Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Early Look at the Republican Presidential Contenders (update 1)

Back on June 27 I posted An Early Look at the Republican Presidential Contenders wherein I offered my initial thoughts on the Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for President. With another debate scheduled for tonight, the time seemed right to take my first look back and see what, if anything, I would change about my analysis and prognostications. I may make this something of a series to return to from time to time. With that in mind, I’ve decided to reprint all of my discussions about the candidates from the original post (with a few typo corrections). At the end of the section for each candidate, I’ll offer some follow-up thoughts in red.

Presidential Candidate Mitt RomneyMitt Romney

Romney seems to have several major flaws that I think will wind up hurting him. First, he’s a Mormon. While we don’t have religious tests for public office, I have to wonder the extent to which evangelical Republicans will be put off by Romney’s religion. From my perspective, his religion shouldn’t matter (though what he himself believes and how he lives, are obviously relevant); but I tend to think that there is a large part of the electorate — perhaps the same part that continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim — who won’t vote for a Mormon (and might not vote for a Catholic or Jew). And I’m not sure that I’d trust polls on this issue. I think that a lot of voters who, in reality, would not vote for a Mormon (or Jew or whatever) will be embarrassed to admit that to a pollster. Nobody wants to be labeled a bigot, even anonymously.

Second, Romney has earned a reputation for flip-flopping on his positions on certain issues (in particular, abortion). For whatever reason, it seems to be a political liability for a candidate to change his or her mind. For myself, I don’t have a problem with a candidate who changes a position on the basis of new information or of the evolving nature of societal acceptance of certain things or any of a host of other reasonable explanations (provided that the candidate offers a good explanation). But I will agree with a lot of people who don’t like politicians who appear to change positions, not because of any deep reason, but simply for political expediency. As we get closer to actual voting, I suspect that Romney’s opponents (or PACs who don’t like him) will flood particular markets with video of Romney’s very strong support of abortion rights in a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate some years ago. I think Romney will have a hard time explaining his change of position that doesn’t come off as pandering for political expediency, especially when his “flip-flop” is shown as just one of a pattern.

Next, given how unpopular healthcare reform has been on the right (at least by those who are completely uninformed about what the healthcare reform legislation really did, as opposed to the lies and fear-mongering that they’ve been spoon fed), I think that Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare reform (I won’t call it Romneycare, mostly for the same reasons that I don’t call the federal healthcare reform Obamacare) will be the proverbial albatross around Romney’s neck.

Finally, have you noticed how, even though Romney is supposedly the frontrunner, nobody seems to really like him much? I’m not sure what that’s all about (I haven’t watched or listened to him enough), but somehow he just doesn’t generate any real enthusiasm. If people aren’t excited about the candidate, how much of an effort (not just giving money) will they make to get that candidate elected?

Wow! Go back and read that last paragraph again. Then think about the fact that within a week or two after Rick Perry announced that he was entering the race (and before Gov. Perry has appeared in any debates…), Romney’s support plummeted while Gov. Perry’s soared? Does that suggest to you that support for Romney was very soft? That’s how I read it. The challenge for Romney in the coming weeks is to convince voters that Perry is too far right to actually beat President Obama in 2012 while positioning himself both as someone who can beat President Obama and who still aligns with the views of those who are as far right as Perry. Not an easy tightrope to walk. And given that Romney is already perceived as being an empty suit that tries to be everything to everybody, trying to walk that particular tightrope may just exacerbate one of his major weaknesses.

Presidential Candidate Tim PawlentyTim Pawlenty

Pawlenty is a bit of a wild card to me. I really don’t know much about him or his policies as Governor of Minnesota. The way I see it, Pawlenty may have a big upside if he can get people to notice him and pay attention. But so far, he hasn’t been able to do that and he’s been in the race for a long time. And Iowa, the site of the first primary (well, caucus, actually) is just next door. So you’d think that he’d be able to make an impact. But, for whatever reason, he seems to be stuck in neutral (or even moving downwards). Add to that the fact that he appears to be challenging for many of the same voters as fellow Minnesotan (is that right?) Michelle Bachmann. Two candidates from the same region competing for the same space. If voters were making choices on the basis of intelligence and reason, then Pawlenty should win that mini-race by default; but as we know, many voters make their decisions on many facts other than such silly things as intelligence, qualifications, and competence.

