Sunday, December 4, 2011

President Obama? or President Huntsman?

An in depth prediction for the GOP nomination

It's been in the cards for a couple of months now. Despite all the various flavors of the week amongst the field of possible Republican Party Presidential candidates, the most likely GOP nominee will be Jon Huntsman.

Right now, judging both by who rises and falls in the latest GOP Primary polls, and by the media spotlight shining so brightly on only the latest goof or scandal, Hunstman may look to be an unlikely candidate. But that is for now. As the farthest right fluff burns away in the current spectacle that is the GOP Primary, it will come down to Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. I believe Huntsman will be chosen over Romney.

Why? It's a matter of elimination. Let's start with the most famous GOP "flavor of the week". Herman Cain. Face it. He is done in this race. I remember the Frank Luntz polling of about 20 or so people when watching one of those first GOP debates. Herman Cain was a huge winner with that group. The small field of candidates was a great boost for him. At the time, few were declaring their bid for the GOP nomination. The first scheduled debate of May 2 was even postponed for this very reason. Herman Cain came on the scene strongly in the first GOP debate on May 5, 2011. He was 1 of just 5 candidates on stage. (Two of them already dropped out.) There was no Rick Perry, no Mitt Romney, no Michele Bachmann, no Gingrich. Before 999, before any questions on policy, the highly unusual reluctance of most GOP candidates to enter the race in time for the first few scheduled debates offered a void that let Herman Cain take off. 

The Frank Luntz focus group swooned over Herman Cain the newcomer. They said they loved the way he talked. The assertive boldness of his words connected with them on a gut level. Remember, this was before he had any policy ideas. He spoke little beyond far right generic talking points like repeal "Obamacare" and lower taxes. He just spoke them more forcefully than most, especially in comparison to the 4 other candidates sharing the stage. The irony of course, is that this is the very complaint that so many conservatives made about Barack Obama the candidate. God knows I heard far more than once from righties how liberals were being taken in by someone who could do nothing more than sound good in speeches. Ironic. 

I made a snarky sign using many of Herman Cain's quotes (pictured below). Since then, there have been many more Cain gems. His Libya policy stutter is probably the most comical. His multiple harassment cases and documented long list of phone calls with Ginger White show more than simple unwarranted accusation. Herman Cain's ability to claim that reporting of verifiable facts are accusations is absolutely laughable. It may not be proof of sexual relations, but there ARE extensive phone records with Ginger White and Herman Cain, even in the middle of the night. The National Restaurant Association paid settlements for Herman Cain in a sexual harassment suit. That is undeniable fact. Herman Cain's response is to deny all of it, even claiming that he has never done anything wrong to anyone ever. Even I can't make such a God-like claim.

Between writing this post and getting it online, Herman Cain officially "suspended" his campaign.

Next, a real easy one. Rick Santorum. His only real claim to fame is his strong anti-gay agenda. So much so that years ago Dan Savage led a very successful campaign to ….umm…. "smear" the name Santorum. (If you don't know what I mean, just google Santorum.)

America could not live with a President "Santorum". Tea partiers stopped calling themselves "teabaggers" once they discovered the slang meaning of the term. Even conservatives who may like Rick Santorum's positions would have a hard time imagining America being tainted by a President "Santorum".

Michele Bachmann was an early riser in the GOP Primary race. The farthest right of the Republican base will always love her for her outspoken rants against government and her comically deluded sense of patriotism. Never mind the fact that she is a crucial part of government gridlock.

The first time I saw her was when Chris Matthews interviewed her on his show Hardball. She implied that Obama detested America. Chris gave her many chances to clarify, yet she kept digging herself a deeper hole, even making a McCarthy-style call for the media to do exposes on all members of Congress to show how "pro-America" or anti-America" they are. 

But mostly, her lack of any research on virtually every topic is greatly disturbing. She says what she feels at the time. The average Joe may be just fine speaking this way, even if doing so creates a somewhat regular mixing of facts to make incorrect statements. Mentioning historical tidbits out of context or making general historical gaffes do little damage to the average citizen who makes such mistakes in his or her speech. For a Presidential candidate however, the leeway for such mistakes is far slimmer.

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When Bachmann says that America's Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States", she actually believes this is true. Why? Because even though it ignores the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation came roughly a century after the establishment of the nation, the idealized concept of white-washing our history - especially in regards to the perfect image of our Founding Fathers - is a far more important gut or emotional truth that must never be tainted in the slightest through actual facts. Facts are just not important to Bachmann. Note her referring to New Hampshire as the place where the shot was heard round the world.

Sure, claiming that New Hampshire and not Massachusetts was the place that fired the shot heard round the world could be a simple mis-speak. Even every politician should get one or two verbal mulligans, but there is a real pattern of basic gaffes with Michele Bachmann. Just like with Sarah Palin's gaffes, it is funny to watch their staunch supporters spin every way possible to justify or see those gaffes not as mistakes, but even as statements of fact.

