Now that I am done with my Habitat temp job, it’s time to get down to what’s really important: crudely assessing the Republican presidential field. I tend to think it’s pretty weak, and, to be honest, a bit embarrassing for Republicans. Three big heavyweights are sitting out this round: Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie. I think the main reason is that they realize how little of a chance anyone stands of beating Obama in 2012. Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are young, and despite what Christie recently said to my old pals on Fox & Friends, they both would make great VPs. However, let’s look at who’s running.
In general, I think that there are three types of candidates. For the first, it’s a publicity stunt, a way to sell books, raise your profile, and advance your career (think Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain).
In the second group are those that have very little or no chance of achieving the nomination, but they hope to shape the debate. Ron Paul is the quintessence of this group. Gary Johnson joins Paul in his love for most things libertarian, and I tend to like him. He seems interested in solving problems and is refreshingly thoughtful on policy issues. For example, in the June 13th CNN debate he proposed a kind of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants which centered around making it easy to achieve work VISAs. I find it sad that it takes guts to suggest this in the Republican world of absolutist solutions (e.g. send everyone back!). He’s also a fan of legalizing many types of drugs, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Newt Gingrich has such high negatives that he really has little chance of being president, but he hopes to shape the discussion and be the Republican ideas man. This hope betrays an intent that indicates a firm footing in the first group as well, as he hopes to sell more of the 21 books he’s published. Really, the guy has very little chance, and you better believe that he knows it too. Finally, Rick Santorum is in this group as well. He wants to shape the debate by bringing the pet issues of the religious right to the forefront. The problem is that he cannot distinguish himself as everyone seems on board. There is no front runner like Rudy Guiliani who is pro-choice. Nonetheless, I do believe that Santorum thinks Santorum has a shot at winning everything.
The third type of presidential candidate is actually running for president. So far, only three people populate this group: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Jon Huntsman. Mitt is the frontrunner I suppose, but these early polls are extremely meaningless. I think he’s the frontrunner in large part because he is the only one of these three with larger name recognition, a holdover from the last presidential contest. However, I remember him primarily for conveniently flip-flopping on abortion, viciously attacking John McCain in the primary debates last time around, and spending a shit-ton of money in Iowa and losing to an insurgent, relatively poor, and likable Huckabee. I am comforted by the fact that even Romney’s supporters don’t really seem to like him, and may easily defect. These numbers won’t be replaced, because he can’t get much tea party support with his record on health care reform, which is so toxic to the extreme elements in his party. Tim Pawlenty seems like a serious candidate, but he seems to be continually trying to feign outrage in order to grab some share of the Tea Party. But he’s not an angry guy, and he’s not really that confrontational, as was shown by how he sidestepped his Obamneycare line at the June 13th debate. Also, I just disagree with him about most things he says. So that leaves us with Jon Huntsman, my current fav. I’ll talk about why in my next post.