Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The GOP Peloton

President Barack Obama has recently seen an up tick in his approval rating, even among Republicans. Meanwhile, the field of 2012 Republican challengers is slowly taking shape after many fits and starts.

Now that Donald Trump and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are barely in the rearview mirror, more potential candidates are thinking about jumping into the race. Next month Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, will announce her intentions in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. She told an Iowa public television interviewer, "I've had that calling and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do and because it's such a momentous decision, not only for myself, my husband and our 28 children, it is a momentous decision." With God behind her she will certainly be formidable in the Iowa Republican Caucuses.

Not wanting to be left out, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is riding a bus dubbed "One Nation" on a family vacation of historic American sites in the northeast. Palin attracts plenty of attention wherever she goes, including from the shame-stream media. While she is coy about her presidential intentions, she has no organization to speak of. She remains a highly paid commentator on Fox News and takes in large speaking fees. All this makes it unlikely she will run but does a lot for her earning power and gives her a voice in the party.

Polls show that former Minnesota Governor Tom Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum are failing to get traction. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has been exploring his chances at a run. But Huntsman's Mormon religion, the fact he served President Obama as U.S. Ambassador to China and his relative unknown status will be major obstacles. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry (Secede from the Union) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (9/11) lurk just over the horizon.

So the GOP field promises to get crowded. And one candidate is making a big move to break out of the peloton. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is now trying to win over conservative Republicans. In an interview aired on NBC's Today Show Romney said of President Obama, "He has been one of the most ineffective presidents, at the job at hand, that I have ever seen." He gave the president an "F" for his term saying, "The number one issue he faced walking in the door was an economy in fast decline." He continued, "He didn't cause that, but he made things worse."

These comments would play well with conservatives except, as usual with Romney, there are some contradictions. The president's landmark heath care reform legislation was based on Romney's Massachusetts's health care legislation. And after opposing the president's auto company bailout, Romney claimed credit for the idea when Chrysler paid most of its taxpayer loan early. A Romney spokesperson claimed, "If they had done it earlier, as Mitt Romney had suggested, the taxpayers would have saved a lot of money."

Romney might be better served to simply say that, because of his extensive business experience, he will do a better job turning the U.S. economy around. Instead, he comes off as a desperate man trying to curry favor with his party's powerful right wing. His lack of clarity and consistency is certain to dog him--even if he is wearing blue jeans and no tie wherever he campaigns.

With little more than a year to go before Republicans select a candidate to take on President Obama in the 2012 presidential election, it is still unclear who will emerge from the peloton. And, unless there is another economic downturn, it is even more uncertain whether any of these candidates can unify their deeply divided party and attract crucial independent voters.

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