Thoughts on the Republican Presidential Field

Newt’s PAC is struggling to raise “hard money” donations, Politico reports. He has money from other sources, notably a 527 organization called American Solutions for Winning the Future that apparently rakes in big donations from deep pocket supporters. But he can’t use the 527 money directly for a presidential campaign, and there seems to be little interest among ordinary donors to back Newt.

This doesn’t surprise me. Although Newt is polling around fifth in the overstuffed Republican field (after Huckabee, Trump, Romney, and Palin), I suspect that’s mostly from name recognition. The baggers don’t seem to be all that interested in Newt, no matter how hard he panders to them. And the Beltway establishment isn’t supporting him either, according to Nate Silver.

Nate calls the establishment candidates the Fairfax Five — Barbour, Daniels, Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney. The bagger candidates are the Factional Five — Bachmann, Gingrich, Palin, Ron Paul, and Trump. Other candidates polling in the top ten are Huckabee, Giuliani and Santorum. Yeah, what a pack of mutts.

I think the Republicans’ biggest problem is that it’s unlikely they can take back the White House without the bagger vote. But candidates that appeal to baggers are likely to scare the stuffing out of the rest of the electorate. None of the Factional Five could come even close to winning a general election, IMO. The candidates favored by the establishment may seem safer, but they also tend to be hopelessly boring. Romney and Pawlenty are all vanilla frosting, no cake. And have you seen Huntsman? He looks like the generic white guy from central casting. I don’t think the electorate will be in the mood for bland and safe in 2012.

Establishment guys Barbour, Daniels and Huntsman are not in the top ten in the polls, btw. Of those three I think only Daniels has a shot at the nomination and might possibly appeal to both the establishment and the baggers. At MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell keeps predicting that Pawlenty will get the nomination, but I don’t see the baggers getting all that enthusiastic about Pawlenty. I mean, his first name is “Tim.” Please.

Given his history as a lobbyist one wonders if the baggers will take to Barbour, although Barbour’s history of, um, racial insensitivity might work in his favor. I don’t think Barbour has general election appeal, though. I keep seeing Barbour in the Charles Durning role in “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” except (I assume) Durning can sing and dance better.

Romney might do well in a general election, but his Mormonism will make it difficult for him to be nominated. Romney always strikes me as soulless, though. I don’t sense anything behind the facade. If you were to assign political consultants to create a Standard Generic Presidential Candidate, what they’d come up with is something like Romney, except they’d make him Episcopalian.

Overall, Mike Huckabee is polling better than anyone else, which is surprising considering he hasn’t been in the national news much. Huckabee is dangerous because he is personable and likable. He’s a guy many voters would like to invite over for a backyard cookout, and they might be more comfortable with him than with Barack Obama. But I think Huckabee is vulnerable on issues.

For example, Huckabee has a long history of supporting “Fair Tax,” which would eliminate the IRS and replace income tax with sales taxes, which seems to me would suppress consumer spending and kill what’s left of our economy. Baggers would no doubt fall for the Fair Tax, but would the rest of the electorate?

Also, someone as right-wing as Huckabee on social issues has never won a general election. He’s way to the right of the norm on gay marriage and abortion, for example, and unlike some prior conservative candidates (Reagan and Bush II come to mind) he is likely to make social issues a priority, not something he pays lip service to when running for office.

Both Bush II and Reagan were able to get votes from people who disagreed with their positions on social issues, because there was an assumption that they wouldn’t really take any action on those issues. I remember reading an article about women voters supporting Bush II who said that they sincerely believed he was just pandering to the anti-abortion crowd to get elected, and they didn’t think he was really anti-abortion, so they were going to vote for him anyway in spite of being pro-choice. Huckabee is not going to be able to pull that off.

Santorum and Giuliani are yesterday’s news. If they couldn’t pull off a nomination when they were at the peaks of their careers, they’re not going to do it now. I’d say the same for Newt, and Palin is just about ready for the clearance sale shelf as well. Palin has a core of supporters who will love her as long as they all live, but to everyone else she becomes more irrelevant by the hour.

Bachmann is too stupid to even fake being a credible candidate, although she is rapidly sewing up the not insubstantial Idiot Vote.

