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The Small Field

Rich Lowry fears that the Republican presidential field might be Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich at the top of the pack with Rick Santorum, John Huntsman, Herman Cain and Gary Johnson running behind.  Yikes.  Here are some thoughts on some of the candidates Lowry mentions,

Romney - It's all been said.  His authenticity problems (both as to style and substance) aren't going away.  Ramesh Ponnuru explains why Romneycare will probably be a bigger hurdle for Romney in 2012 than it was in 2008.

Gingrich - He has never shown appeal to voters outside a subgroup of conservatives.  I doubt he could get elected Senator from Georgia never mind President of the United States.  Even if he couldn't win, there was a time when Gingrich would have been useful in the primaries because he would raise important ideas that other candidates might ignore.  That time has gone. Look at this battle plan Gingrich came up with for congressional Republicans in 2006. Not even getting into the disintegration of his second marriage, or his ethanol demagoguery, Gingrich has turned being "the ideas guy" into a hustle.

Pawlenty - I've read some people knock him as being too bland.  Actually, when he gets in front of a national audience, Pawlenty tends to become obnoxious.  Remember his 2010 CPAC speech when he suggested that America take inspiration from an act of domestic violence?  He meant spousal abuse and not terrorism but I don't know if that makes it worse or better.  His 2011 CPAC speech was an improvement.  He gave us a glimpse of an agenda when he said "whether it's education, health care, housing, or just about anything else, we need to put people in charge, give them the power to make their own decisions, not government."  That is a good start, but it is worthless if it stays at that level of abstraction.  We'll see if he can use those basic principles to craft policies and then explain the benefits of those policies to persuadable voters.  But even in 2011, Pawlenty couldn't help himself.  The transcript doesn't do justice to Pawlenty's pro wrestling-style phony outrage when he bellowed "And, Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country."  Well I guess it beats having anything real to say about the unfolding events in Egypt or ongoing American counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.  Pawlenty actually has an okay record as governor.  He kept spending down and didn't raise taxes (well he tried to raise cigarette taxes but it was a complicated failure.)  He instituted some price transparency reforms in health care.  They aren't game changers absent changes in coverage mandates and tax subsidies, but they are something.  He has a record as a consistent social conservative.  Pawlenty obviously wants to be President very badly.  I doubt he is what this country needs, but I would guess he has the best chance of winning of any of the candidates Lowry mentions.  That means he is probably doomed.

Herman Cain - He lost the only political campaign he ever ran and the FairTax will come back to haunt him if he becomes more than a gadfly candidate.  But in a small field where the better known candidates are making clumsy and transparently cynical appeals to conservatives, there might be an opening for a principled populist outsider with a business background and a good understanding of the right-leaning media.

A Pawlenty vs. Romney is likely to resolve itself as a battle between the attempted tax raiser and the flip-flopping stepfather of Obamacare.  That would be a waste of the public's attention.  I think the field Lowry describes would probably lead us to:


Categories > Politics

Discussions - 5 Comments

It is possible to eat yourself with realism. After all Obama is likely winner on prediction markets in 2012, and this suppresses the field, until gas hits 4.50 a gallon on the back of 140 oil, and the economy plunges into recession in 2012.

So who is best on principle(the principle being what the country needs) and why?

As I predicted Sarah Palin lost serious traction and probably won't run.

Mitt Romney is always ahead, but no one is sure who likes him. We just know from the overlords that he is, and he is a serious policy guy, and business leader, and might not be horrible except that would involve changing minds about the entire dynamics and policy merits of Romneycare/Obamacare, and no one has magic jazz fingers for that sort of Zietgest shift.

As a libertarian murdered by realism, and born again in the fetid pools of cynicism, I can at least remmember the time when I absolutely hated this sort of who is ahead game, so it strikes me that maybe just maybe if Obama is far ahead in the projections, and everyone has given up hope republicans could at least nominate Ron Paul as sucker in chief.

The way I see it Ron Paul is unequivocally pure in his ideas, and he is basically the only one. I mean if we aren't bullshiting ourselves with puffery, we kinda know that Palin isn't a quarter of the teaparty that Ron Paul is.

Put out Ron Paul, targeting the Fed/monetary policy and his authentic libertarian message and see how it plays. If Gas is above $4 a barrel, the somewhat flawed, but somewhat true story that it is about inflation, and fraudulent misrepresentation in gamming the true inflation in this country will have legs.

You might even get some idealistic proggressives to vote for Ron Paul simply because they are demoralized and are resigning themselves to fighting a sort of realism about what presidents in a two party system can do.

Consider it a sort of bone tossed to the folks who see a great tension between realism/pragmatism and PRINCIPLES.

It would be more interesting for me to watch anyways.

My big idea, FWIW: Keep trying to draft Chris Christie.

If Obama is looking weak going into '12, how can the big guy stay out?

As for TPaw, I woulda thought he'd be a good bet, having been governor of a state with highly competitive two-party politics, but if Pete is this down on him, I dunno . . . .

Pete, you are a very pragmatic political thinker, which is sometimes a good thing. I recall, it was that kind of "is he electable" logic that gave us McCain in 2008. We really can't afford to be completely pragmatic when battling a charismatic figure like Obama.

But suggestions about Jindal and Christie are on the right track. We need a guy with some UMPH.

Race, I'm not THAT down on Pawlenty. I'm just not all that up on him. We could do worse (and we are!) In the 2008 field, Tommy Thompson certainly qualified as an "[ex] governor of a state with highly competitive two-party politics." He also had a more impressive record as governor than Pawlenty (or Romney or Huckabee.) He ended up getting far fewer primary votes than Ron Paul.

Redwald, I agree that electability should be neither the only nor always the highest consideration. After all, the most obviously electable of the likely 2012 presidential candidates is President Obama.

I'm not sure I understand your point about Jindal and Christie and umph. Aren't you making a (possibly wise) argument from pragmatic considerations of electability?

I think it is possible to overestimate the power of "electability" logic in the nomination of McCain. We should leave open the possibility that the Republican voters actually liked and respected him more than his primary opponents.

Discussions of this sort are onanistic.

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