Then comes the reply that President Obama thinks there are 57 states. President Obama did make such a gaffe, commenting he visited all 57 states. This was after visiting all 50 states and the 7 US Territories that vote. No matter how deeply incorrect the gaffe of their candidate however, conservatives always point to Obama's 57 states quote as an equal example of ignorance.

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Along came George W Bush's successor as Texas governor - Rick Perry. He stole the thunder. For a bit. Then he got enough exposure for America to see how he really sounds. It's not just a momentary brain-freeze that hurt him so, it's the compilation of such moments when the focus was squarely on him. It showed up subtly at first in some of his earlier debates. He just looked like he was losing ability to focus as the debate moved on. Then he tried to attack Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper. His mouth exhaled a series of brain farts that sort of - kind of -almost - expressed the idea he was after. Constantly substituting the word "before" for "for" created a comical non-sensical ramble "…before he was before…" With a bit of refinement that could have been a great Dr. Suess book.

Add the laughably drunken look of response to "live free or die", and the inability to remember the three federal agencies he would eliminate once President, and it is clear that the brain crashes are not worthy of a simple mulligan, but rather are systemic warnings of his inability to consistently display adequate thought processes.

In the last GOP Primary race, I noticed something odd. I didn't understand it then, but it was clear that something was happening. Some first signs of Republican Party unity starting to crack. There was not only talk of ending the wars and bringing our troops home, there was actually a small but steadfast support for that. From a Republican candidate. I'm talking about Ron Paul of course.

At the time, I didn't know what libertarianism was. I just lived through the "stay the course" war mantra of the neo-cons in office. Support for continuing the wars was such a unifying principle of Republicans. To suggest anything different was quickly fired at with implications of being un-American, being unsupportive of our military, or even worse. Yet here, Ron Paul was calling for an end to the wars, and was surprisingly getting strong support. 

I can't forget the comical denial of Sean Hannity on FoxNews as he was repeatedly urging viewers to call in to vote for the candidate they thought won the Republican debate they just hosted. Sean mentioned how anxious he was to see the results after the break. They weren't what Sean expected. Ron Paul won. He got twice as many call-in votes as his runner-up. Sean Hannity's response? He suddenly doesn't believe in polls! Later he claimed that Ron Paul supporters were skewing the results by calling in multiple times. A moment of research debunked that write-off as the poll would not allow two votes from the same phone number. (Integrity at FoxNews?) Ron Paul won each call-in poll in later GOP debates with just as high a margin. Hannity simply stopped drawing attention to the their polls.

Sean Hannity and others at FoxNews may not have liked the support Ron Paul was gaining, but it was undeniable that something was brewing. Some change in the unity of the right. Since I joined Facebook, I had many online "conversations". I got an education through that. Through so much back and forth, I learned about the essence of pure libertarianism. 

Simply put, the libertarian perspective is the idea that government should be limited. In absolute libertarianism, this means the government has no role beyond the military protection of citizenry. Protect our borders from enemies, collect just enough taxes to accomplish that goal, and then every citizen is a self-reliant island unto themselves. No social safety net for the poorest amongst us, no public parks, libraries, or roadways. No publicly funded firefighters, police or teachers. No environmental protections, no regulations to interfere with the "free market". In the libertarian perspective, such social requirements of any civilized society, and any taxes collected that fund such essentials, are all losses of individual liberty and freedom. 

A contrast between my perspective and the libertarian view

It may sound like I am overdoing the description of pure libertarianism. It sounds too extreme. But this is what the libertarian view proposes. Ron Paul is a consistent libertarian. Large scale eliminations of government functions is what he is proposing. Consider when Rick Perry stumbled trying to remember the third federal agency he would eliminate if he became President Perry. Ron Paul stepped in to help him out. Paul proposed to him that he meant five agencies needed eliminating, not just three. When Perry said it was just three, Ron Paul offered the Environmental Protection Agency as Perry's third choice.

Ron Paul has constantly called for bringing all our troops home from around the globe, eliminating the EPA, and eliminating the Dept. of Education, the Dept. of Energy, the Dept. of Commerce, the Dept. of the Interior, Housing and Urban Development, the FAA and the TSA. Limited government. Very limited government. 

Have a discussion with a hardcore libertarian (there are plenty of them online) and you will be hard pressed to find one who will offer any role of government beyond border protection that they see as legitimate. Most will say it's not that simple, yet they will never offer even one acceptable role of government beyond that. Unfortunately, the "conversation" often then turns to the "Marxist" label accompanied by an accusation of supporting theft (because I see legitimate and necessary use of tax dollars beyond border control). 

