03 December 2010

GOP 2012

GOP Candidates for 2012

Sarah Palin
The Big One and the presumptive candidate. And while it was up in the air there for a while, there seems no doubt that she's going to be running for the nomination. Her latest book, America by Heart, is from all reports the traditional campaign book and she has been making all the rounds. And frankly, there doesn't seem to be much chance of anyone else unseating her at this point. We're a year out, but Palin has perfected a formula that would seem almost immune to problems: appear on only friendly media, use social networking as a platform that's immune to serious treatment ("It's just a Twitter message, guys!") yet still demands attention, and keep pulling in money. The base adores her, and as we've seen, they're in no mood to make concessions to practicality. She's the front-runner by a wide margin, and that doesn't seem likely to change. She's also going to fail massively in the general election. But on the plus side, even if she won, she'd just resign when it got too hard.

Mike Huckabee
One of the most electable people on the roster, Huckabee is famous for being reasonable and likable even when he's saying something ridiculously right-wing. He has some suspicion from the base for his moderation, but he makes up for it in enthusiasm. At this point, though, it seems as though he's more comfortable as an influence and media figure than he would be back on the campaign trail. He was always terrible at raising money, and that weakness is a brutal one in the race. It doesn't seem likely to go away, and he knows it.

Mitt Romney
After 2008, I predicted Romney would be the nominee in 2012. This was only solidified when Palin quit as governor. Romney's implacable pursuit of the nomination has proceeded, Terminator-like, almost without cease since 2007. He cannot be dissuaded, and he cannot be stopped - only slowed down. Unfortunately for Romney, he happens to be caught in a tough spot. He helped enact and often crowed about Massachusetts health-care reform, a program often hailed as a front-runner for Obamacare. In a crowd of nominees who don't differ very much on policy, this is a glaring target that will get repeatedly hammered. When he goes down, expect immediate preparations for 2016.

Newt Gingrich
The last of the Big Four possibles, he's also probably least likely to be a nominee. He is a shrill monster of a man, long considered an "idea man" but of late descending into excreta. His personal past is messy and he is the figurehead for the embarrassing defeat of the GOP in 1994. Almost as soon as there is direct competition between him and the other candidates, his flaws are going to send him straight down. He has too much baggage to survive in an atmosphere of criticism.

Chris Christie
The Governor of New Jersey's name is on everyone's lips - as a Vice-Presidential candidate. And that sure seems to be his aim. He has all manner of YouTube viral videos, a great personality, and decent policy victories. He is also relatively free of scandals or problems. He will be a big name and may well be the future VP nominee, but even he doesn't seem to be aiming higher than that.

Mike Pence and Tim Pawlenty
This pair, an Indiana member of the House and the Governor of Minnesota, are often mentioned in the same breath. They have decent policy bona fides, but unfortunately they just can't seem to get any buzz behind their names. They're starting to make the rounds and everyone thinks they're swell guys, but they are perhaps not exciting enough to the possible primary voters. It might be a question of name recognition, but frankly everyone already seems to have heard about them. These guys are the serious possible dark horses - an amazing moment caught on video, a public conflict, or something else that stands out can boost them up. But short of that, they're not going to win - they have John Edwards Syndrome (not the infidelity kind, but the uninteresting kind).

These are candidates who can't be seriously considered contenders - something extremely drastic would have to happen before they managed to even get nominated. But they still have a loyal following, and will be able to gin up some early enthusiasm and then endorse another candidate, turning their more local appeal into some sort of concession like public policy endorsements.

Rick Perry
This guy is mostly famous as an alleged secessionist, but he's also Governor of Texas. Texas was least-hurt by the recession, thanks to their almost unique economy, and Perry has used that fact to burnish his CV. Maybe he even deserves some serious credit there, although I doubt that supply-side economics suddenly magically started working. He is a fierce conservative who has ardently and successfully championed many of the issues closest to the heart of the base - tax cuts, executing people, and so on. Unfortunately, it has also left him with some nasty dirty laundry. Most famously of all, he has repeatedly hinted that Texas might be better off alone. This isn't really a fair interpretation of his remarks, but it's probably sufficient to pull him out of the running. His endorsement, though, will be a serious trophy for whoever he gives it to.

Haley Barbour
The Governor of Mississippi is term-limited in his job for 2011 - so he's just about in the ideal position. He actually has a hell of a lot going for him: a huge amount of executive experience with some great performances under his belt (how easy will it be to contrast Mississippi's handling of Katrina with Louisiana's?) and a huge amount of clout as a successful head of the Republican Governor's Association and former head of the Republican National Convention. Unfortunately for all his laurels, however, he's personally unelectable anywhere outside of his state. He's fairly racist and brutally plain-spoken. But he should be able to secure some serious concessions for his endorsement, as long as he does so before he begins to publicly embarrass himself. He's a king-maker, but he'll never be king.

Ron Paul
This Texas member of the House is one of the patron saints of libertarianism in America. He's a perennial candidate, but he pretty much went for broke last time. Not even his loyal internet legions could manage to get him even a hint of serious mainstream support. Alone on the roster, he probably has little influence to sell: his presence stems from persistence and a tiny devoted fan club.


  1. I pretty much think everyone here is a joke. These are the people in line for the GOP, though. Their chickens are coming home to roost.

    I really can't believe people take Romney so seriously as a candidate--the man is a complete disaster when it comes to communication, making Al Gore in 2000 look like Bill Clinton, and his pitifully incoherent attacks against "liberals" are beyond laughable. He just has no ability to relate to people. Add in the fact that his health plan is a dead ringer for Obamacare, and he's all sound and fury and will signify nothing. He will get sunk by the same factors that allowed him to lose to silly old John McCain in 2008. Gingrich has more charm and charisma than Romney (but so does my bedside table), but his rhetoric has been so shameful as to even embarrass Pat Buchanan...nope. Palin won't be able to hide from actual questions once she starts running, and will do her opponents' work for them.

    The only people I am in any way worried about are Huckabee and Paul. But I really can't even see these guys going the distance. Paul's hidden extremism is slowly becoming revealed. He managed to get a lot of attention in 2008 as an antiwar candidate, with his whack-job views on race, economics, health care, religion, and immigration ignored. But those days are over. He'd better figure out a straight answer to "Do you want to eliminate Medicare?" soon or he's sunk under the weight of his own contradictions. Huckabee, like Paul, has a nice manner about him but, also like Paul, is a hopeless religious extremist. And that's all he is. He is a one-note, one-trick pony who was only ever a factor due to his popularity with evangelicals and the glaring weaknesses of John McCain and Mitt Romney.

    However, something tells me the GOP will get a clue as to how weak their mainline candidates are and start throwing that buzz you are talking about towards someone like Pawlenty or Pence, who have been doing something the last two years besides getting their crazy on in public.

    It's going to be a sideshow however it goes, though.

  2. PS: Good blog, too man. You make me want to put more time into mine!

  3. Thanks :)

    Huckabee's religious extremism is very well-hidden - he's personable and nice, and comes off as a reasonable fellow. I never counted that as a problem. For him, I think it's all about the money.