It’s very early, but the candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination are beginning to mix it up. Here are my personal observations so far.
Mitt Romney - Mitt has money, name recognition, charisma, gives a good speech and takes a good picture. He’s also got Romneycare around his neck. As long as he opposes Obamacare while defending Romneycare, he’s not going to appeal to the base. He may win the nomination, but if the choice is between a Republican progressive and a Democrat progressive, I think the incumbant wins.
Newt Gingrich - Newt had public relations issues before he announced and made matters worse shortly thereafter. He clearly stated that he considered Paul Ryan’s plan for block granting Medicare to be “right-wing social engineering”. He was not taken out of context or misquoted. He managed to infuriate the party base with that statement, then make himself look like a chump to everyone else, days later, when he totally reversed himself on it. Newt may well be the “smartest guy in the room” but perhaps not the wisest.
Rick Santorum - I agree with a lot of Rick’s positions, but something about the guy gives me the creeps. Judging by early polls, I’m not alone. Not a very thoughtful analysis, I know, but if the question is, does he have a chance, I think the answer is no.
Tim Pawlenty - Nice guy, I like a lot of his positions and his track record. I haven’t seen enough of him on the stump to know if he can sell himself in the national spotlight.
Herman Cain - Herman did well in the first Republican debate. He has a growing and very enthusiastic following. However, lack of political experience and not having access to classified material is not an excuse for not being at least familiar with foreign policy issues. If he’s going to have mass appeal as a potential competent commander in chief, he’s got a lot of homework to do. He should be surrounding himself with experts now, not waiting to see the election results.
Michele Bachmann - As of this moment Michele has not announced. She also has an enthusiastic following and is also subject to rookie mistakes. She’s been called out more than once for quoting figures that are not accurate. In this day and age, you have to know that everything you say is going to be scrutinized and every mistake will be held against you. She needs to get a top-rate fact checking team now, if she’s going to be a serious contender.
Gary Johnson - Love what he says, hate how he says it. He comes across to me as someone who is confident that most of the people in the room disagree with him. This smells like weakness. He needs to learn to address his supporters and convey the confidence in his convictions. If you can’t move people to action, your agenda is meaningless.
Ron Paul - Another candidate with a lot of enthusiastic supporters. Dead right on a lot of issues. Dead wrong on others. I think his appeal is still very limited. He’ll have a role in shaping the issues, but his isolationist agenda is going to be a non-starter.
Fred Karger, Vern Wuensche and Tom Miller - Who?
Other names have been suggested, most of whom are probably not even considering running. However, the biggest wild card out there, I believe, is Sara Palin.
Sara Palin - You either love her, or you hate her. What I find very appealing is that she has learned not to waste time trying to appeal to those who have already decided to hate her. I think she’s sincere when she says she’ll wait and see how the race shapes up. I believe that if she deems all the other candidates unworthy, she’ll get in late in the game. She can afford to, and I believe she would be a formidable candidate.
Ultimately, the 2012 election is going to be about the economy. If people generally feel good about how things are going, Obama gets another term, if they don’t, the other guy wins. The Republican nomination process is all about who gets to be the other guy (or gal).