Donald Trump either is just trying to pull up his television ratings and will stop pretending to be a candidate when his show is renewed, or else he’s in the early stages of dementia. Or both.

People are talking about Chris Christie as a dark horse candidate, but Christie’s approval ratings (finally) are dropping in New Jersey. And if he’s looking like a one-term governor in 2012 he’s unlikely to get much backing as a presidential candidate.

Look for some faction of the establishment to promote Jeb Bush as a dark horse. This might have some viability if Jeb can keep his older brother locked in the basement for several months. If Dubya insists on “helping” Jeb’s campaign, though, Jeb is in trouble, especially in the general election.

I think a lot will ride on what the economy is doing and whether Dems can keep the Ryan budget alive as an issue into 2012. And I think the fight for the nomination will be among Daniels, Pawlenty, Romney, and Huckabee.

25 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Republican Presidential Field

  1. The problem with their candidates is that they are from two extremes.

    Pawlenty, Barbour, Daniels, Huntsman, and Romney, are cottage cheese; and Palin, Bachmann, Newt, and Santorum, are hot sauce.

    The backers of the cottage cheese candidates won’t go for the hot sauce ones because they’re too spicy, and the hot sauce supporters won’t support the cottage cheese brigade because they’re too bland.
    And to mix one with the other on a ticket – well, YUCK! Not to say that that won’t happen…

    My money’s on Jeb throwing his hat into the ring.
    He may run this year just to set himself up as for 2016, so he can come back then as the heir apparent if he loses.
    He’ll wait until late summer, when enough people have had a good look inside the clown car, and then I think he’ll come in like the white knight on a charger.
    But I think he can win the nomination this year. There are enough people out there who claim they don’t like W, but who secretly still love him. Republicans will rally around Jeb, telling everyone else in sight that he’s NOT his brother. Plus, and MOST IMPORTANTLY – IT’LL PISS OFF THE LIBERALS!!!.
    And Jeb can appeal to the public to try a better brand of ‘New & Improved Bush.’
    I’m not sure it’ll work.
    But it could.
    Could he win the general?
    Right now, I’d say I don’t think so. But there’s an awful lot of time between now and November 2012.

    • Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Jeb is in the running at some point. From a general election perspective his only real negative is his brother. However, that’s a BIG negative.

  2. “sewing up the not insubstantial Idiot Vote” That’s why I read this blog every day! Congratulations on that bullseye, Maha!

  3. Jeb is a good guess. He’s definitely cut from the same cloth as his brothers – has managed to make bad investments that have ended up costing him little or nothing but costing the American tax payers a bundle. (Neil’s defunct Silverado Savings and Loan cost him $50,000 and in the end cost us a cool $1 billion.) Jeb invested in an office building, an investment which ended up costing us $4 million. (“American Dynasty – aristocracy, fortune and the politics of deceit in the House of Bush; Kevin Phillips; Viking, 2004.)

    None of this stuff, however, ever surfaces during any Bush campaign runs so not likely to during a Jeb run for president – read “American Dynasty” and it will become clear why the ‘stuff’ never surfaces.

  4. Ah, Silverado Savings and Loan. As Obi-Wan once said, “That’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time, a long time.”

    The problem is, we remember stuff like that, but the NIIV (see maha & Bill Bush, above) doesn’t.

    I wonder if the GOP primary debates will be fun to watch next year, what with all the densely-packed crazy. Actually, I wonder if the GOP has the guts to even stage such debates.

  5. Read somewhere yesterday that Mitch Daniels is of Syrian descent. It was a surprise to me. This may not play well with the right ringers.

  6. “I think the Republicans’ biggest problem is that it’s unlikely they can take back the White House without the bagger vote. But candidates that appeal to baggers are likely to scare the stuffing out of the rest of the electorate”

    Maha, have you bought into the “teabaggers are a real party” nonsense? The teabaggers will vote for anyone running against the Kenyan usurper period. To consider their vote as anything substantial or in question is ridiculous. They want the nigger out and will vote for anyone, Newt, Trump, Sarah, Huckafuck, Romney, etc. it don’t matter they will vote REPUBLICAN.

