Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Still the Economy, Stupid!

It appears that that the 2012 US Presidential Election is destined to be about the economy. It's certainly the pressing need, and with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the war on terror will be much less of a concern for many voters. It also appears there will be no standard-bearer for the social conservatives with the ability to make front page news.

Mitch Daniels after an award ceremonyImage via Wikipedia
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

The most obvious social conservative candidate was the former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee. When Huckabee announced that he would not run, following Mississippi Governor Hayley Barbour's similar announcement, it left a void in the Republican field of candidates.

Barbour had tremendous credentials and was a social conservative without question. Many saw Barbour's announcement that he would not run for the presidency in 2012 as a confirmation that his close friend, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, would run. That has now been disproved with Governor Daniels's announcement that he will not seek the Republican nomination. This leaves former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum as the only remaining candidate with a primarily social conservative message.

I discussed Senator Santorum's problems in the South Carolina debate in "Why Herman Cain Won and Rick Santorum Lost the GOP Debate". Having said that, Santorum is the obvious beneficiary of the decisions of Huckabee, Barbour and Daniels to not seek the GOP Presidential nomination.

I understand the arguments that will be made for the social conservative credentials of several other GOP candidates. I am not stating that these other candidates are not social conservatives; I'm stating that this is not their primary message and that this is not how they are generally perceived. Is Herman Cain a social conservative? Yes, but his message is primarily an economic one. Is Newt Gingrich a social conservative? Despite his personal history and a few twists, I would say, "Yes, but again that's not his main focus."

As for Mitt Romney, I have serious doubts about his social conservative credentials. Here is an excellent 2007 piece in the Boston Globe called "Romney's Honesty Problem" written by Joan Vennochi. Vennochi focuses on Romney's pro-choice to pro-life policy shift.

Governor Mitt Romney of MAImage via Wikipedia
Former Massachusetts Governor
Mitt Romney
My concerns about the former Massachusetts Governor go back several years and can be boiled down to one thing. Romney was strongly pro-choice though he's played that down and is now pro-life. Something is missing.

Have you ever held a position strongly and had a - call it what you will - paradigm shift, epiphany, life-changing experience? If so, I would be willing to bet that there is a story there; a good story. Some real event happened in your life that you can relate and it helps to explain how your view of the world changed. Mitt Romney has no story regarding his position on abortion and, without that narrative, I cannot believe that he has changed his mind on an important position.

I'm not a single issue voter, but a politician that professes positions in order to enhance his political opportunities is a deal-breaker for me. We don't have to agree on every issue, but if you can't present a compelling rationale for your position and adopt mine because it's easier than making the argument, then you have lost all semblance of credibility. I'm not saying Romney is guilty of this, but it doesn't look good.

Finally, in the GOP's recent past, the two wings of the party have been economic conservatives and social conservatives with a smattering of the old, liberal Rockefeller Republicans. That may no longer be true. The TEA Party is a major influence on the party and, personally, I would consider them a wing of the party. The remaining question is how will we accurately describe the other wing and how it will affect this race.
Herman CainImage by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Georgia Businessman Herman Cain

In this atmosphere, a Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman or other candidate will have a ready-made organization and could be an instant top tier contender. Currently Herman Cain seems to have the inside track with that group. Cain was a strong supporter of the TEA Party movement and they may very well be willing to return the favor.

While some bemoan the lack of candidates in the GOP field, I believe they are being short-sighted. As the primary process plays out, some candidate will secure the GOP nomination. During the battle to secure that nomination, that candidate will earn respect both inside and outside of the Republican Party. It is the process itself that should provide the necessary gravitas to go head-to-head with President Obama. In the meantime, the primaries will be very interesting and I think we will gain at least one more Republican candidate.
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1 comment:

  1. I've got to thank a friend for turning me on to Joan Vennochi's excellent post, but I hesitate to name him because he is a political writer and may not wish to be named. So until I find out differently, I will leave him mostly anonymous - but the gratitude is real. Thanks, Mike!


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