The Nomination Conflagration
The weekly scramble that is the Republican Party’s race to the presidential candidate nomination is as muddled as ever, with yet another new face leading in at least one poll.
That would be Herman Cain, the African American pizza company executive, who leads the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll with a nifty 27 percent of Republican voters favoring his candidacy. Mitt Romney, steady as a shy but relentless suitor, was at 23 percent, although he led in another poll. What all this means is anybody’s guess, so I’ll take one: even though the first primary (Florida, can you believe it?) isn’t until Jan. 31, and the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, the traditional bellwethers of any presidential political season, are even further off, is it possible to think that the race is already over?
Mind you, there’s only been a few debates, a handful of round-table discussions, a couple of straw votes and likely some undisclosed arguments in an Iowa cornfield. But much has happened, most of it not pretty. Some people never showed up, others dropped out, some jumped in and got toasted and others, like Newt Gingrich, plugged on, unmindful that nobody was talking about them, let alone casting them any sort of vote.
This GOP presidential nomination race isn’t so much a competition as it is a circus or reality show, resembling the old Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s On First?”
Well, who is on first this week? Cain and his 9-9-9 plan for reinventing the tax code appear to have caught fire in certain quarters, but is he really on first, and can he round the bases as the first semi-serious national African American Republican candidate of any sort?
So who’s on first? Well, for just a little while it was good old Rick Perry, who had never lost at anything in his political life, being a three-term governor of Texas. He was largely credited for the miracle in Texas, which, it is often asserted, sailed through the Great Recession almost unscathed thanks to conservative economic policies. He also OK’d a record number of executions. Perry, seeing Michele Bachmann win the Iowa straw poll followed by Ron Paul, and thinking he was at least as smart as his predecessor, probably figured he could take the whole enchilada, being a big, strapping fellow from Texas who looked like a guy that could lead a country, by God—and a prayer meeting too.
On his way to mortal combat with Mitt Romney, Perry tripped on a rock that hadn’t been quite painted over enough to hide the “N” word it sported on a piece of his property. Perry got caught in a messy routine of having to perpetually explain whatever he said the night before, like a sailor coming back from shore leave.
So now Perry is a fading, a distant third, and his taillights are fading from view.
So, who’s on first? Well, how about Sarah Palin? Palin understands that first base is a lonely place, an exposed area where people will take pot shots at you. Better to wait for the next season of “Dancing with the Stars,” or pontificate at Tea Party rallies, or have nasty books written about you. Or write one yourself and sing a few rounds of “Money, Money, Money.”
How about Chris Christie, a tea party favorite and the governor of New Jersey, rich in charisma and a few extra pounds. You wish. People in the media practically cried when he finally said a final and resounding “No,” even after GOP stalwarts effectively got on their knees and begged him to run. Christie said it was not his time. But it just might be time for him to be a vice-president—and therefore president in waiting—given his grand and gushing endorsement of Romney.
How about Mr. Pawlenty, the early dropout. Now I imagine he wishes he hadn’t.
There are, of course, others: Ron Paul, who actually says more outrageous things than Rick Perry, but nobody complains because, truthfully, nobody cares. There is also Rick Santorum, a social and every-other-kind-of conservative who somehow comes across as a whiner.
There’s Bachmann and her zealots and her straw poll win in Iowa, which lasted for all the time it took Perry to make up his mind to run. There is John Huntsman, the second Mormon in the race and former governor of Utah. But then he said that he might be happy to take the VP spot on a Bachmann ticket. That’s not going to happen. I mean the Bachmann ticket.
What’s most notable about this race is who decided not to run: the budget whiz kid Paul Ryan; the aforementioned Chris Christie; Mike Huckabee, the very Christian right former governor of Arkansas who ran nobly in the last competition; Bobby Jindal, a GOP star for one shining moment until he gave a rebuttal address to a State of the Union speech by Obama; Palin, of course.
There is also Virginia’s rising star governor Bob McDowell; the hot, hot, tea party senator from Florida, Marco Rubio; and, lest we forget, Donald Trump, who Trumped himself before voters had the chance.
To end the baseball analogy: game over. Romney has been there before and appears to have won the race simply because nobody has really been able to knock him off his steady-as-he-goes performances in the debates. He’s a terrific debater, mildly humorous, not too mean but mean enough, good with the Obama knocks, a business man who knows something about economics, (so much that Perry practically conceded his smarts). He’s a guy who looks presidential—whatever that means—unruffled and unperturbed. He was governor of Massachusetts, and how many Republicans can say that, or even want to? He passed a version of a health care bill that much resembles Obama’s, the one that’s headed straight for the Supreme Court. When a Christian Evangelist preacher called Mormonism a cult, it gained sympathy for Romney.
Tea Party stalwarts don’t like Romney, which may yet be a problem. The Tea Party is a little like the Georgetowner slogan, “It’s influence far exceeds its size,” but not in a good way.
In any poll, Romney is by far the only GOP candidate who looks like he could win the general election and beat Obama. He’s close enough—two percentage points—to take a swipe at the president.
The questions remains: why not get rid of the primaries altogether this year and have the election early. The suspense is killing us.