Fortunately, though Ron Paul is a consistent hardcore libertarian, he is far more adult than that. His support has also been growing - both in numbers and passion. Not enough to win the Republican nomination, let alone the White House, but his growing base helped lay the foundation for and spark the tea party movement. He continues to be the staunch libertarian in Congress, showing the most consistency of view as arguably any politician in modern history. When he fails to achieve the Republican nomination this time around, I'm sure he will continue to be steadfast in his libertarian principles, and he will continue to hold most of his increased support since the last primary go around when Sean Hannity blew him off. Despite the increased Ron Paul base however, I believe he has hit the peak of his support. The net result? Simple. Less Republican unity.

Then there is the current flavor of the week in the GOP Primary - former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Certainly one of the more arrogant of American politicians. This is not a label I toss around lightly. He sees himself as the great thinker of the Republican Party. His latest idea - have schools in poor districts fire all union janitors, (except for one head janitor) and replace them with child labor. Children that are students at the school. 

But his arrogance really shines when he gives his take on the occupy movement. Ignoring the core message of wealth disparity gone wild and money in politics chipping away at our democracy, he says "all the occupy movement starts with the premise that we all owe them everything". He continues to belittle all occupy protesters as self-righteous, self-indulgent societal leeches. Class warfare exists alright. Newt just launched a missile from the upper class. He sums up his attack by saying "go get a job right after you take a bath".

Newt obviously isn't paying attention. But, it may be a conscious choice on his part to deny the movement's focus on out of control wealth disparity and financial corruption of politics. Newt makes lots of money. Money that he would not otherwise make if not for his political clout. Newt is well-known for blaming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for national economic meltdown. Yet he took over $1.5 million dollars from them. He claims it was not for lobbyist services, but for "historian" services. "Historians" don't command such fees for consultations. That is the level of fee for Washington insiders who can help lobby for legislation favorable to specific clients. 

Many conservatives place more housing market collapse blame on the loans made through the government-backed Freddie and Fannie, while placing little to no blame on the Wall Street bankers selling bundles of risky loans as low risk prime mortgages. Neither is wholly immune from having a hand in the collapse. Newt however points his finger at just Fannie and Freddie (as well as Barney Frank). The Republican Primary voter who may also ignore or overlook Wall Street's guilt in the housing market collapse will have a hard time reconciling Newt's admonishment of Fannie and Freddie with Newt's over $1.5 million personal gain through their funds mismanagement to meet their "historian" needs.

Newt simply has a great disconnect here. He argues about the national budget being too extravagant, arguing he has what it takes to better balance the budget. Yet he has a $500,000 revolving credit at jewelry store Tiffany's. In June, shortly after launching his campaign, his campaign staff walked out on him as he and his wife returned from a vacation cruise in Greece. 

Now in late November, he may be making a comeback in the polls, especially as Herman Cain implodes, but Newt's upper class lifestyle is something that may be more damaging to his campaign than he thinks. Banking on the idea that voters will eventually wise up and turn to him as someone who can accomplish things in Washington, he is rejecting the current popular conservative "outsider" meme and running as the one Washington insider. He recently said "…the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee.". He went on to say he won't focus on the other Republican candidates, but on his ideas and Barack Obama.

As much as Newt likes to whine about "elites" when he perceives them as left-leaning, this is an ironic strategy. If it weren't for all the other baggage he has, his Washington insider elite strategy could have had some potential, but ultimately this strategy will fail to win him the nomination. 

Newt comically overworks the term "elite" 
when trying to use it as a put-down of liberals.

Then of course, there are the blatant arrogant lies of Newt Gingrich. When Mitt Romney said they got the idea of the individual mandate for health insurance from Newt, Newt said this was a lie. Once Newt prodded him more, he got the admission from Newt that he had supported the idea before. To falsely claim that Mitt was lying when he spoke the truth is itself a blatant lie.

Of course, after all this, I have yet to mention his marital infidelities. Personally, I hate to see such unfaithful actions, but I don't use measures of fidelity to measure a man's ability or even general character. Republican "family values" voters on the other hand have a much higher tendency to make such links. Add the fact that Newt Gingrich wasted millions of tax payer dollars as he led the charge against President Bill Clinton for his infidelities, and the hypocritical arrogance is just overbearing. 

Newt has overlapped three marriages, laying the foundation for the next wedding while still married. It only looks worse when you consider his wife's illness when divorcing. He didn't serve her divorce papers while she was on her deathbed like the myth goes. The divorce process was already in progress when the hospital surgery came for his wife, but it still looks bad. It also does not change the fact that Newt was already courting the next wife while still married. It looked bad when John Edwards moved on to an affair. It looked no better when Newt Gingrich did it twice.

