- Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 00:00
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It’s been said that the field for the GOP nomination for President has been set. The last candidates who are going to enter the contest are in the ring. And that’s probably true. To some in the media that means it’s all over. To them, it’s now a choice between Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The press and pundits love to decide these match-ups early. But, they should remember, that in the past they have had a terrible problem getting it right.
2008 is a perfect example. At this point in 2007 the pundits, the media, and the political regulars, had it all figured out. For the GOP this meant that the “hands on” favorite was Mitt Romney. John McCain, in the eyes of the media, was a spent force. Some wondered why he didn’t drop out. As we all know the story turned out differently. McCain managed a come from behind win in New Hampshire, started on roll that led to his not only beating Romney, but also dousing the campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. He managed to take this momentum all the way to the convention in Minneapolis. Romney, understandably, since he was the guy who was supposed to win, was still looking for the license tag of that truck that ran over his campaign.
The media treated the Democrats no differently. After Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses it was just “assumed” that he would beat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Obama even started acting like the presumptive nominee. However, what happened was that Hillary just campaigned hard, won that primary and what followed was one of the feistiest primary campaigns in American history.
That’s why we need to be a bit more careful with the 2012 GOP field. A candidate’s position as leader of the pack can dissolve in a matter of days. The Democrats, of course, have their nominee. But the Republican cast of candidates, while having two leading contenders, is still a crowded field. What’s more the two leading candidates have their weaknesses. The Party is by no means sold on them. Perry’s performance in the debates has been poor. He has trouble forgetting he is running for President and not Governor of Texas. Also, his strong play to evangelicals, while pleasing to the party base, has at the same time been disconcerting to Main Street Republicans and Independents. As for Romney, while highly competent and likable to many in the party, he changes positions far too often.
As far as the media is concerned it’s a choice between these two. But, hold on, the GOP field has a few prospects, and some outliers, that though long shots to get the nomination, are still fighting on. One candidate, who following Sarah Palin’s official departure from the field (thank goodness) is sure to pick up delegates in the caucus states is Michele Bachman. Dismissed as too far to the right, even ditzy (talk about a sexist term) she is still a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and to those who doubt her abilities, they should remember that not only is she a lawyer, but she also has a master’s degree in tax law. I ask you, when was the last time we
had a President who understood the tax code?
However, the real sleeper is Jon Huntsman. He is a former aide to President Ronald Reagan, was the Governor of Utah and was also Ambassador to China under President Obama. That irks some in the GOP who can’t imagine someone serving their country over party (those folks are in both parties), but that’s the kind of guy he is. He is likable, easy to listen to, and in the debates, and in one-on-one interviews, he casts the most intelligent shadow of the bunch. No one comes close. Unfortunately, he is independently minded in a party that at the moment wants to stick to doctrine. This includes his views on the science of global warming and a stated position that fixing our budget crisis might require raising taxes. For some these views are heresy, but Huntsman, effectively presents these positions a part of a conservative case. His underlying message is that he is concerned that the United States has lost so much ground economically, politically and strategically, that only firm action, and not constantly repeated party doctrine is the way out. Some have compared him to the Democrats’ Adlai Stevenson – too smart to be President.
Unfortunately, Huntsman can’t seem to get out of the single digits and his prospects, unless something changes, are grim. The only hope would be a groundswell from Republican voters who don’t like either of the leading candidates. I know, this is wishful thinking, but the situation is fluid enough, and the leaders in the field, vulnerable enough, that, well, you never know. As one observer put it, Huntsman is the only one in the field who could probably beat Obama. But unfortunately he’ll never get the nomination. I hope they’re wrong. It would be an exciting general election.