Friday, 15 July 2011

A Conservative's Guide to the Republican Primaries: Part 2

Newt Gingrich

The former Speaker of the House can be described as the veteran of the group.  Gingrich headed the Republican midterm campaign of 1994, which resulted in an unprecedented landslide for the GOP that forced President Clinton into the political centre.  Although this unwittingly allowed Clinton to win re-election in 1996, and then allowed him to take credit for the success of Republican measures, it means that Gingrich is a man who knows how to get things done politically.  He is also very eloquent when speaking — preferring cold hard logic to buzzwords — and is armed with a library of statistics at his fingertips.  However Gingrich has also been the source of infighting within the party, recently criticising Paul Ryan’s budget in a way that many felt was unnecessarily harsh.  Also, his softness on certain issues leads many of the more ideological conservatives to turn their nose up at him.  A potentially very strong candidate, with a medium chance of winning the nomination.

Sarah Palin

If you ask any man or woman in the street for the name of one Republican who may run for President, I would gamble that a comfortable majority would say “Sarah Palin.”  Since 2008 she has become (for better or for worse) an international sensation, both loved and hated in America and beyond.  Both inside and outside the Republican Party, Palin has surprisingly strong support, yet for a presidential run, those numbers quickly turn sour.  Palin is becoming the female version of radio host Rush Limbaugh; conservatives love her, but understand that a presidential run would be disastrous.  Apart from her folksy attitude that many see as unpresidential, most Republicans want the next election to be just like 2010, i.e. a referendum of the policies of Barack Obama.  Yet a Palin run would make 2012 about Sarah Palin, not about Barack Obama, leading many people to vote for Obama simply because he isn’t Sarah Palin.  It is for this reason above all that make Sarah Palin unlikely to win the nomination, if she chooses to run for it at all.  The conservative mood seems to be that Palin has a great number of skills, but becoming president isn’t one of them.

Jon Huntsman

Every set of candidates always has a “centrist” amongst them; one who eschews “ideological” politics, choosing instead that lovely buzzword of “pragmatism.”  Jon Huntsman is that candidate this year, having served as the Ambassador to China under Obama, and the one posing as the moderate.  This moderate stance is based mainly on attitude rather than policies (fiscally Huntsman is very conservative, although liberal on climate change, immigration and gay marriage), recently stating that he wanted his to be a civil campaign based on only differences of opinion rather than nasty attacks and loud rhetoric.  Such a statement has put him out of the race for many conservatives, who see this as naive in the extreme.  What is worse for Huntsman is that he is being labelled as this election’s John McCain – who also posed as a moderate obsessed with civility.  Most Republicans would be unlikely to pick yet another candidate who could only mumble in disagreement while being more concerned with not offending Obama than winning the election.  Republicans seem determined not make the McCain mistake again, and are therefore unlikely to go for Jon Huntsman.

Rick Perry

Rick Perry has been Governor of Texas since 2000, and has long been rumoured to be running for President in 2012; but as of yet he has not declared.  He is worth mentioning not only because he is likely to run, but because the conservative base is so excited about him.  A run from Perry, even late on, could be a real game changer. He is seen as a strong conservative who would still have excellent national appeal, and he has a long career of success as a tax cutter who balanced budgets.  In the Bachmann/Cain style of candidates, he has the ability to speak powerfully and inspire audiences with his fierce conservative rhetoric, and would be competing to be the candidate of the right if he were to run.  Yet his likeability and record of success means that a Perry candidacy could appeal to the mainstream as well, and it is here wherein lies his power.  Perry is seen by his supporters as proving that one does not have to be a wishy-washy moderate in order to appeal to mainstream Americans.  Whether they are correct is yet to be seen.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is in the Pawlenty school of candidates in that he is running and yet it is difficult to get too enthusiastic about him.  Although known for his confrontational style of politics, he has failed to show that style in recent debates, and has failed to make a significant impression on the race so far.  The former Senator for Pennsylvania has solid conservative credentials, but often fails to offer anything particularly unique.  He is a fiscal and social conservative who was also a Senator for a while; but that’s about it.  Additionally, many conservatives are bothered by certain statements he has made in the past; for instance, while speaking on the Boston Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, he placed some of the blame on the shoulders of Boston cultural liberalism, declaring “it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”  Although such statements are rare, they could provide the final nail in the coffin of a candidate who already doesn’t offer a great deal.

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