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Battle for America: The Conservative Nod
With four months to go until the Iowa caucuses, political maneuvering by Republican presidential hopefuls has begun in earnest. As you read these words, the candidates are giving stump speeches, wooing party elders for endorsements, sifting through fundraising rolodexes and competing in symbolic straw polls. With the crystal ball of politics murky as usual, only two things are clear; the GOP field is not short on diversity, and the primary race is wide open.
Mitt Romney is generally considered to be the front-runner. A former governor of Massachusetts, he wields a number of electoral advantages. He is strong in next-door New Hampshire, has the executive experience that Republican primary voters are often looking for and looks presidential. His most serious concern is the health care reform he passed as governor in 2006. It has a mandate on health coverage, similar to the national health care law that is hated by conservative voters. He’s also a Mormon, so he may have to overcome some Mormon prejudice in some states.
Can Romney tell the voters that his law is different because state sovereignty is more acceptable than federal mandates? Perhaps. Or maybe he should just pray that more conservative candidates split the anti-Romney vote.
Michele Bachman is a controversial House member who is loved by grassroots movements. Her strength lies in her fundraising ability, her connection to the influential Tea Party, and her popularity with deeply conservative voters in general. With her impeccable fiscally and socially conservative credentials, it’s hard to argue she isn’t ideologically in tune with the Republican base.
Can she defy history and ascend to the Presidency from the House, like only one other person has managed to do? We do live in a very volatile political era…
Rick Perry is not even an announced candidate, yet he is surging in the polls and considered very likely to enter the race. If he does, it will shake up the contest and completely change the dynamic. He is a big-state governor, has a strong conservative record, and can be a formidable fundraiser. The fact that he is leading some state polls despite not having started to campaign shows his strength as a candidate.
Can he make up for his late start and establish the campaign needed to withstand a hard-fought battle? If anyone could, it would be the nation’s longest-serving governor.
Tim Pawlenty is the former governor of Minnesota. He hopes his Midwestern roots will play well in the pivotal state Iowa. He is also quite conservative, but as of this writing he has failed to excite many primary voters.
Is he just another Minnesota Nice doomed to flame out? That seems likely at this rate. Charisma is important when you’re a little-known candidate, and Mr. Pawlenty just doesn’t seem to be catching fire.
Herman Cain is loved in the right-wing blogosphere, and has entrepreneurial experience to offer to an economically challenged nation. He is generating some excitement, and has won devoted groups of supporters, but continues to poll at Pawlenty-like levels. He also has never run a successful political campaign before, something that might trip him up in a serious and delicate contest.
Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are both darlings in their tents of the Republican Party, the libertarian wing and the social conservatives respectively. But neither has been getting any traction, polling worse than Pawlenty with time running out.
John Huntsman is strong on paper. He’s a former governor, has foreign policy credentials, and has a family fortune he can draw on for the cost of a national campaign. But something in his past could be the kiss of death for him: he served in President Obama’s administration, and wrote a letter full of effusive praise for him.
And then there’s Newt Gingrich. He’s brilliant, has an unassailable record and is seen as a savior of sorts for returning the GOP from political exile in 1994. But Gingrich seems to be the candidate no one is taking seriously; almost all of his staff abandoned him in May, and he managed a disastrous rollout by criticizing Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals. He’s made comebacks before- but this would be a recovery even greater than anything John McCain has pulled off.
I can’t wait to see which person Republicans turn to lead their struggle against a liberal President in what Gingrich himself has labeled “the most important election since 1860.”I hope I’ve managed to sum up the strengths and weaknesses of the field succinctly.
If this is to be the most important election in 152 years, I’m sure the most vigorous debates and campaigning are yet to come. I’ll be sure to write again on the chances of each candidate, once the race is a bit more settled. And if you disagree, or feel I’ve let something out, please let me know. There’s no reason I should have all the fun!