Tuesday, March 08, 2011

My contribution to the American political debate: The Republicans gotta nominate somebody

I haven't done much original political commentary recently. But here's a thought I'd like to share: Every single potential 2012 Republican presidential nominee seems to have some fatal flaw that would prevent them from securing the nomination. But the Republicans do have to nominate somebody, so at least one of these fatal flaws is not, in fact, fatal. Let's go through some of the potential candidates:

Mitt Romney: Right now, Romney's fatal flaw is that his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts is the passage of a health care bill that is quite similar in structure to the Affordable Health Care Act that has been demonized by the American Right. He's tried to talk about how his bill was different, and how what works for one state won't work for others, how it's constitutional for a state to impose an individual mandate but unconstitutional for the federal government to do so, etc. But I don't think Republican primary voters are buying it (and neither am I): Romneycare is pretty similar to Obamacare, and if Obamacare is an unconstitutional government takeover to be denounced and opposed and repealed and struck down, no amount
of jaw-boning by Romney is going to differentiate his version sufficiently. (Poor Romney: an individual mandate was well within Republican orthodoxy until about 2008, when Democratic plans started including it and it became a socialist precursor to the jack-booted imposition of death panels for granny). In addition, Romney has attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, neither of which will endear him to the Religious Right that forms an important bloc of voters in determining the Republican nominee. No way he'll get the nomination. (Here's a longer article on Mitt's 2012 chances.)

Sarah Palin: All the polling says Obama would clobber her. She hasn't hired sufficient staff, she has made way too many enemies, and she quit before her first term as Governor of Alaska was finished. She's divisive and held in contempt by many. Republican primary voters are pretty right-wing, but they're not suicidal. They want someone who can win, and she ain't it. Her current career as right wing spokesperson, Tweeter, and FOX News personality is probably quite lucrative and seems to suit her just fine. I think she'll "run," but only enough to keep the media spotlight focused on her. I don't think she's interested in doing the grueling work and enduring the scrutiny of a presidential campaign. No way she'll get the nomination.

Mike Huckabee: The big money folks in the Republican party don't like this guy because he doesn't always toe the Wall Street line. Apparently as governor of Arkansas he was insufficiently anti-tax. Between the big money and the religious right, the former has been the dominant faction in the national Republican party (rich people get their tax cuts, but the sexual counter-revolution never seems to make it out of committee). And Huckabee is a weak fundraiser, which is a pretty fatal flaw when up against the Romney money machine (to say nothing of Obama's unprecedented ability to generate cash). Yes, he's a "real" social conservative with good anti-choice and anti-gay credentials, but as governor he commuted the sentence of someone who went on to rape and murder somebody. The attack ads write themselves. No way he'll get the nomination.

Newt "sounds like a creature from 'Dune'" Gingrich: [I actually forgot Newt in my original post and am coming back to add him in, which can't be a good sign for him.] Nobody liked Newt after the budget confrontation with Bill Clinton 1994 that temporarily shut down the government. His multiple marriages, adultery, and ethics issues are a major handicap. He's deeply unpopular with the American voters. He even bungled his exploratory announcement. No way he'll get the nomination.

Rick Santorum: This would be totally awesome. But dude, the guy recently lost his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. No way he'll get the nomination.

Huntsman: "So, if you're going to defeat Obama, why were you working for him?" No way he'll get the nomination.

Tim Pawlenty: Who? (see "Dark Horse," below) (Chait at The New Republic thinks Pawlenty has the best shot.)

Mitch Daniels: Who Dat? (see "Dark Horse," below)

Some "Dark Horse" we've never heard of: If we haven't heard of you yet, how are you going to build yourself up to take on Romney/Huckabee/Palin/Whoever? Do you know how much organizing, ass-kissing, fund raising, favor trading, mud slinging, crisis managing, and flesh-pressing it takes to secure a major party presidential nomination? Those precinct captains in Iowa need to have been schmoozed already, dude. Oh, and then you have to take on a very skilled incumbent politician who is probably the greatest fundraiser in American political history. Ouch. No way you'll get the nomination.

By this time in the election cycle, the eventual Republican nominee is usually out in front in the polls. Not so now, since nobody is out in front (Romney, Huckabee, and Palin are basically tied). But the thing is, they do have to pick somebody. Maybe nobody wants to take on Obama right now. If the economy tanks again, will we see more Republicans jump in the race? It'll be fun to see which fatal flaw isn't so fatal after all.

As for the general, it seems that if you're right-wing enough to get the Republican nomination, you're too right-wing to beat Obama. And if you're centrist enough to potentially beat Obama, then you won't be able to get the nomination. We'll see what happens. It's a long time 'till November 2012. If the economy sucks and voters feel Obama isn't fighting for them, one of the people I mocked in this post could be our next president. Shudder.

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