Thursday, March 03, 2011

2012: The GOP Field

I'm not sure any potential 2012 GOP Presidential candidates want it as much as Obama did and does. Part of the problem for them is that he looks like he's flipped around the midterm crash, all while his favorability ratings never dipped all that much, pretty decent historically for the first few years of a new Presidency. The other part of the problem — and I think this is the backbone of his enduring electoral strength — is that he seems to be President for all the right reasons: he he's in government to help people and thinks he has the best ideas and leadership to do that. He's pragmatic centrist (to much so for some in areas like rendition and compromise) with a conservatively-paced progressive policy leaning.

Compared to Obama, which of those potential GOP challengers has as pure motives for wanting the job? Newt has always been in it for fame and money, Palin's insatiable ego makes his look quaint, Huckabee is kind of the ultimate celebrutate (Jon Stewart coinage last night) since he's really solid on TV but getting fat again and way too comfortable. Daniels is interesting and may know compromise but he's not got the Obama level of fire. Romney? I think his drive is as Oedipal as W.'s was; I get the sense he's running because his dad couldn't get the GOP nomination forty-three years ago. If he's pandering so much now, what makes him think he won't be as President? Boss as lackey.

Really, the Fox candidates seem to disqualify themselves by taking the Fox money in the first place. It's like, they made their choice, and public service wasn't it.

Ron Paul is pure, if he runs again, which he probably won't be. (Rand would not be pure -- Oedipus again, expect to see it in six years, when everyone and their cousin will be taking a shot — your Bob McDonnell, maybe John Thune and maybe Scott Walker.) Does anyone think Haley Barbour will be a harder worker as Obama? Will Rick Santorum run as a way to gin up profile and future revenues from his one-note candidacy? Who is Tim Pawlenty?

I'm thinking it's the perfect opening for Jeb Bush to run and lose honorably. Get that monkey off his back.

Because if employment continues to inch back and Libyan oil shortages don't kill the recovery, it's going to be even more placeholder than Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton in 1996. And they all know it. I don't see one of them who really, deep down, thinks he can beat Obama, with the potential exception of Mitt, who must believe it enough to be doing his backflips over his Massachusetts health plan.

The only potentially interesting candidate is former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, whom Obama appointed as Ambassador to China, a job he just resigned to run. Smart guy, not (as far as can tell) an ideologue. May be running for the right reasons, although I expect it'll mainly serve to give him the experience to run again and win both nomination and Presidency in 2016. If he gets the nomination next year (yes, it's that soon) and loses, he's toast for 2016. If he loses at the VP candidate, he's still good. And there's always the chance he could come from out of nowhere, establish a positive national image out of the gate and (with help from a faltering economy) win over Obama. As an unknown, he already has the best shot of the bunch.

I don't even think Palin still believes she can beat him. You can see it in her eyes, she's spooked these days. So I do hope she goes for it.

It'd be an awesome couple of months.

No comments: