Monday, June 20, 2011

The Republican Field: Has it come to this?

The Republicans running for president appears to be a mess. No coalescing forces have managed to appear around any single (or even a pair of candidates). Granted, it is early and at this point in the 2008 general election, we did not have nominees decided yet. However, the lack of even a decisive pair to be the main stumpers may be a distressing point to many Republicans, and a heartening boost to a troubled Obama.

Mitt Romney has the look of a president, but within his own party he has not proven particularly popular. Some tea-party groups have stated that they will fight him, if he wins the nomination, with their own candidate. Most Republicans realize that three-person race would be equal to handing a second-term to Obama on the proverbial silver platter. (Other tea-partiers have vowed that they would support Romney). Romney's largest weakness is that his state-wide helath reform bill in Massachusetts was the model for the reviled Obamacare that many conservatives see as their number-one issue in the 2012 election. As Michelle Bachmann has grandiosely stated, "I will not rest until we have repealed Obamacare."

This brings us to Bachmann, who it appears is entering this race in order to hopefully garner a Vice-Presidential appointment by the winning Republican. Bachmann must realize that she is not the surest bet  for the nomination: her experience is weak and her hard-right views are divisive to many.  She is crafting an image of the Sarah Palin of 2012 (who has yet to announce whether she will run or not), but her desire to be roguish may deter a Republican from choosing her to be his (notice how I refrain from saying hers here, the Republicans still haven't found viable women to run in their party) running mate. The run, however, could garner her more support in Congress and even some key committee appointments.


The clown of this circus is certainly Newt Gingrich. His run has seemingly imploded. Much of his staff who were directing the campaign in key primary states, such as New Hampshire and Iowa, recently quit, citing that they seemed more committed to his quest for office than the candidate himself. A two-week cruise to the Mediterranean was the breaking point: as his staff slaved away, their boss felt no need to match their productivity level or commitment.   Even the conservative pundit, George Will, had stated that Gingrich's campaign "was not a serious run." Other commentators have stated that his appearance in this race is simply a way to maintain his face in the media spotlight and make more money selling books and DVD's from his numerous companies.

 Gingrich's abrupt 180-degree turns on matters of policy have been bewildering even to his most vocal supporters. One day he stated that if he were Obama, he would have directed military actions into Libya days before, "exercising a no-fly zone." When Obama directed such action with the compliance of NATO allies, Gingrich backtracked and said he "would not have intervened." This psychological game of wanting it both ways was exacerbated when he was on NBC's "Meet the Press" and told host David Gregory that Paul Ryan's budget plan was "right-wing social engineering." The next day he suffered backlash from conservative congressmen, such as Eric Cantor. In the most ludicrous moment of what will most likely be a short run, Gingrich then went on Fox News to state that anyone who quoted him (quoted him!) was committing a falsehood! This Kafkaesque moment was a nail in the coffin; the liquidation of his staff will be the final one.

The other men in this field have a litany of defects in their campaigns. Herman Cain, the purveyor of a Godfather-themed pizzeria, is virtually unknown and has never won an election in his life. Tim Pawlenty was boring before, but after a lackluster performance in the New Hampshire debate last week, he appears to be spineless and inarticulate as well. Jon Huntsman, the other Mormon, has not been able to raise his profile and he may have an uphill battle since he was appointed ambassador to China under Obama, pointing perhaps to some collusion with Obama. Rick Perry is being bandied about as a late entry into the race, but his time as governor has been problematic and a statement saying Texas "could secede" if relations with the federal government could render him un-electable among independents (who actually elect presidents).

More troubling is the fact that no Republican candidate has crafted a policy that would create jobs, invigorate the economy and reduce the deficit and the debt. The common slogan of lowering taxes does not in fact create jobs or spur on the economy. The Ryan plan which advocates Medicare "reform," which in fact effectively ends the program by giving vouchers to seniors does nothing to reduce health-care costs over the long-term. Cutting taxes and federal spending cuts jobs and will not spur the private sector to create new jobs. The lack of credit extensions will have to be dealt with, but few have provided any viable solutions to that issue.

Serious contenders have pulled out, such as Mitch Daniels. Others such as Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush have vowed not to run. It is possible that Romney or Huntsman will pull himself together and become a force to beat, but at this moment, Obama may have something to smile about. Now, if he only he could get unemployment under 8%.

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