By John Wilkes from Eyesonobama.com:
Forgive me for speaking way too early, but the Republican presidential fieldseems to be shaping up sooner than anyone had previously imagined.
Forgive me for speaking way too early, but the Republican presidential field seems to be shaping up sooner than anyone had previously imagined.
Already, the GOP has essentially lost three strong candidates:
- Utah Gov. John Huntsman accepted President Barack Obama’s offer to become the next US Ambassador to China. It’s kind of hard to take a plum appointment from a guy one minute and then run against him the next.
- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford went from conservative hopeful to a late-night punch line when he disappeared for five days, only to come back and contradict the various explanations given by his wife and staff by admitting that he’d been in Argentina having an affair.
- Nevada Sen. John Ensign sparked headlines when he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Ground of national politics (Iowa) a few months back, only to watch any potential ambitions go up in smoke with a tawdry tale of blackmail and going after a Senate campaign staffer’s wife.
That leaves a few key Republicans vying for a chance to take up the mantle that John McCain dropped in 2008: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker New Gingrich, and a smattering of GOP Senators, including John Thune of South Dakota, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and a few others who’ve yet to be named. But from past scandals to a lack of name recognition, each of these candidates has serious impediments when it comes to running a national campaign.
Mitt Romney has relatively fewer problems than any of them.
Of course, he does have a few outstanding problems, so let’s get that out of the way to begin with. First, his Mormonism hasn’t exactly gone away. But the fact is that even though his religious beliefs may have cost him a few votes in the Republican primary, he finished a respectable second to John McCain. Plus, his speech on religion from Houston in the early rounds scored him enormous points not just with the Republican rank-and-file, but also with Evangelicals- a phenomenon few thought possible. In fact, the more its talked about, Romney’s faith seems more a benefit than a detriment.
Romney’s single biggest flaw will be that his positions have changed over the course of his career. He went from participating Planned Parenthood fundraisers in 1994 to vehemently pro-life as a presidential candidate. He was once pro-civil union, but has now reclassified his previous comments to say that he only supports civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage. His fluctuations would undoubtedly be his greatest obstacle, both in a primary and general election.
But there are a bevy of reasons that Romney would stand to perform well- and perhaps even win- in the race for the Republican nomination. Here are just five:
- Republicans Tend to Nominate People Who’ve Run for President Before
With the exception of George W. Bush, Republicans tend to favor candidates who’ve sought the nomination at least once before: John McCain (won in ‘08, lost in ‘00), Bob Dole (won in ‘96, lost in ‘80), George H.W. Bush (won in ‘92, ‘88, lost in ‘80), Ronald Reagan (won in ‘80, ‘84, lost in ‘76), Richard Nixon (won in ‘72, ‘68, lost in ‘60), Barry Goldwater (won in ‘64, lost in 1960). That bodes well for Romney, and not necessarily for any of the others, with the possible exception of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Palin, who had just about the next best thing in her run for the vice presidency.
- His Economic Background is Impeccable
While the economic crisis was coming at us like a freight train back in the fall of 2008, imagine if Republicans had sent Romney up to the stage instead of McCain-Palin. He has undeniable market chops, having built his own spin-off company in Bain Capitol, and then returning to it after years of absence to steer it from deep in the red to almost overnight profitability. Romney, a Harvard M.B.A., is probably the only Republican out there who can claim the Reagan mantle of economic policy. And to top it off, none of the others have had the success in business that Romney has.
- Romney is ready.
Romney has stayed politically lean in his time off the national stage. He’s given a few choice network interviews, keeping every topic he speaks on right within his wheel house: government spending and economics. That means he hasn’t made incendiary comments that can be branded as partisan baiting (Gingrich), given poorly-received speeches (Jindal), or passed on tough questions in interviews (Palin). He’s avoided any political scandals, and even gone so far as to sell off property to avoid appearing "too wealthy" - and thus, detached from the general American public- by selling off some personal property. His election team, curiously, has remained entirely intact, with his top operatives ready to resume campaign activity at the drop of a hat. His political rehab following his primary loss began the day he withdrew from the contest, when he gave a rousing speech before the Conservative Political Action Committee. Romney has made every move a man considering a second bid can- and should- make.
- In a truly Republican primary, Romney wins.
Romney may have taken second place in the primary, but let’s remember: John McCain did not win a single primary among registered Republicans up to Super Tuesday. Rather, open primary contests that allowed Independents to vote alongside GOPers propelled McCain forward. If the GOP is serious about putting forward a candidate that toes the party line (as they’ve said they are), they’ll have to shut down those primaries. And that would mean Romney, who routinely performed well among rank-and-file Republican voters, would have already won the GOP nomination in 2008.
Quite frankly, now is a terrible time to be in office, especially for governors (but also for Senators). The economy is terrible, we’re fighting what is essentially 1.5 wars (one full one in Afghanistan and a rapidly-downscaling presence in Iraq), while trying to avoid having to take military action against North Korea, Iran, or a South American nation (i.e. Honduras). With most states running out of money, it’s the Governors who are looking to pay the heaviest prices, and it seems to be affecting both parties fairly equally. Romney’s successor, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, is actually trailing a potential Republican challenger in early polling. Mitt didn’t have the greatest numbers when he left Boston. Then again, while his tenure wasn’t exactly marked by a booming economy, it wasn’t nearly this bad. Current governors are going to have to spend the next several years fighting to get the state economies back on track. Some of them are inevitably going to lose their jobs. But Mitt gets to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback.
There are, of course, a few who could give Romney a run for his money. From where I’m sitting, Barbour and Pawlenty look to be Romney’s heaviest competition. One might argue that being a former Chairman of the RNC might hurt Barbour because of the intense political hackery that comes with the position. But then again, it didn’t seem to hurt either George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole in getting the GOP nomination. And Pawlenty will have name troubles, which won’t be particularly difficult to overcome, particularly because he has the conservative credentials in what will likely be a year that the GOP tries to get back to its roots. Jindal could be a factor as well. He gave a boring speech earlier in the year, but Bill Clinton’s 1988 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention was legendarily bad, and he came back just fine. Still though, Jindal made it clear that he wasn’t ready for the national stage. 2016 might be another story for him, however.
It’s not that Romney is a shoe-in. But he is shaping up to be the candidate with the most in his arsenal right now. Palin has healthy polling numbers nationwide, but actually having to run in an election year (complete with debates, interviews, town halls, etc.) is a different story entirely. Romney has everything it takes at this point. And unless someone comes along and just blows him out of the water, the 2012 presidential election is bound to feature a few familiar faces.