Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The GOP Candidate for 2012: Who Can It Be Now?

Point: Liberal Sister

A strange thing seems to be happening to the GOP. In the past several weeks, it appears that potential candidates for the 2012 Presidential Race have removed themselves from the race before it has even really begun. Personally I think it's an amusing scenario, but it begs the question: what in the world is going on over on the Right? Let's explore:

Governor Mark Sanford. Where to begin? In talking with my Conservative friends, even they find his current predicament laughable, and according to reports, several South Carolina Conservatives have had just about enough of him. I have truly enjoyed reading his alleged email to La Maria Bonita (who knew Sanford had such a flair for la lengua del amor?) but there are obviously bigger issues at hand than just his romance novel ramblings. Firstly, funding his secret get-aways to Argentina with tax payer money is absurd. (Spare me the Obama date-night comparisons, please.) Secondly, when Clinton was embroiled in Lewinsky-gate, Sanford was among the loudest voices calling on Clinton to be impeached, resign, etc. Faith and values? Check. Hypocrisy? Double Check. Of course no one can know what goes on in the enigmatic mind of Sanford, and I've never known the intoxicating power of the Tango, but let's face it - any chance Sanford had at being a legitimate candidate in 2012 has been completely wiped out. Oh wait...he's working it out with his wife? More power to him, but his future political aspirations have most likely been tossed out with la basura.

Governor Sarah Palin. It's funny to still say "Governor" in front of her name, but she does hold that job for another 19 days. I'm not sure what the majority of Conservatives really think of her (I know she does have some supporters), but any credibility she had in 2008 was lost during the campaign, I felt. Of course she has been slightly inarticulate in communicating her reasoning for resigning, which has led to much speculation. Does she want to spend more time with her family? Sure, that's completely understandable. Is she going to run for the Senate? Maybe, but I highly doubt any Alaskan would vote her in as his Senator since she couldn't even finish a full term as Governor. Is she looking toward a re-do Presidential bid? Maybe, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she would never come close to a nomination, and I highly doubt she is on any short list for VP again. Resigning from office is certainly within her rights, and that's fine, but I suspect that this is the death knell for any political ambition she may still have.

Who does that leave? Newt Gingrich? Kay Bailey Hutchinson? Will Dick Cheney take a stab at it since he is apparently quite comfortable speaking to Americans now? Who knows? The good news is that the GOP has quite a bit of time to prepare for the 2012 election. The bad news is that, at this rate, there won't be anyone to run on the GOP ticket.

Counterpoint: Conservative Brother

Nice use of the Spanish there, but flashy language won't distract folks from what's really going on here (unless, of course, you count our current president, where flashy language did distract enough folks to get him elected - substance be damned). What this is, despite its haphazard appearance, is a Republican Party that is trying to re-form itself and get its feet back on solid ground. Remember, there was (to varying degrees) this same sort of sense of doom for the GOP in 1964 (the year of the Goldwater blowout), 1976 (the year Carter was mistakenly elected; ah, hindsight is 20/20), and 1992 (the Clinton revolution, which lasted all of two years until the congressional majority flipped).

I will say that the GOP has adeveloped quite a tendency in recent years to circle the wagons and then fire inward; think of how long those old John Wayne movies would have lasted had the scripts then called for the same thing. Governor Sanford's Latin American adventure (side bar: for what it's worth, it was announced that he didn't use state funds for his trips, but that's almost irrelevant at this point) and Governor Palin's decision to quit in order to strengthen Alaska (side bar 2: it reminds me of the SNL skit in 1996, when Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton - in an effort to one-up Bob Dole's decision to resign from the Senate to run for president - announced that he was resigning immediately from the office of the president so that he could devote himself full-time to running for the office of president) have certainly rasied eyebrows.

But I assume you're expecting me to handicap the race. Here are my guesses and opinion at this point.

Mark Sanford - Um, no discussion needed. He's done.

Tim Pawlenty - Minnesota governor that most people outside of political junkies really haven't heard of, unless you count the big news this past week that he signed Al Franken's certification for the Senate. He's still got a lot of time to build his public image, and his decision to not run for reelection - but serve out his full term - will give him that chance. I give him slight odds.

Bobby Jindal - Louisiana governor and an up-and-comer in the GOP. He has made dramatic strides in reforming state government, expertly handled the execution of the disaster recovery plan following the latest major storm to hit his state, and has very high approval ratings. But he's still very young - just 38 - and his performance as the GOP counter to Obama's address to a joint session of Congress earlier this year left much to be desired. Better odds than Pawlenty, but I think he needs a bit more experience under his belt (although by the time of the next election he'll be 41, still several years short of the 46 that Clinton and Obama had both reached).

Sarah Palin - Several times during the past few days, we've heard the media and political experts say that you either really like her or really hate her. I think that's a problem within the GOP itself, and I think that's the reason she won't last through the primary season if she chooses to run. I see her more really as a cabinet secretary or head of an agency, but not president. If she runs, she'll make it through a few primaries, but not to Super Tuesday.

Mike Hucakabee - I'm sort of biased because I've had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him on two occasions, and as such I think he will make a great candidate - and I'd be willing to say now that he will run again. If the GOP sticks to its next-in-line philosophy about who becomes the nominee, he would be next since he lasted the longest in the last election before McCain sealed the deal. Will run through Super Tuesday and perhaps stay in until the convention.

Mitt Romney - The events of the past few weeks have really helped him out, and if you notice he's been very selective about where and when he appears and speaks. I think he's doing his homework to make him an even stronger candidate than he was in 2008, and the way other candidates are falling by the wayside he may emerge by the end of next year as the frontrunner. He'll be your nominee...


Yes, there is an unless. Unless an unknown candidate that no one sees coming emerges, someone that's really off the radar right now. I don't think it will be Gingrich, who I admire as an idea guy. I don't think it will be Governor Haley Barbour, really for no other reason than I think he's too southern. I also don't think it will be Rudy, who didn't do well the last go 'round.

So those on the left can look at this as an amusing scenario right now, but be warned: there's a lot of time left for the GOP to solve its internal disputes and resist its temptation to be exclusive, and there's just as much time for the Obama Administration to fall on its face. Stay tuned...


  1. As of today, I think Romney-Huckabee would be the strongest Republican ticket I could envision, but a lot will ride on what happens in 2010 and whether or not the Republicans are able to put forth a credible alternative to what the Obama administration is doing. Right now, what I mainly see/hear from the GOP are angry-sounding "redneck" types or conservative ideologues who seem offended that their presuppositions about the way things ought to be aren't shown sufficient deference. They are trying their best to paint the picture of Obama as a failure (trying to turn the tables on how they felt Bush was portrayed, imo) but have yet to advance anything that seems like an improvement from the current management. I think Obama still compares very favorably to what we saw throughout the Bush years and when I listened to Obama's critics, they mostly sound like the kind of folks who would just take us right back to a now-discredited approach to governance.

    But Romney-Huckabee appear to have the most political heft attached to their reputation at this moment in time...

  2. Romney - Obama yesterday was 48-42 Romney. Palin - Obama was 45-42 Obama.