing him to, and I’m sure he’s relishing the attention, but I’m also sure he’s just using that attention to shore up his candidacy in what will probably be a tough reëlection campaign in 2013. He’s brash and obnoxious and, well, fat, so he won’t play well on the national stage (say whatever you will, but this country hasn’t elected a fat president since William Howard Taft in 1908. Don’t expect the TV age to allow it to happen again.) Christie is not actually going to run. He’s also a Catholic, which Republican evangelical voters don’t like. It plays well in New Jersey, but how do you think a Catholic would do in the South Carolina primary? Think about it.

Gov. Mitch Daniels (IN) – Daniels is probably one of the most level-headed, moderate Republicans out there. Which is why it’s no surprise he pulled his name from consideration. It also wouldn’t help his potential campaign to have to explain that his wife left him for another man, married that man, then came back to him and married him again. I have no problem with this, but I think many socially conservative voters would have a problem voting for a man whom they see as a cuckold.

Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) – With Barbour out of the race, there’s room for a Southerner, since, unless you count the longshot candidacy of Newt Gingrich, which is melting down as I write this, there are no Southerners in the race. That said, I think DeMint will decide against a run in the end, and that Rick Perry will wind up filling that slot.

Former Sen. John Ensign (NV) – I only mention Ensign because he had long been considered a top contender for the opportunity to run against Barack Obama in 2012. His sex scandal, in which he coerced a friend’s wife into a sexual relationship with him and paid her hush money, effectively killed Ensign’s political future on the national and on the Nevada stage.

Former Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA) – No one really thought of Newt Gingrich as a likely winner of the Republican nomination, and that was before he started getting plagued with character issues (like blowing wads of cash at high-end luxury broker Tiffany’s) and referring to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare as “right-wing social engineering.” Speaking truth about right-wing social engineering upset a lot of right wingers, and Gingrich has been on the defensive so much that… so much that he and his wife took two weeks off to take a cruise around the Greek islands. And now, just this afternoon, Gingrich’s main campaign staff, his Iowa staff, and his South Carolina staff all walked out on him. Gingrich is promising to “reinvent the campaign” in Los Angeles on Monday. Um… we’ll see. Why the guy just doesn’t drop out already is hard to wrap my head around.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (NY) – Giuliani has long wanted to be president, but many (including me) thought that after his abortive 2008 campaign, he was done forever with presidential politics. Apparently he’s rethinking that. It’s still not clear what his campaign would be about, though.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR) – Huckabee was never running for president in the first place. He’s got a contract with FoxNews, and he renewed it back in March of this year. That means he’s out, and will continue doing his TV show. I wouldn’t rule out a Huckabee run in 2016 or later, but not this year. Pay no attention to the occasional chatter that he might get back in. There’s nothing to it.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman (UT) – Huntsman is trying to run a very civil campaign, not bashing the president he hopes to replace. This is strange. Also, John Kerry tried the same tactic in 2004 and didn’t win. He almost won, but he didn’t. Huntsman is in a difficult spot, since he served as President Obama’s ambassador to China—how can he go on the offensive against his former boss? Honestly, I think Huntsman isn’t running for president, but is just trying to raise his own profile. Watch for him to run again in 2016. The question remains: will evangelical Republicans allow a Mormon to be nominated? Time will tell. My guess is: probably not.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA) – This young, Indian-American governor is not running this year, though his name keeps getting mentioned for some reason. I’m sure he’ll run some time in the future, but not now. He’s got time to wait. He also has a reëlection campaign to wage in November 2011. Watch for him again in 2016.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson (NM) – Johnson is popular among New Mexico Republicans, but that’s about it. He’s running on a very libertarian platform, opposing taxes and free trade. But he’s also openly supporting marijuana legalization—not the kind of position that gets you elected, exactly.

Political consultant Fred Karger (CA) – Karger has worked for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. He’s never run for office in his entire life, though. He was also the first to declare as the Republican candidate for president. Oh, and he’s openly gay. Which will keep Republican voters away from him in droves. Still, it’s kind of nice that he’s trying, isn’t it?

Former Half-Governor Sarah Palin (AK) – She’s not running. She just isn’t. She’s out there on her magic bus, touring all the primary states, but she’s not running, so don’t be fooled. Her goal is celebrity, to get her name out there, to build up her own political clout. She wants to be the white Oprah for stupid people. And, to that effect, she’s drawing off a lot of media attention—but she’s just not running. Ignore her if you can, though. The Republican candidate of your choice will probably appreciate it.

