14 July 2011

Requiem for a Heavyweight.....

Final part of the trilogy on the Republican challengers for 2012. This is almost a 'wishful thinking' post, as all of these personalities might, by some reckoning have a strong chance of defeating Obama given the continuing economic woes in the US. Originally about four candidates, the latest from the Huffington Post has forced a fifth name into the reckoning, not least because the other four have declared (in one case categorically) that they are definitely not in the running.

The candidate who has not ruled himself out at some point over the last 18 months is Rick Perry, current Governor of Texas, (successor to George W Bush in the role) although it should be emphasised that he is not even at the stage of an exploratory committee as yet, so would have some major catching up to do were he to run. Perry's politics fit very much into the Southern Republican mould - he is strongly religious, and an advocate of smaller government. He is on record as mentioning he might look to repeal the 16th amendment to the Constitution. This enables the Government to raise Income taxes without distributing the proceeds evenly amongst the states. As is pretty much mandatory within Texan politics, Perry favours Capital punishment, and is on the record as challenging the legitmacy of 'anthropogenic Global Warming'. So far, so relatively predictable, but unlike his predecessor in the role as Texas gubernator, Perry lacked the familial connections, and is thus somewhat more intellectual than W (admittedly hardly the most pre-eminent of minds to hold the US' highest office) I don't think Perry would win in an election against Obama but he would be a more credible candidate than many that have thrown their hat in the ring. Texas alone carries now 38 electoral college votes (an increase of four to reflect population trends since 2008), second only to California and Perry, although not the candidate of choice for the Tea Party and some of the Christian right, is likely to be more popular with that base than say, Romney or Huntsman. He would certainly prompt the Democrats to sharpen their activity up, if nothing else.

A candidate who should be familiar to veterans of cuts protests and anti war marches (amongst other fellow travellers) is 'Jeb' Bushbrother of the former president and former governor of Florida. Could we see a third Bush in the White House. Leftists of all hues will be aghast at the prospect and surely, it would be pointed out that the somewhat chequered record of his brother would count as an insurmountable problem for him. Fortunately for those anti war veterans who considered the 43rd President a less desirable visitor to the UK than Nicolae Ceaucescu and Robert Mugabe the elder Bush has closed the door on the possibility of a 2012 run. Jeb's politics do differ somewhat from the Younger 'W''s and for many in the Us political scene he would pose far more of a challenge than him in terms of an opponent. He was the first Republican ever to win re-election to ther governorship of Florida, and his standing amongst Cuban exiles is likely to play well in other states with quite high Hispanic populations. Undoubtedly, the Left would rail against the coming of another Bush but I think even his detractors would argue he posed a serious threat to a second term.

Less well known to UK readers will be Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who has led the opposition to the Debt cutting plans of Obama in the House of Representatives, and trailed the 'Republican alternative' to Obama's plans, 'the Path to prosperity'. As with Jeb Bush, Ryan has ruled himself out of the running for 2012, but he has the advantage of relative youth (only 41) and being the 'Public face' of the opposition to Obama within the legislature. His position on social issues is relatively unmapped, although his Catholic faith might not play well with some of the 'Tea Party' fringe. The proposals he co-authored drew heavy flak from Liberal economists, foremost amongst them, Giroscoper's sage, Paul Krugman, as being uncosted and unworkable. Nevertheless, Ryan's Northern roots in what is a relatively Liberal state (Wisconsin) might have given him a more general appeal than the hotch potch of candidates who have declared.

The fourth candidate, and arguably one who would be second most dangerous to Obama is Chris Christie, current governor of New Jersey. Described as looking like Tony Soprano from the HBO series, Christie's success in winning the 'Garden state' has Democratic strategists worrying that his message is arguably the one most likely to resonate with the widest voter pool. Christie is of part Irish, part italian ancestry which should make him formidable in the Eastern states which are traditional locks for the Democrats. His governorship has been marked by cuts to Public spending and a refusal to raise state taxes. Nevertheless, unlike some of the more extreme candidates, Christie is relatively speaking, socially Liberal, and thus would make a dangerous opponent for Obama. Nevertheless, at this time, he has ruled himself out of the running.

The candidate who is described is the Republican 'Luke Skywalker' and arguably on ethnic grounds poses the greatest challenge is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Winning his seat in 2010 by a margin of 19 points, Rubio is hailed as the 'counter- Obama' although he has stated categorically that he will not run in 2012. Rubio is only 40 years old and his Hispanic roots would go a long way to mobilising support in what is the fastest growing constituency in the United states. One issue with those who perhaps get a little 'over excited' at the prospect of a Rubio presidential run, is that unlike 'African - Americans', Hispanic voters do not tend to vote 'en bloc' (Obama carried 95% of the Black vote in 2008) As a relatively recent entrant to the Senate, his political positions are evolving although he is socially Conservative. Nevertheless, were he able to unite the Hispanic vote along the same lines as Obama managed in 2008 with the Black vote, then he would most likely take 124 electoral College votes (California @ 55, Texas @ 38 and New York @ 31) which would, given the innate conservatism of many of the smaller states, make the winning post for the Democrats an insurmountable obstacle.

As pointed out, initially, this post was something of an exercise in 'wishful thinking' To date, even Rick Perry has not yet declared himself in the running. Currently, Mitt Romney remains the favourite, although he seems likely to lose in the somewhat eccentric state of Iowa, to Michele Bachmann! Either way, it looks like being a long 2012 for supporters of the Republican Party. Now where's the ghost of Ronald Reagan when you need him.....

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