Since my last blog post, many things have happened in the GOP nominating process. It is pretty amazing to watch the ebbs and flows of the race continue, even though polls have shown that most Republicans are satisfied with the choices that they have in the race. One thing has become very evident to me throughout this race: Govs. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) and Chris Christie (R-NJ) look like absolute geniuses right now. Why would I make such a statement?
Well, for starters, everyone knows that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) will be the nominee. His performance in the debates have been capital. He is the only frontrunning candidate that has maintained a steady level of support since the beginning of this race. And finally, we all know that national polls mean absolutely nothing in the context of an electoral system where winners are decided on a state-by-state basis. Can any of you honestly see Newt Gingrich/Herman Cain/Rick Perry winning in Iowa or New Hampshire at this point? How about Nevada? Michigan or Florida? Their only potential win in any of the early states comes in South Carolina, where even if any of them wins, it will be a squeaker that will not be able to get them back in the game. South Carolina’s preeminence in the Republican primary system comes from its ability to confirm frontrunner status on those who have won primaries prior to the South’s first primary (Reagan won New Hampshire in 1980, H.W. Bush won New Hampshire in 1988, Dole won Iowa in 1996, W. Bush won Iowa in 2000, and McCain won New Hampshire in 2008). At this point, with polls showing Romney within striking distance in Iowa (even though he has barely campaigned there) and a massive Romney lead in New Hampshire, it seems to be all over but the shouting.
Second, every “savior” that has jumped into the race expecting to sweep the nomination has been thwarted. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) was the talk of the town when he first jumped in the race in August. Even my progressive friends (and myself, to be honest) openly pondered whether he could actually defeat President Obama. That was, of course, before Treasonous Bernanke, Niggerhead, and Oops. Then there was the rise of Herman Cain, the businessman-turned-radio show host-turned-Presidential candidate that seemed to captivate the nation with one refrain: 9-9-9. It was such a simple message on such a complex issue: replace most federal taxes with a 9 percent corporate tax, a 9 percent income tax, and a 9 percent federal sales tax. There were, however, a couple of problems on the horizon. The first problem came with the tax plan, and the fact that it would not eliminate state sales taxes, which would make the sales tax portion of it especially regressive on low-income families (but then again, if you are low-income to begin with, it is your fault). The second problem came with his….inability to answer simple questions. And the third, and biggest, problem has been his (alleged) inability to follow the third rule on most elementary school teachers’ rules posters: keep your hands to yourself. Who has come thundering in to replace Herman Cain as the flavor du jour? None other than Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House. His support has surged to where he is near the top of the polls in the race. It is pretty incredible considering the fact that he has seemingly done everything that he can to take himself out of contention. But now that he is in the hunt, he will also be scrutinized, and people may not like what they see. Perhaps it will be the fact that Gingrich himself was for an individual mandate before he was against it (to be fair, the individual mandate was supported by many Republicans back when they were actually sane). Perhaps it is his strategy of constantly haranguing debate moderators instead of actually answering questions. Or perhaps it might be his own sordid personal life, which is particularly hypocritical as it just happened to play out as he advocated the impeachment and removal from office of a President on the grounds of moral turpitude (I really do not need to link this….Google it). Either way, I have a very hard time seeing where this latest savior catches on any more than the others.
So that leaves Romney. We are, again, throwing national polls out because we do not elect Presidents by popular vote. When you dig down into the state level polls, the race is pretty even at this point: Romney appears to be up slightly in Florida, Obama up slightly in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Considering the shellacking that President Obama has taken this year from the unemployment numbers remaining somewhat dismal and the debt ceiling/debt downgrade fiasco, that bodes somewhat well for the President. This is not to say that the President does not still face a tough re-election bid; he does. But let’s face it: any other President under these economic circumstances would be facing a historic defeat (think H.W. Bush in 1992), and President Obama is doing fairly well. And, of course, we cannot forget this and this.
Christie and Daniels will have an opportunity to continue building themselves up as forces in the Republican Party. While Christie could face a tough re-election bid (especially if he has to run against Newark Mayor Cory Booker), Daniels is already in his second term, and will be on his way out in 2012. Daniels’ moderation on social issues and economic conservatism will play well with those who have grown tired of the Tea Party, and that number could be quite high by the time 2016 rolls around. The more this contest grinds on, the decision for them to stay out of the Presidential race looks better by the day.