    • The teabaggers will vote for anyone running against the Kenyan usurper period.

      You aren’t watching them as closely as I am. They’re not going to vote for Obama no matter what. But I think their enthusiasm — and turnout — level will be much lower for a candidate like Romney who is not perpetually stoking their fear and ignorance.

  7. While I think uncledad may be correct in that a significant portion of the baggers will vote for whoever runs against Obama, there are two dangers for the generic Repuiblican candidate:

    a) While the baggers may or may not play any role in the general, they will most certainly play a huge role in the primaries. Any candidate will have to have the support of the baggers to win the primaries. However, any candidate crazy enough to get the support of the baggers will never win the general.

    b) Baggers, as a class, are politically naive and extraordinarily resistant to any form of compromise. If the candidate that wins the primary is unacceptble enough to the baggers, there is an extremely real chance some third party vanity candidate will gain a large share of their votes. This would, of course, guarantee Republican failfailfail. … Ok, maybe that’s a tad wishful thinking, but they could certainly make life difficult for the Republicans. So, they’ll need to have a candidate that is at least crazy enough to not cause a general bagger exodus; and somebody that crazy is going to have big issues in the general.

    Besides, I don’t really see anybody in the current field willing to try and thread that particular needle … they all seem to be cottage cheese or tabasco sauce, to borrow a metaphor, nothing in between… Or, to extend, they are all Mild Wings or Hot Wings, no Medium Hot Wings.

    OK, never mind, I like cottage cheese vs. hot sauce better, my bad.


  8. “a candidate like Romney” Among the current roster of clowns , hucksters and sociopaths, Romney seems like the only choice, which will appeal to the largely silent Republican middle class. He is pretty, vacuous, and lacks integrity—-a perfect choice, unless he has a mistress in the closet somewhere.

    • If Romney gets the nomination he could be a real challenge to Obama, if only because he seems so “normal” and “safe.” But he’s going to have a hard time getting the nomination. The social/Christian conservatives don’t like his Mormonism, and he has little appeal to the baggers, who prefer candidates with more showmanship who will throw lots of red meat at them. He’ll do very badly in caucuses, and I’ll be surprised if he is a clear winner in many primaries.

  9. MandT said: “a candidate like Romney” Among the current roster of clowns , hucksters and sociopaths, Romney seems like the only choice, which will appeal to the largely silent Republican middle class

    Back in October 2008, I met a woman who said she had really wanted Romney to get the Republican nomination, and was disappointed that he hadn’t. I asked her why. Her reply: “He’s such a handsome man, and has a lot of money.”

    Since it was too late for Romney (McCain had gotten nominated and chose Sarah Palin for VP) I asked who she was going to vote for. To my no big surprise, McCain-Palin. She wasn’t really too enthused about McCain because he was “too old,” but liked the fact that he had a lot of money. And she admired Palin because “She’s got such a nice family.”

    I’m not sure how representative she was of Republican women voters, but it was scary nonetheless. Issues? What Issues? We don’t need no stinkin’ issues.

    We don’t need no stinkin’…

  10. Excellent post, Maha! I’ve said it before and I say it again..when you look at the field of contenders the Kenyan Usurper will be a shoo-in.

    I’m a firm believer in Martin Luther King’s admonition that you judge a man by the content of his character and when I look at the possible GOP contenders the choice of who to put my faith in becomes clear. Like Diogenes of old, I’m just looking for an honest man (in the White House)..and Obama seems to be the only one out there.

  11. “I think their enthusiasm — and turnout — level will be much lower for a candidate like Romney”

    I respectfully disagree, the so called “teaparty” was created from the white racist outrage of having a black man in the white house. I’d bet a substantial sum that the percentage of poor uneducated white folks (I hate to generalize but most racists I’ve met are poor uneducated white folks) voting in 2012 will be a significant record. Most of these rubes never vote and could care less about politics, but they want the Blackman out and they will be enthusiastic.

    • I respectfully disagree, the so called “teaparty” was created from the white racist outrage of having a black man in the white house.