Rep. Ron Paul (TX) – He’s running again. There’s something uncanny about Ron Paul: he’s not a serious candidate, but he’s got a serious movement. His entire goal is to pull the Republican Party toward some 1920s-style politics that have long since been written off by most American voters. There’s no denying Paul’s supporters’ enthusiasm—but their enthusiasm runs deep, not narrow.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN) – Some fuss has been made about Pawlenty, a two-term governor from what some refer to as a “blue state.” Indeed, Minnesota hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, but is Pawlenty the remedy? Eh… maybe. On one hand, he’s apparently scandal-free. On the other hand, he’s as exciting as lutefisk. Still, he could make it all the way to the nomination, maybe—depending on the dynamics of the other candidates. Pawlenty will probably try to position himself as the anti-Romney. If that works out, he could be the nominee. Pawlenty’s problem is that he’s such a blank slate that he might appear to be many things to voters that he actually isn’t.

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) – Following Newt Gingrich’s implosion today, several of the refugee staffers met with their old boss: Rick Perry. Perry had been dropping hints about running for president for well over a month now, and with so much quality staff suddenly available, and with no Southern candidate currently in the race, he just might do it. The questions the Republicans might want to ask themselves is: does America really want another conservative governor of Texas as its president? Maybe that doesn’t follow, logically, but it’s going to be problematic when the media and the voters start making that tenuous connection to George W. Bush.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA, UT, MI) – Mitt Romney was only governor of Massachusetts, but he seems to hold an active claim on residence in Utah and Michigan, as well—Utah where he worked on the 1998 Winter Olympics and almost ran for governor, and Michigan, where he was born, and where his father actually was governor. Romney has problems. He’s a Mormon, for one, which doesn’t sit well with conservative Evangelicals, who don’t see Mormons (or even Catholics) as actual Christians, and believe that their president ought to be a Christian in their own sect’s mold. Worse for Romney is that as governor of Massachusetts, he created a health care plan that resembles the one that President Obama signed into law last year, which Republican opponents of health care don’t care for. Romney also governed as a pro-choice governor—a position which, unlike his health care plan, he’s trying to run away from. Romney’s problem is that the socially conservative candidates and voters alike are gunning to take him out. If he can get past them, he’s the Republicans’ best chance to win over independents. Of course, Romney still supports starving the government of enough revenue to render it nearly non-functional, but that’s about the only policy position he’s got that social conservatives can get behind. Right now, Romney’s trying to navigate the primaries by appearing to be above the fray, dodging the conservative-dominated Iowa straw poll, for example. I have to say this is probably his best option. It’s hard to say if it’ll work. If it does, Obama will be facing what is probably the strongest Republican challenger possible.

Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) – Ryan isn’t running, though there’s plenty of talk flitting about, suggesting that he might. Ryan’s profile has risen considerably, thanks to his anti-Medicare plan, which would replace payments with vouchers to cover some of your medical expenses. It’s a wildly unpopular plan, which Republicans who aren’t on Medicare love, so the 2016 buzz for Ryan makes no sense right now—though maybe a little more sense than the loony 2012 Ryan buzz.

Former Rep. Rick Santorum (PA) – Santorum doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance, and he’s making things worse for his nascent campaign by sticking to socially conservative positions like how homosexuality is unnatural, homosexuals are bad people, abortion is evil, etc. It’s hard to imagine a less relevant presidential campaign at a time when jobs and the economy are on everyone’s minds. Considering the tone of his campaign, Santorum is probably running just to raise his own profile and perhaps become a significant media personality. Because as far as politics are concerned, he’s over and done and has been since he got crushed for reëlection in 2006.

TV impresario Donald Trump (NY) – Trump folded his campaign not long ago. Now he’s dropping hints that he might get back in. Here’s a simple thing to remember whenever you find yourself wondering if Donald Trump is running for president: Donald Trump is not running for president. Trump is running for more publicity for his TV show. He’s not running—period. Never was, just like during the first time he faked a run for the presidency. And the second time he faked a run for the presidency. Anyone who was fooled when he faked a third run really needs to start following their country’s politics better.

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