May: A Better Republican Candidate Assessment (Four who could win, but probably won't)
These four merit consideration. They could possibly win, but it looks pretty tough. I will list them from least to most likely. Bear in mind: the bottom-line is not who I like the best personally, philosophically or in terms of experience. The bottom-line is who can animate the party and win the election, as testified to by the fact that my top two preferences in the next post will show little common virtues, beyond being conservative and understanding that America has a BIG problem. The truth is, my instincts about what serves the interest of the American ideal best are more radical than all of them. But, I’m not going to be President. If someone knows how I can raise a billion dollars, I might give it a shot.
So first consider Newt Gingrich, whom I favor least and has the least chance. Consistent with my belief that you should highlight a politician’s virtues before his shortcomings, I should say that there are some respects (not dispositive obviously) in which Gingrich is the best candidate in the field. He is innovative and light on his feet in responding to a challenge; no small matter. He also has a sense of how a policy track could encounter political trouble. It’s unfortunate for him that he has not been as cautious with his off-the-cuff words. The only way I can make any sense of what he said Sunday on Meet The Press, is to suppose that he was prematurely posturing for a national audience by going light on the Medicare pedal. Unfortunately, it’s Republican nomination time. My problem with Gingrich is that he concedes principle for what he sees as political pragmatism too quickly. Well for one thing, he’s a politician and I’m not. If I could run, I’d still tell the truth about what I believe and risk being tossed out on my ear. At THAT, I might be a smashing success! But, I could never breathe a word of support for a federal mandate of what individuals must purchase. Nor to promote federal action to impede liberty to supposedly dampen “climate change,” as Gingrich did a few years ago in a national ad with Nancy Pelosi. I say supposedly because 1) even if people were causing such a thing, there is NOTHING America could do to dampen it. And 2) I’ve looked at the actual scientific data and listened to actual climate and geo-scientists enough to know that there IS no such anthropogenic climate change. Gingrich must know that first and if he doesn’t, should know it the second before he takes such an action. I suspect he did, but acted as he perceived was politically auspicious at the time: bad pragmatic choice that came back to bite him.
I think his age and standing as a longtime member of the Republican establishment, is not what is needed against Barack Obama in 2012. That is mostly what’s driven some aggravated conservatives to collar him with that misunderstood and overused tag, “RINO.” Some even include an “H” (unaware even of the acronym’s inspiration?) I was around at the birth of the term, "RINO," and on the conservative side. And Monday found it flying on the web, after his Meet The Press appearance. But I don't think Newt Gingrich is a RINO. He's a smart innovative historian with conservative instincts who is too reflexive with his responses. And, he would decimate Obama in a debate. But, I seriously doubt he will get near such a debate. He’s really not what we need in a candidate for President. But I think he could be a useful advisor to a younger and more resolute candidate who could add his counsel to their considerations.
Rick Santorum I like well enough. But, he’s going to have quite a beating to fend off on his recent electoral record. He served in the Senate and was wiped out by a large margin in the 2008 Obamenon. Again, knock yourself out, but I don’t see where the former Pennsylvania Senator breaks out and distinguishes himself. Most of them have to do this somehow. But, some of them have unique characteristics, experience, or backing to give them a good push. What is Santorum’s? He has every right to try, but I don’t foresee it. Especially when you let words leak out like he did about John McCain. I agree with Santorum that “enhanced interrogation” (most specifically water-boarding) helped us get vital information from the few people whom we believed had it. But you are handing a weapon to potential critics when you let the words out that John McCain doesn’t understand enhanced interrogation. He says he said that John McCain doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I think McCain doesn’t think we should use torture. He had his shoulders dislocated and was suspended by them in Vietnam, and he endured it. He thinks America is better than to torture. What McCain mistakenly accepts as he has before, is the story of those around him that water boarding is torture. However you want to label it, it is not the same as electric shock, pulling out fingernails, or what McCain endured. If you insist on calling it torture because it induces desperation, then let’s admit that there is tortureA and tortureB. But Santorum should have more carefully expressed it and avoided such scrutiny and invitation of ridicule.
Honestly I haven’t studied John Huntsman enough. Some say he’s a very possible candidate, and after leaving his China post, he’s surely looking at it. He could out-money Romney, which is fun to think about, and he’s about as striking a physical figure. He could take a chunk out of Romney’s support, and I’m all for that. He will need that money and an exceptional sales delivery to run past the field even in name identity. If he can do that, more power to him. Huntsman was governor of the conservative state of Utah. Yes, he’s LDS, but that is not disqualifying to me, of itself. He was reelected in 2008 by a whopping 58-point margin, before he was picked by Barack Obama to be ambassador to China. Having served in any position in the Obama administration will be an obstacle in a Republican primary for Huntsman to clear away. But even that is not a deal-breaker for me. Like Defense Secretary Robert Gates, he took the opportunity to serve his country by trying to hold things together. Thank God we’ve had a few of those who weren’t statist drones. I imagine Obama hoped to keep him off the field, like Hillary at Secretary of State. It isn’t plain to me how he could capture the nomination, but the money’s a heck of the boost, and he doesn’t seem to have Romney’s ambition to try to deride and discredit his opposition through deceit. If he can pull it off, more power to him. I’m listening.
I’d be perfectly happy to see Herman Cain inspire a support that moves him to the top tier of contention. He cuts through and is not distracted by nonsense. An experienced business executive and Chairman of The Federal Reserve Board, but with no legislative or executive exposure to inside military and intelligence information, he coolly and correctly responded to a question about how he would handle a certain defense crisis, that as President, he would gather the counsel of his advisors and the intelligence available to the President and make an executive decision. I don’t think much of the idea that only a few with certain government experience are qualified to be president. It’s not true constitutionally or practically. A responsible and moral executive considers all the information of the situation, and acts as his conscience and instinct dictates. And Cain appears to have all of that qualification and a positive demeanor to boot. But, HE has to move the voters to have confidence in him.
The next post will consider the four that I think already have the backing and ability to win the nomination and probably the general election. None are officially in, though three say they are considering a run.