Last Modified: Mar 28, 2011 08:58PM
There’s good news and bad news for Republicans as the 2012 presidential race is starting to shape up.
The good news is that the party has attractive, experienced politicians who could be good candidates, any one of whom could be a good president. The first Republican to formally enter the 2012 presidential sweepstakes is one — former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
The bad news is that the early focus is on candidates who have no chance of beating President Obama — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Tea Party favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, libertarian purist Ron Paul and New York showman Donald Trump.
They are the ones who gin up most of the media talk, mostly the ones with the best poll numbers and the ones who probably stand to do best in the early nomination contests in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Talk show banter doesn’t matter much. Nor do current poll numbers since so many candidates are sampled that the leaders have numbers only in the low double-digits. But the early Iowa caucus and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina do matter because they have an outsized influence on the nomination process.
Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Bachmann and Paul have passionate bases. But they carry a lot of baggage that alienates not only independents but other parts of the Republican faithful as well. Palin is a polarizing figure. The rap on her is inexperience; she didn’t help herself by quitting as Alaska governor after only two years in office. Gingrich is smart and generates ideas daily. But he will have a hard time overcoming hypocrisy allegations for prosecuting President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair when Gingrich was cheating on his wife. He often shoots from the lip. Recent confusing comments on Libya make it easy to paint Gingrich as being for U.S. intervention before he was against it. He would best serve the GOP as an idea generator.
Huckabee can come across as an Elmer Gantry huckster in churning up votes from evangelicals. He raised taxes as a governor and freed from prison a hard-core repeat offender who later murdered four Washington state police officers. Huckabee is an attractive TV show host and should stick to that gig. Bachmann and Paul have loyal followers but no appeal beyond them. I don’t know who Trump’s base is.
None of these people could be elected president unless it’s revealed Barack Obama is a secret Muslim born in Kenya who has a hidden agenda to impose Shariah law on gays, abortionists and women who terminate pregnancies.
It will be an uphill struggle to defeat Obama but not an impossible one if Republicans rally around a pragmatic, experienced conservative. Pawlenty fits the bill. He’s a conservative elected in a blue state who insisted on fiscally sound policies. Another is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who controlled state spending, tamed state employee unions and innovated a market-based health-care program. Mitt Romney, another former governor in a blue state, Massachusetts, has impressive business credentials and saved the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from scandal and financial ruin. There are others like them.
None of these candidates has Obama’s charisma. But look what charisma got us: a president who presided over runaway government spending, who imposed a health-care scheme out of touch with traditional American values and destined to raise medical costs, and who asked the U.N., not Congress, for permission to use military force.
The best hope for the GOP may be that the unelectable candidates cancel each other out in the early nominating contests so that a politician who could actually win, such as Pawlenty, Daniels, Romney or someone like them, will not be mortally wounded just as the race begins.
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