Bottom line, despite many Republicans (and Newt himself) viewing him as the great conservative thinker, these disconnects are just too hard to digest. He will hold onto good poll numbers for a short time as conservative voters ponder all that is Newt. As they continue to test drive him in their mind, they will take him for a few more passes around the block before returning him to the lot, frustrated that they have not yet found that perfect fit despite all those test drives to date. Newt will not get the nomination.

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The reason they will take Newt for a few more passes around the block is because they know the remaining choices are far from the perfect vehicle they wanted. Mitt Romney will likely be the next candidate they take for a real test drive. Reluctantly so, of course. There is already a certain degree of trepidation to even do the test drive with Mitt. 

Healthcare of course is a major factor there. The healthcare reform he implemented in Massachusetts as governor included a mandate for everyone to purchase health insurance. This is the biggest sticking point for the right over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or what they call "Obamacare". They have settled the focus of their rejection of PPACA on the individual mandate. Romney straddles a nearly impossible divide in his need to promote his accomplishments of better healthcare in Massachusetts, yet sell his objection to the same thing in "Obamacare". This alone all but excludes him from any real chance of winning the Republican nomination.

Another not so secret roadblock for Romney is his religion. As a Mormon, a large portion of the conservative right view him in a negative light. A tremendous amount of the Christian right view Mormonism not as a sect of Christianity, but as a cult. When asked about this directly, Herman Cain said "I believe that they believe that they are Christians based on their definition…" Cain's response summarized both the dislike of Mormonism and the desire to not directly speak of that dislike.

Though Romney lacks the same degree of blatant class warfare and arrogance of Newt Gingrich, Mitt's attempts to make himself seem the common man when on the campaign trail is actually funny to watch. When he laughs and tells a small group at a table that he is unemployed too, it has to be hard for someone to hear this and not feel discord at a quarter-billionaire making a mockery of being unemployed. Especially when you consider that he spent $45 million of his OWN money to finance his failed 2008 campaign for the Republican nomination.

This is just part of Romney's attempts at being what he thinks potential voters want to see. He is for the individual mandate, but against it when Obama copies it nationally. As governor of Massachusetts, he is for a woman's right to control her reproduction, including abortion if she chooses, but he is strongly pro-life, even seeking the overturn of Roe vs. Wade  when trying to woo the Republican base for the nomination.

Despite the hesitation to back Mitt Romney, once primary voters are done with the idea of Newt Gingrich getting the nomination, Republican voters will likely start to look at Mitt Romney. It may be a gradual transition showing Newt and Mitt as neck and neck for some time, but eventually Mitt Romney is likely to get his first bump in his ever so steady moderate poll numbers. I predict he will hold a lead, though not an impressive one. Then his lead will slip away as Jon Hunstman gets his first real serious look by most Republican Primary voters.

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Pat "God sends us devastation for not persecuting homosexuality" Robertson admonishes the Republican candidates to cool it with the extremism lest they hand a re-election to President Obama via their off-the-page pull to the right.

So far, that message has yet to sink in. When it does, Huntsman will continue to gain more and more momentum. You know why you hear so little of Jon Hunstman now? Because he is sane. Jon Hunstman is the only statesman of the whole Primary bunch. His thoughtful answers, even if I disagree with them, can not compete with the outlandish statements of the rest all trying to outdo each other.

At some point, the record hard pull to the right of the Republican Primary Race will begin to gravitate back to the center. Not the true center mind you. By the time the nominee is chosen, the Republican debate will still be farther right than in previous races, but it will begin to seek separation form the extreme. Hard right tea party sentiment gave a wave of wins in the mid-terms. However, the energy in that wave is greatly diminishing. Meanwhile, the energy of the occupy movement continues to grow. Public sentiment pulls further from Republican favor as they blatantly vote down middle class tax cuts, and vehemently oppose any taxes on the wealthy, even blocking tax proposals that only apply to income beyond a million dollars. Not even tax on the first million, but tax that only applies to whatever income exceeds a million dollars. And only in a one-year period. Republicans just blocked this in Congress. They are losing national support as a result. 

The gauntlet for the Republican nominee is laid in trying to balance conservative ideas yet not appear out of touch with the middle class. A lot can happen in just under a year, but the way things are shaping up for the Republicans, (by their own making) that eventual real test in the general election is going to be pretty hard to successfully navigate. With the possible exception of Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman offers the only real hope for the Republican Party to pull that off.

1 comment:

  1. Well it looks like Huntsman is out. There goes what I believe was the GOP's best shot. Romney has a chance of course, but I believe Huntsman would have had a far better chance to beat Obama. I am a liberal, so it is no surprise for me to feel some sense of happiness at Huntsman's bowing out of the race for I think that gives Obama a better shot at re-election. It won't be a cakewalk by any means, even if Romney gets the Republican nod, but I do think Obama's odds just improved.