      That’s only part of it. There’s a lot of racism in the ranks, but demographically the teabaggers are mostly middle- to upper-income whites, not poor uneducated whites, and they have a complex of obsessions, some of which are unrelated to race. It’s simple and easy to just attribute all of their motivation to racism, but it’s not accurate.

  12. “That’s only part of it”

    So the teabaggers have a purpose? I hate to argue what the teabaggers represent because to me they really don’t exist. The Teaparty is camouflage; it’s the right wing of the Republican Party. Calling them the “the teaparty” lets the republicants off the hook. The whole god dam thing was invented by cable news to sell more Gold. Some of us liberals have taken the teabagger bait, don’t let the republican party off the hook, that’s how they invented the “Reagan Democrat”.

    • So the teabaggers have a purpose?

      Don’t be dense. I didn’t say they had a “purpose,” I said they had a “complex of obsessions.” And you are right that they are mostly the right wing of the Republican Party, but that’s the point — the are a faction working at odds with the Republican establishment. Are you paying no attention at all to what’s been going on with Republicans in Congress? The extremists among them hate Republican “moderates” as much as they hate Democrats.

  13. This is why I’ve been saying for a long time that Obama will likely win, by default, in 2012. Who knows who the actual GOP nominee will be, but the field is so fractured, and the extremists so extreme that I think the Kenyan Usurper has a very good shot at it, even though I expect the economy to be signficantly worse than today. The worsening economy will be matched by the public’s adverse reaction to the current Republican overrreach and arrogance – Ryan’s budget is but one example, and it will certainly be used against them. I’m reminded a bit of Bob Dole and 1996 – he was the token Republican who never stood a chance against Bill Clinton. The comparison isn’t perfect, but there are similarities.

    Michele Bachman is this years model Idiot, replacing Sarah Palin.

    I’m not worried (much) about 2012 – BO has a good shot at winning IMO, but I am far more concerned about 2016. The sad fact is that the current set of policies are not up to the task of righting the ship of state, and tepid as they are, even these face signifcant resistance from the right, who dominate the media and who have political leverage in excess of their actual numbers. They’ll run somebody in 2012, anybody, while getting ready to finish the job on this country in 2016.

  14. Moonbat raises a good point—who do the Dems run in 2016? Both Biden and Clinton will be too old. Andrew Cuomo? Who among the governors and Congresscritters is a likely candidate?

    • who do the Dems run in 2016?

      Five years from now, many likely candidates may have emerged that we don’t see now. I don’t think Barack Obama was on anyone’s radar five years before the 2008 campaign.

      Republicans have had a problem dredging up likely candidates before, however. In 1996 the best they could come up with was Bob Dole, and as I remember there really wasn’t anyone else getting any buzz, either. The establishment managed to groom and puff Dubya into a viable candidate, but in 2008, the best they could come up with was John McCain? If anything, looking at the top tier candidates for 2008 — McCain, Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Huckabee, Ron Paul, Romney, Fred Thompson — I’d say they’ve got a stronger lineup now than they did then. The only thing is, now they’re running against an incumbent, which is a bigger challenge.

  15. Swami,
    Thanks for the link!
    Here’s my favorite part:
    “A West Palm Beach group called Tea Party in Action is being criticized by other tea party groups … The group’s executive director, Marianne Moran, dismisses the allegations.”

    So, Marianne Moran, is the Tea Party head in question.
    A ‘Moran” to lead ‘morans.’
    Sometimes these jokes just write themselves.

  16. James,
    If Hillary doesn’t run, how about a ticket Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand?

    I’d love Wiener to run, but, let’s face some facts, this country will not elect it’s first Jewish President right after its first black one.

  17. Oh, and anyone want to see how the Republican candidates feel about pot, check this out.

    Also, one of them was caught while in college with two shoeboxes full of pot, some LSD, and drug paraphanelia, and, being a rich white kid at a rich white college, got off with a fine, when anyone else might just be getting out of jail right about now.
    Can you guess which one?
    I couldn’t.
    I was surprised.

  18. However, I doubt that even many Republican voters these days get worked up into a snit because some guy smoked marijuana in college. I’m guessing close to all college graduates (excepting Bible colleges, maybe) below the age of 65 smoked marijuana in college. For graduates of colleges on the East and West coasts, make that below the age of 70.

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