Sunday, 15 May 2011

The President Could Lose. But Can Any of these Republicans Win?

In 2012 it's not just Barack Obama who will be up for election, but the very notion that hard work, discipline, careful management and a refusal to condescend to the easy or superficial path can beat cynicism, glibness, unseriousness in matters of policy and the notion that politics is just reality TV for the elites.

These are serious times and our President is a serious man. Don't let his big smile, his deft way with a joke, and his willingness to go on Oprah fool you - Barack Obama is an unusual determined, evidence-based and serious minded President.

And since January 2009 he's been faced with the most spectacular barrage of misery inducing news - an economic crisis that he faced by pushing through a massive stimulus package and an innovative, forward-looking budget. (But more was needed, cry the critics.) The economy has begun a process of recovery, but it is far - so tragically far from where we need it to be. Especially in terms of job creation - which has seen record growth lately. (But not enough, I concede. Not enough.)

I'm not going to rehearse today the many institutional constraints and structural problems President Obama personally and the Democratic Party generally faced over the past two years. I'm not going to try  and excuse any perceived or real failures of the administration.

Today, I want you to think about the alternatives.

I'm under no illusions about this - President Obama faces a tough reelection fight in 2012. He will - rightly - be asked to defend his record and to make the case for why, where progress has been slow, he should be given the chance to keep trying.

His overall approval rating, while improved somewhat in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, is not in the territory that most Presidents would hope for. And his signature achievement - comprehensive healthcare reform - is in a precarious position, having been passed but in a stage where the key provisions have not yet taken effect. Many Americans will be seeing their premiums continue to go up and may be wondering when they'll start to see the meaningful improvement that was promised. (Answer, starting from 2014. Two years into his second term... or someone else's first.)

So the President could lose. And, if he can't make a clear and compelling case for his record, he'll deserve to.

(One possible starting point for such a case to be made is this:

But... for the President to lose, a Republican would have to win.

And the Republican party has been startlingly slow to kick start their Presidential race. You may recal that at this time in 2007, there was already a hot election underway in the respective primary cycles for both parties, with Republican candidates including AZ Senator John McCain, former WI Governor and Cabinet Secretary Tommy Thompson, former VA Governor Jim Gilmore, KS Senator Sam Brownback, former MA Governor Mitt Romney, TX Representative Ron Paul, Former AS Governor Mike Huckabee, former NY Mayor Rudy Guiliani, CO Representative Tom Tancredo and CA Represenative Duncan Hunter. There were also a range of joke or outsider candidates, but let's leave them aside for now.

All of these people, by this point, had declared their candidacy. At the same point in 2011, here is the list of people who have formally declared that they will seek the Republican nomination in 2012:

  1. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
  2. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson
  3. Political Consultant Fred Karger
  4. Activist Andy Martin
  5. Rent is Too Damn High Party founder Jimmy McMillan
  6. Representative Ron Paul
The following people have formed an exploratory committee to consider running:
  1. Georgia Businessman Herman Cain
  2. Former AL Chief Justice Roy Moore (of "10 Commandments" fame)
  3. Former MN Governor Tim Pawlenty
  4. Former LA Governor Buddy Roemer
  5. Former MA Governor Mitt Romney
  6. Former Senator Rick Santorum
Sorting out the single-issue candidates, perennial candidates, and simply absurd candidates, the list of serious prospects on the Republican side of the aisle looks like this:
  1. Tim Pawlenty
  2. Mitt Romney
  3. Newt Gingrich
  4. Gary Johnson
  5. Ron Paul
  6. Rick Santorum
Until yesterday, it looked like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee would be among this list, but he has since announced that he will not be seeking election this year. I feel I would be remiss as a blogger, though, if I didn't nevertheless give you the chance to enjoy his latest commercial project - aimed at teaching American History  to kids who have been indoctrinated cruelly with the dangerous liberal curriculum.

Seriously - watch this.

"Some of their morals are just GONE!" "Oh no, it's bad. Really bad."

OK, we're back.

So the invaluable Nate Silver has done a detailed analysis of the primary election prospects of a very wide range of prospective Republican candidates. In almost all of his analyses, the candidate who comes out as most likely to win the nomination is the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Now, Mitt's a pretty decent guy as Republicans go. His signature achievement in Massachusetts was to pass a bipartisan health care law that mandates that all citizens in the Bay State should have converage. This program has proved so successuful that Massachusetts now has the lowest rates of uninsured citizens in the country - and it has maintained its position as the state that delivers some of the best health care in the country. And, frankly, as I have said before, it's a great place to live in a lot of other ways too.

But... well.. how shall I put this? If you want to vote for a candidate who believes in a pragmatic solution to our health care crisis, there's ANOTHER CANDIDATE on the ballot who has a lot of experience with the Presidency. I'm personally kind of loving how the President's team have been spending their energy conspicuously congratulating Mitt on his health care reform right left and center. And this ad produced by the Massachusetts DNC just cracks me up with it's not-so-secret evil plan.

Mitt is, ironically, going to have a hard time still convincing his party that they should enthusiastically support a candidate who himself enthusiastically supported the Heritage-Foundation-drafted, compromise health care proposal that later came to look dangerously like the one that the President and Congressional Democrats passed.

Or, as the Onion puts it, Mitt will have to say:
"My hope is that Republican voters will one day forgive me for making it easier for sick people—especially low-income sick people—to go to the hospital and see a doctor," Romney added. "It was wrong, and I'm sorry."
 So who else is there?

I'm still mulling this, trying to work out which of these people makes for the most  credible opponent. I'm struggling. What do you think, my blog amigos?


Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

Romney? Seriously?

He's a Mormon - it's possible that evangelical Christians would like a Jewish or atheist candidate better. They're not fans.

He passed communist healthcare. In Massachusetts. More evidence he's a communist. And he's on record supporting a national mandate.

And this week he just gave about the worst speech ever from the GOP base's perspective: Yes the DNC's antics are amusing, but the GOP's base is fuming about Mitten's speech. In fact it would be best if the DNC just shut up. The first rule of political implosions: stand quietly at a good distance and enjoy the show.

In order for a GOP candidate to have a chance he has to avoid the base as much as possible and he has to repudiate them implicitly when possible. But Romney has to play to the base to coax them to vote for him. So even if he gets it he's doomed.

His biggest Fox News supporter was Beck but he's gone off the deep end and is being tossed off Fox. The rest of Fox is out to destroy him. And that's who the base will follow.

If I had to guess, at some point I imagine O'Reilly would sit down and have a non-freakshow interview with a less well-known candidate. The Villagers will proclaim him (it will be a him) the Serious Candidate and the real race will start. My theory is that it will be Huntsman (someone had to stop Obama from selling us out to the Chinese commies like Clinton did) but it could be someone else.

It won't be Newt, Cain, Bachmann, Palin, Romney, Santorum (ever search for his last name?) or any other members of the travelling circus.

Obama London said...

Well, yes. That's all kind of my point. None of these people can win the Republican nomination. But logically, someone has to. It's a paradox.

Kevin said...

Huntsmen to base prez campaign in Orlando.

So, trying to skip past the crazy people (yes, stop and think about going to Florida to skip past crazy right-wingers - that's how far US politics has right-shifted).

Meanwhile Newt has just rung up Paul Ryan to apologise for saying that ending Medicare was a bad idea.

This is what not skipping past the crazy people causes. That should play well in Florida.