Unless Pawlenty can gain some major traction soon, I think that he’s going to be dead in the water.

Well now. Is an “I told you so” in order? Pawlenty couldn’t win voters away from Bachmann (and query not just what that says about Bachmann, but also what it says about voters…) and so he’s already become the first casualty of the race.

Presidential Candidate Michele BachmannMichele Bachmann

That I’m even including Bachmann in this list is literally painful. Seriously. The degree of stupidity exhibited by this woman is so frightening that I’m actually terrified of what it says about members of the voting public that anyone would support this ignoramus. But at least she’s smarter than Sarah Palin. Then again, my 11-year-olds are smarter than Sarah Palin (as are both of my dogs, my old pet rock, and that sock I wore the other day), so that’s not saying much.

I’m torn on what I think Bachmann’s chances are. On one hand, if voters really listen to her and to some of the things that she’s said in the past, to how easily she just makes shit up or lies, to her complete disdain for science and evidence, and to her constant appeals to our xenophobic and bigoted instincts, then I think that she’ll end up on the trash heap of failed candidates. On the other hand, look at how many people believed in “death panels” or worry that sharia law is taking over America or honestly believe that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who hates America or that being liberal (or even just a Democrat) is akin to being a Marxist, socialist, fascist, or some other form of evil intent on destroying America. Those people will love Bachmann. So the question is whether people, as the primaries draw nearer, will think before they vote, or whether they will continue to allow themselves to be guided to decisions premised on lies.

Bachmann did well in the New Hampshire debate a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how she does with more and more aggressive questioning — not to mention attacks by other candidates — as the campaign progresses. If she responds well, her stock will obviously rise. However, if her mouth starts running off on autopilot without giving the brain (presuming there’s one there) a chance to catch up, then she could quickly reveal herself as someone wholly unfit for office. Thus, I expect Bachmann to follow a Palin-like strategy of trying to limit her media exposure to “friendly” interviews. Of course that won’t matter much if members of the public get to ask her questions or in future debates where other candidates will have their chance to challenge her.

The good news, I guess, is that should Bachmann be on the ticket (even as a VP candidate), I don’t think that the Republican could possibly win. She has so much baggage that will compel most moderates away from the Republican party and make it much easier for Democrats to focus “turn out the vote” efforts just to vote against Bachmann.

One more thing: I really wish someone in the media would challenge Bachmann when she says that she raised 28 kids. She had 25 foster care children (and I don’t mean to denigrate that; I think that is something for which she is justifiably proud and for which she should be applauded); however, it is my understanding, that some of those children were with her for a very brief period, such that she may have briefly fostered them but didn’t really “raise” them. But, like her false claim that she didn’t benefit from farm subsidies, this is just another case where Bachmann plays “fast and loose” with facts without apparent challenge.

For some of my previous thoughts on Bachmann, please see my posts “Republican Congresswoman Follows Palin's Lead and Calls for Investigation Into Anti-Americans in Congress”, “Bachmann Misreads Herself! Huh?”, “Bachmann Now Supports Obama? Do These People Ever Listen to Themselves?”, “Bachmann Calls Her Own Comments an ‘Urban Myth’”, “Seditious Words From Republican Who Believes Democrats Are Anti-American”, and “Michelle Bachmann: The Idiot Who Won't Shut Up”. Since my last post focusing on Bachmann, she’s made plenty more truly idiotic statements; I just haven’t had the energy to keep up with them. But if she gets anywhere close to the White House, you can be sure that I (and many, many others) will be very quick to highlight just how dump — and dangerous — this woman really is.

