2011 is rapidly coming to a close. The 2012 campaign season is upon us. Don't look now, but Ron Paul might do the unthinkable: Win the Iowa Caucus.
Many Republicans like the spunky Texas Libertarian. Most respect him, to to the point of taking his candidacy seriously. Nobody would have dreamed that he might be in a position to win the Iowa caucus. There is cause for concern in some Republican circles. If Paul pulls off an upset, it could spell trouble for the Romney alternatives.
Of course, there are Republicans who have always concluded that Mitt Romney would be the nominee. As Anne Colter puts it, "no one is afraid of Mitt Romney." He is the safe, establishment moderate who has little to overcome, other than a few changes of heart over the years.
Newt Gingrich and his grand debating ability yielded an improbable climb to the top. The question becomes, "can he stay there?" Odds are, he can't! Herman Cain is now talking about his desire to be Secretary of Defense. Rick Santorum is basking over his Iowa Tea party endorsement. Michelle Bachmann is continuing to "beat up the other candidates while making a marginal case for why she is preferable." Jon Huntsman is a convincing orator. Yet Republicans still wonder why he didn't elect to take on Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.
Rick Perry? His may the most difficult to understand journey of them all!
The Texas Governor had never been the best when it came to the art of debating. It showed! Perry lost a huge lead and has never regained it. Republicans have been quick to overlook his actual record in Texas. Consistency with the issues has mattered little.
Democrats, on the other hand, saw Perry as the conservative alternative to Romney. They knew that he had both money and organization. They feared that he would steamroll to the nomination without so much as a whimper. In private circles nervous Dems pondered their options. They knew that the "class warfare" general election strategy planned for Romney would not "cut a lot of ice" with the son of tenant farmers! They were gratified to see Republicans pound Perry on peripheral issues that would hold little relevance in the general election.
Fortunately for them and Mitt Romney, Republican conservatives became bogged down on these sidebar issues, as well as overall glibness. They suddenly decided that a strong debator was more important than an accomplished candidate with an actual track record. They apparently forgot that the Establishment had already settled on the former Massachusetts Governor. Romney, a good debator was spared some of the hardballs that could have been landed upon him, especially in the early going.
Nearly everyone concludes that there were far too many debates this year.
America will readily admit that the country may have opted for "style over substance" in the 2008 Presidential election. Evidently the lesson wasn't learned! Romney was perhaps an even great beneficiary than Gingrich. With no job, other than liquidating his multitude of luxury residences, he had four years to stand in front of a mirror, honing up and perfecting his debating skills. He obviously had a background. The question was, was it the right background for an increasingly conservative party?
For anyone who has been to Massachusetts and watched some of the campaigns, here are some things to remember. Social Issues are potentially toxic. A strong safety net is an imperative. Most of the population is pre-disposed to vote Democratic. A Republican wins only when the Democrat is so bad that the electorate votes against them as a protest.
Mitt Romney is a businessman. He knows big business, how it works and how to build and restructure companies. He is a smart, clean living intellectual who looks every the inch the Fortune 500 CEO. When he served as Massachusetts Governor, he ran the Bay State the way that he ran Bain Capital. There were ups and downs. Overall, it was an effective tenure.
Social issues are a liability in the Bay State. The best way to handle them is to downplay them, preferably ignore them. Romney learned from his friend William Weld, a Republican who served as Governor in the mid nineties. A pro-choice, gay friendly, environmentally empathetic, Chief Executive will not get bogged down in "clutter issues" that are sure to come from the opposition party. The wily Weld readily endorsed Democrat, Bill Clinton in 1996, because he knew that anything less would equate to a "clutter issue."
Go back to 1992. Remember Paul Tsongas, another Romney confident? He was a Democrat, running as a "pro business liberal." He had strong backing from Dewey-Rockefeller types in the East who were unhappy with the growing influence of a Christian oriented South that was becoming increasing influential. Once supporters of Bush the Elder, they saw the transplanted Texan as someone who had compromised his youthful orientation for the 1980 Vice Presidential nod and later the 1988 nomination.
