“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Monday, May 16, 2011

The GOP Presidential Field

The Wall Street Journal pulled no punches in its criticism of Mitt Romney in its May 12 lead staff editorial. With a title like Obama's Running Mate, you knew it wouldn't be kind. Romney replied with a letter to the editor a day later, the details of which caused me to wonder if the two were even referring to some of the same data. For example, the Journal claimed that RomneyCare is soaking up 40% of the Massachusetts state budget, while Romney alleged it's less than 5%.

Meanwhile, the aging and progressively less-relevant one-time Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan devoted her weekend Journal column to discussing Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. Then veered off into a largely unrelated tangent concerning presidents or candidates who cheat on their wives now, rather than in the past.

However, with the recent South Carolina GOP candidates debate now recent history, it's probably time for the first of a running series of my personal views on and handicapping of the GOP presidential race.

As of last night, possibly on his Fox News program, Mike Huckabee formally announced he won't seek the nomination. Gingrich, earlier in the week, announced he will.

Thus we have, at this point, the following:

Declared: Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Jon Hunstman

Undeclared: Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman

Not Running: Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie

The way I choose to classify these candidates is along these lines:

Who is electable?
Who do I prefer?

Who is electable? This is, for me, the more important question. When Bill Clinton was president, it was hard to claim he was really screwing things up. Gifted with a recovering economy, thanks to George H.W. Bush, Clinton didn't have to do much to get re-elected. Even his affairs weren't enough to sink him.

This time, though, we have a president who has actually messed up every single thing he's touched. I don't count the killing of Bin Laden, because that was a one-off mission that Wonderboy didn't actually "touch," but on which he simply gave the go-ahead. In economics, health care, the budget/deficit and foreign policy, the First Rookie has failed miserably.

Thus, for any sensible conservative, whether Republican or not, the most important task is to nominate a GOP candidate who has the best chance of winning, and isn't Obama, because literally anyone will be better than our incumbent.

That means the Republican who is most appealing to independent voters should be nominated, in order to earn as many of that 40% block of voters as possible.

Karl Rove does a great job analyzing the details of the election. He recently wrote a column in the Journal identifying which states are the key few in the electoral college to win the election. That's certainly one way to analyze 2012.

Another is to consider this. McCain ran a terrible campaign, nearly every black voted for Wonderboy, as did millions of upscale Yuppy whites who felt guilty about the country's segregationist past. Even so, Obama only won by 6 percentage points.

A younger, less grumpy, appealing GOP candidate should be able to sweep Obama out with some ease. Many of the wealthier whites now realize their mistake and won't repeat it. Independents who worry about ObamaCare and the deficit should be easy to pick up, too.

So, if I had omniscience, I'd simply choose the GOP candidate for whom the most independents would vote. Short of that, I'd use the latest Rasmussen poll with those results.

Since I don't have those numbers at hand, and it's still early, here are my personal view of who is electable in the general election.

Electable: Gingrich, Daniels

Unelectable: Ron Paul, Hunstman, Johnson, Cain, Bachman, Santorum, Palin, Romney

Here are my reasons for the latter group's unelectability.

Ron Paul- Too cranky and quirky. Too little executive experience. Good ideas and values, but just out of step on too many fronts. Too libertarian to grab the center of the independents.

Johnson, Santorum- Too little name recognition and too narrow a base of appeal.

Palin- Too shallow, too little time as governor and she left the job. Too quirky and undisciplined to remain trustworthy by independents. Too much of an outsider for most Republicans.

Romney- RomneyCare. And he has nothing new to offer since the last time he lost.

Bachman- Too little experience. Just too shallow on experience at this point in her life to run successfully against a sitting president.

So that leaves Ginrich and Daniels.

When I read the story regarding Daniels' wife in the Wall Street Journal, my first reaction was that he is unelectable. And I sort of think he is, but, if that personal detail can be overcome, he's got the right ideological and experiential credentials. But it's just bizarre that his wife left him and their four daughters in Indiana, divorced him, married someone in California for two years, divorced him, moved back and remarried Daniels. And neither will talk about it.

Very weird.

Gingrich, if he could avoid primaries and debates, would probably win a general election against Wonderboy. The debates would be great, and Newt would eat the president alive because he's smarter and more knowledgeable, plus he held the only Congressional post of national rank and importance- Speaker of the House.

Of course, Newt's fondness for the ethanol lobby, his large ego, and his appalling treatment of two ex-wives, on whom he cheated while married to them, isn't going to inspire confidence and trust in his actual personal values.

My personal preference? Probably Newt Gingrich, followed by Mitch Daniels. Herman Cain, by virtue of his candor and business experience, would be third.

I think Gingrich would actually be a pretty effective president for at least one term. It would be the completion of his House agenda of nearly 20 years ago.

Daniels is also pretty appealing to me. He has so many of the ideal credentials, but that divorce by his wife seems odd. And his offer to table social issues is misguided and may spell an unrealistic view of the genuine federal-level problems which intertwine spending and social programs.

But, in the final analysis, we only need someone who won't be Wonderboy for just four years. After that, other Republicans will emerge, perhaps other problems, too.

With all their warts and weaknesses, either Gingrich or Daniels could likely last for four years while doing a good job on the budget, reforming badly-designed entitlement programs, and repairing foreign policy.

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