- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 00:00
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The Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, separated by only a couple of weeks, are less than eight months away. Both of these critical events set the stage for who is going to be the nominee of the major parties. This year, the Democratic choice is already settled. Barack Obama will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. However, what’s truly disconcerting, and seems to be breaking the mold on all the conventional wisdom, is the run up to the Republican nomination. So, far, it’s a race, that well, is barely a race at all.
By this same point in 2008, Hillary Clinton was already engaged in what would turn out to be an epic contest with Barack Obama. Their campaigns were fully staffed, each was already stumping Iowa, New Hampshire, and a host
of key primary states. And they were constantly going through that painful, but necessary ritual, of raising money. On the Republican side, the pace was just as hot. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani were campaigning and “a has-been,” or so some thought, John McCain, was giving it just one more try. It was a lively and competitive field.
This year, the popular wisdom was that anyone and everyone on the Republican side would be chomping at the bit to get the Republican nod. The economy was in a foul state, the deficit was reaching unheard of levels, and confidence in the President had long since started to ebb. Add to this the “shellacking” the Democrats took in 2010 in the mid-term elections and the time seemed right for a major Republican push for the White House.
The talking heads of conservative radio geared up, Fox News was ready, but, for all practical purposes, nothing has happened. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of noise and some comic political theater. The Republicans, no doubt averting their gaze, and hoping it wasn’t really happening, were treated to the short-lived prospective candidacy of Donald Trump. He made a joke of the process, and the only thing we learned from the experience, was the secret of the “Donald’s hair.” Then there is the continuing saga of Newt Gingrich. With his two unceremoniously dumped wives, (number three is hanging on) mega-bills from Tiffany’s, and trashing of the House Republican Budget Plan, his candidacy seems doomed just hours after it began. The only question is when does he drop out? Other prospective nominees, Sarah Palin for instance, a darling of a certain fringe of the right, have all but disappeared from the screen. It seems that perhaps Sarah’s 15 minutes might finally be up.
But then there was the likable, thoughtful, and interesting Mike Huckabee. He was a former governor, surprisingly successful candidate for the nomination in 2008, and had managed to maintain a public presence as a talk show host on Fox. His nomination would have been taken seriously. But this was not to be. Last week, just as Mississippi’s Governor Haley Barbour did a few weeks ago, Huckabee officially bowed out.
And oh yes, I almost forgot, because frankly it’s easy to do, there is Mitt Romney. He is well funded (he raised a whopping $10 million in just one weekend) and he has high name recognition. He is likeable, accomplished, but as far as the Republican base is concerned, he is completely unreliable. During his career, he has backed abortion on demand, though he now recants that position, and oh yes, helped craft a mandatory health care plan in Massachusetts that President Obama cites as a model for Obamacare. How Romney can possibly get the Republican nomination with all this baggage is hard to imagine.
Then, there are the shadow candidates. Accomplished, likable, probably good candidates if they were to get the nomination, but at the moment, all but invisible. Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota, keeps popping up. He is supposedly even actively seeking the nomination, but if you ask the average American who he is, you get a blank stare. New Jersey’s Chris Christie gets the same response.
What all this means is that the Republicans either don’t have any “A” list candidates interested in taking on President Obama, or more likely, their A list candidates don’t think it’s worth the effort. Either way, unless something happens, and the race for the Republican nomination takes on some energy, President Obama might as well start getting settled in for his second term.