GOP Presidential Primary Wide Open
**Note** A good friend pointed out that Gary Johnson the former Governor of New Mexico is also a likely candidate and deserves a mention. While I think Gary did an excellent job as Governor and know that he is ideologically solid, I don’t think he can win the nomination. His stance on the legalization of marijuana would prevent him from appealing to a large segment of the Republican base.
Believers in limited government should be worried. Conservatives in general should be worried. The current crop of potential Republican presidential candidates is largely bereft of real leadership and consists mostly of a bevy of recycled candidates from 2008. All of the polls cover the same names you’ve been hearing since the end of the last presidential election—Romney, Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Pawlenty, et al.
Anyone who could not beat John McCain last time should automatically be disqualified from this primary cycle. If Romney wasn’t already disqualified by his failure to be beat McCain, Romneycare in Massachusetts would definitely disqualify him. Obamacare is one of the top three issues on voters’ minds. 58% of likely voters support a repeal of the 2000+ page health care overhaul. How can we have a Presidential candidate that speaks out against this federal takeover of our health care system when he passed a very similar law in Massachusetts? We can’t. That’s a deficit that Romney cannot overcome.
Palin—while she is wildly popular with the base, I do not believe she can win in a general election. Palin lacks gravitas. She has to convince moderate Republicans and Independents that she can be presidential. To accomplish this, she would have been wise to travel, meeting with heads of state and foreign dignitaries, and beef up her knowledge of domestic policy issues. Instead, she did a reality TV show. Now, I know many people say Obama got elected because he was a celebrity—the “hip” quality that made it popular to be a supporter. The difference is that Obama still came across as a serious guy, he was not gutting salmon on national television. Don’t get me wrong—I like Sarah as much as the next person, but I don’t think she has a broad enough appeal with the center/right voters.
I also really like Newt Gingrich. Newt is a great “ideas man.” The problem with Newt as a candidate is two-fold. First, he has a lot of personal baggage. While I personally could care less about his personal life, there are a lot of conservatives who will have a problem with him being on wife #3. The recent interview with his second wife in Esquire magazine demonstrates the kind of dirt that will come out. The second, and more formidable problem is his record. We see Newt saying all the right things on Fox News. What many have forgotten is that he went squishy on us after the Republicans took control of the US House of Representatives in ’94. Remember the compromise with President Clinton on welfare reform? He still shows some poor judgement from time to time, such as endorsing DeDe Scozzafava in the 2009 special election in NY 23. His “climate change” commercials with Nancy Pelosi are another example. So although I like Newt and believe he performs a very important function in the conservative movement, his time for the presidency has come and gone.
I don’t even know where to begin with Mike Huckabee. He raised taxes, and allied himself with the teacher’s union in Arkansas. He gave in-state tuition to illegal aliens. He has indicated his support for a national smoking ban in public places. The list goes on and on. No liberty-loving fiscal conservative could support him.
Other names frequently mentioned like Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Haley Barbour don’t inspire the same disgust as a Huckabee candidacy, but don’t really inspire any great excitement either. Mike Pence, the one name that was starting to generate some momentum among both fiscal and social conservatives, has decided not to seek the nomination.
So where does that leave us? The country is largely united in their opposition to big government and big spending. If you have any doubts about that, see the election results for Nov. 2, 2010. The tea party movement has sparked a new political enthusiasm, and budget/deficit woes have set the stage for some massive cuts in spending and entitlement reform. The mood of the country is in our favor. At a time like this, you would think we would have someone step forward to lead the movement. But, for all the great talent in the Republican party (Christie, Rubio, Haley, Cuccinelli) no one is really ready for the big job.
That’s why I’m a little nervous. Are Republicans headed for a ’96-like moment with another Bob Dole? The time is right for a real leader to step forward. Limited government, fiscal conservative, individual rights-loving activists across the country are desperate for a leader. They want someone they can get excited about in 2012. They want someone who has a record of saying AND doing the right things. They want someone not steeped in the mindset of Washington elites and the go along to get along crowd. They want a reformer who is willing to challenge the status quo and make the hard, politically risky decisions. Someone who dares to address the problems with Social Security, someone who will challenge the stranglehold labor unions have on industry and our education system, and someone who will actually cut spending and reduce the deficit.
I haven’t seen that someone yet. That’s troublesome because by this time in 2008, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain already had offices in Iowa and New Hampshire and were building campaign infrastructure. Whoever our candidate is doesn’t have time to waste. I think a lot of Republicans and conservatives have been lulled into a false sense of security due to Obama’s lackluster approval ratings. Many think there is no way he could get re-elected. But they forget Obama the candidate is much different from Obama the President. Obama the candidate was charming, charismatic and much more moderate. It’s true that this time, he will have more of a record to defend. However, the American electorate can have a very short memory when it comes to candidates (ex: Jerry Brown in California getting re-elected as Governor). Regardless of his record and approval ratings, beating him will not be a walk in the park.