True, GOP conservatives are well aware of the Romney Pedigree. They agree that "any Republican candidate would be preferable." But that is where it has ended. After Perry crashed and burned in the debates, conservatives first went to Herman Cain, then to Newt Gingrich. Bachmann and Santorum continued to doggedly push their credentials. The one thing feared by the Romney camp, "that these conservatives might consolidate their support" has thus far not materialized.
Ron Paul, in the meantime, continued on. His backers believe that he can win, not only the nomination, but the general election. Could this happen?
Odds are not with Paul. But never say never! He is seen as a Liberatarian by the Republican establishment. His positions on defense make most party members nervous. Romney supporters fear that he might still run as a third party candidate, ultimately throwing the election to Barack Obama the same way that Ross Perot put Bill Clinton in the White House. Paul is currently saying that this won't happen. Conservatives are putting their faith in son Rand to keep Dad from changing his mind. But is it a sure thing?
Nobody truly knows! Logically, it would seem less probable if the Republican nominee held positions slightly closer to those of Paul. But who might that be? Perry? While Perry's constitutional conservatism is the closest thing to Paul's, it's pretty evident that the two aren't close! And Perry has a totally different view on world affairs! Gingrich? That seems unlikely! Bachmann? We're stretching!
In short, if Paul isn't the nominee, Republicans will pray that he doesn't do anything more than quietly endorse their nominee. His supporters are looking for a champion who can advance their Libertarian cause. These Republicans mix with Dewey-Rockefeller types like oil and water. They hold more of a kindred spirit to disgruntled, anti-war Democrats who had become disgusted with slow movement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama's braintrust recognized this and dispelled any possible defection by ending the Iraq war as scheduled. As much as Republicans may loathe the way that Iraq was handled, they should be thankful that it is not a potential issue for a third party "peace" candidate.
So much will come down to Iowa. If Paul wins, then follows up his win with a strong showing in New Hampshire, the race will be on. It is highly possible for Tea Party candidates to say, "they have had enough" of the Republican establishment. Romney has never reached out to them. Paul, to many, is the Tea Party. Many Paul supporters feel that another four years of Obama, as distasteful as it might be "would be better" than acquiescing to the GOP establishment.
This would be the ultimate disaster for the Republican party. That's why it's important for conservatives in the party to unite behind one candidate. Then chances will be better to thwart Romney's nomination on the first ballot.
Currently Newt looks to be that alternative. But can he be elected? He thinks that he can! He lacks money and organization. If Paul pulls an upset in Iowa and he fails to win South Carolina, it might be end game for the speaker.
What about the rest of the pack? This is where it gets interesting. Bachmann and Perry will likely fight it out for 4th place in the Iowa caucus. If Perry finishes fourth and Paul wins, the Texas Governor will put all his marbles on South Carolina. His hope is that Bachmann, Santorum and Cain would throw their support behind him, as an alternative to Romney. Improbable, but not totally impossible! The key would be finishing ahead of Bachmann in Iowa.
Surprisingly not in the discussion is Perry's historical ability to attract Hispanic voters. A major "bump" in the primary road that sent his candidacy spiralling(the tuition waiver) would become a key general election asset. Republicans must take at least 30% of the Hispanic vote to win the general election. 40%, the number posted by Perry in the Texas general election should be the objective. The remaining candidates, especially Romney will have problems with this key block of voters who now make up 16% of U.S. population.
In short, a stronger than expected Paul and a rejuvenated Perry(or Gingrich) could make the Tampa convention one for the ages. With new rules, it will be more difficult to win on the first ballot. This will work against Romney. In a state that is 15% Hispanic, his uncompromising position on immigration will come into focus. So will be his perceived inability to attract Latinos. Even though he might have the most delegates, a second(or third)ballot might find that alternative.
Could the Republicans ultimately turn "thumbs down" to the entire field? If no nominee surfaces by the third ballot, who knows. As improbable as it may appear, there are literally millions of registered Republicans who think that Marco Rubio would still be the best opponent to face Barack Obama in the November election.
Could anyone imagine a more difficult ticket for the Democrats to face than Marco Rubio for President and Condoleeza Rice for Vice President?
Rubio-Rice does have a ring to it!
Post a Comment