Am I surprised that Bachmann won the Ames straw poll last month? No, not really. She has the charisma that Pawlenty lacked; she is willing to say just about anything, to hell with accuracy; she had a tent with air conditioning; and she raised enough money that she was simply able to buy more votes than the other candidates. What’s that, I hear you ask? Yes, in the Ames straw poll, candidates pay the fee for voters to cast ballots. Interestingly enough, of the voters who had their entry fee paid by Bachmann, only about 80% actually voted for her. But I think that Iowa will probably have been her peak. As the Republicans have more and more debates, her novelty will wear off and the other candidates will become more willing to go after her, especially to point out some of the crazy things that she’s said in the past and to demonstrate how little she really knows or understands. So far, she’s done a pretty good job of avoiding new gaffes and loony statements (though she’s still had some fun ones…), but for how long can she keep her crazy self in check? Also, as the campaign moves away from the door-to-door, retail politics of the conservative half of Iowa, Bachmann will be forced to talk to those who haven’t already signed on to her brand of crazy. And that will undoubtedly be a tougher sell. Oh, and don’t forget that she’s also competing for the same portion of the electorate to which Rick Perry is a compelling alternative. Finally, one thing that all of the candidates are going to have to do at some point is to talk to reporters who aren’t necessarily paid to make that candidate look good (i.e., a reporter for a network other than Fox News) or an actual voter who isn’t a die-hard Republican. How will Bachmann fare in those sorts of situations? If her famous Chris Matthews interview is any indication, I suspect not well.

Presidential Candidate Ron PaulRon Paul

Paul has a very energized and vocal base of support, but is otherwise not terribly well known. I think that some of his libertarian views will find a lot of favor in the Republican electorate. But other libertarian views will, I think, really turn off many more Republican voters (i.e., legalization of drugs). Moreover, I think that once people start to really focus on the implications of some of Paul’s efforts to eliminate huge portions of the government, then the perceived popularity of his ideas will begin to lose favor — quickly. Similarly, Paul’s isolationist views are at odds with the more hawkish elements of the Republican electorate.

Finally, and this may be more relevant to the general election than to the Republican primary, some of Paul’s associations and the nature of some of his biggest supporters (anti-Semites and white supremacists) will (I hope) make people, both Republicans and Democrats, uncomfortable.

I don’t have much more to say about Paul. He finished second in the Ames straw poll behind Bachmann. He is well-known for being able to turn out lots of enthusiastic supporters for events like that. But the fact that he hasn’t been able to turn that second place finish into any form of broader popularity is telling. He has a strong group of supporters and they will follow him and work hard for him, but his brand of libertarian conservatism just doesn’t appear to be broadening itself beyond that already devoted core group of supporters. And when it looks like he might gain a bit of traction, he’ll say something mind-numbingly stupid or practically designed to alienate voters. It is interesting, however, to watch Paul be the first candidate to really go after Rick Perry, reminding voters that Perry used to be a Democrat who supported Al Gore.

Presidential Candidate Herman CainHerman Cain

The following statement is going to sound a bit racist, so let me complete the thought before you draw any conclusions. I think that Cain’s support is largely based upon the fact that he’s black (and note that, if I’m not mistaken, he is careful to note that he’s black and not an African-American, not liking that particular designation). What do I mean by that? I think that a lot of Republicans are, knowingly or otherwise, trying hard to show that both they and other Republicans are not racists and that opposition to President Obama is not based on racism. How best to show that you’re not a racist? Simple: Support a black candidate! Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe Republicans really like Herman Cain, even though most had never heard of him before very recently and many more are highly unlikely to have heard much of what he has to say. Yet even with his relative obscurity, he continues to poll quite well. Hmm.

But I think that Cain is highly unlikely to do well as people hear more from him and the other candidates. He has demonstrated that he is a bit of a gaffe machine. Moreover, his overt Islamophobia combined with his efforts to walk back the overt Islamophobia all while insisting that he didn’t actually say the things that he clearly did say (maybe he hasn’t heard of YouTube?) to be charged with being an Islamophobe may make some voters a bit nervous. Sure, there is a segment that probably agrees with Cain’s idea of a “loyalty test” for Muslims (that same segment would probably be happy kicking Muslims out of the US or requiring them to convert to Christianity, too), but I don’t think that more moderate voters will favor that viewpoint.

Finally, I think that there is a large portion of the Republican electorate that will reject Cain because he’s black.

Haven’t heard much more about Cain lately, have you? I’m not surprised. I think he’ll hang around for a while longer, but I just don’t see any way for him to squeeze into the race between Romney and Perry (absent a spectacular flameout by one of the frontrunners). I do wonder if Cain might actually be running for Vice President, especially as a way to try to lure African American (oops, sorry .. black) voters away from the Democrats and President Obama.

Presidential Candidate Newt GingrichNewt Gingrich

By the time I finish this post (I started it last week…), Gingrich may be done. His campaign staff quit en masse a few weeks ago, last week his fundraising folks quit, and we’ve learned that his $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany was actually the second line of credit he had (apparently, Gingrich also has a $1,000,000 line!). That’s a lot of jewelry. How many engagement rings can you buy for $1,500,000?

Gingrich has so much baggage, I suspect that airlines charge him extra just to fly. Recall (and you can expect that other Republican candidates will certainly remind voters) that Gingrich was removed from his position as Speaker of the House because of ethical lapses. Gee, that’s who we want for President. And Gingrich has left not one, but two wives, for women with whom he was having extra-marital affairs. And according to some reports, in both cases, the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Gingrich was either in the hospital or ill when he decided to get divorced. Moreover, don’t forget that Gingrich, while he was leading the impeachment efforts against President Clinton for lying about a blowjob, was himself having an extra-marital affair with a House staffer. His explanation for that infidelity: “There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” Ah, yes. The old, I’m such a patriot, I just had to have sex with someone who wasn’t my wife defense. Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned last week for tweeting naked pictures of himself, but serial-philanderer Gingrich is running for President?

I could go on and on with Gingrich’s flaws, but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. His presidential aspirations are toast, but the name recognition that he revives will help him sell more books and give more speeches … which of course will help him pay that bill to Tiffany.

Is Newt really still in this race? Maybe he has a new book that will be coming out soon for which he needs to maintain name recognition. I’d say that he’s the laughing stock of the field … but then I remember who some of the other candidates are.

Presidential Candidate Rick SantorumRick Santorum

Santorum scares me, though thankfully, I don’t think that he has a chance of getting the nomination. He is a man that his so tone deaf to the world around him that I would be truly frightened of what an America under the leadership of Santorum might look like. He’s also one of those holier-than-thou sort of people. I just read an article last week about how the extremely anti-abortion candidate, a candidate who doesn’t believe in any exceptions, permitted doctors to induce an abortion in his wife to save her life. In other words, abortion is evil and nobody should ever have the right to an abortion … except for Santorum’s family. The saving grace, so to speak, is that I think Santorum’s social values stances are so far to the right, that he will be very unappealing to all but the furthest right portion of the Republican party. While the primaries tend to drive candidates toward the extremes, I think that candidates like Bachmann and Pawlenty (or maybe Rick Perry) can position themselves to the far right without going as far right as Santorum.

I forgot to mention one other weakness that Santorum has. In response to repeated highly offensive homophobic statements, several gay rights activists decided to go on the offensive against Santorum. They decided to coin a word invoking his last name. Go ahead: Google the name Santorum (though please don’t do so if your kids are reading this). Should more and more Americans decide to try learn a bit more about Santorum (the candidate, not the frothy mix), they will probably be learning things that they didn’t want to know. And once you have that name association in your head, good luck getting rid of it. Can you imagine if Santorum was the actual candidate? Would schools and libraries put a filter on searches of his name?

Presidential Candidate Jon HuntsmanJohn Huntsman

Like most Americans, I don’t really know much about Huntsman. From what I’ve heard, he plans to run as the most centrist of the Republican candidates. And while that appeals to me, I don’t think that’s going to play terribly well with the primary-voting Republican base. The fact that Huntsman is a Mormon will likely cause him the same problems that Romney will encounter. And Huntsman’s positions on things like civil unions (he supports them) and global warming (he believes in it) may be anathema to the Republicans he’ll need to secure the nomination. (I’d love to know what he thinks of evolution; if he believes in it, then he’s probably toast.) He might be a formidable opponent for President Obama in the general election (especially if he could run from the center and characterize President Obama as running from the left), but first Huntsman will need to get the nomination and those sort of centrist (and rational…) positions aren’t likely to endear him to the Republican base. Finally, you can be sure that time and again, other candidates will remind voters that Huntsman not only served in the Obama administration (as ambassador to China) but that Huntsman has offered (in writing, no less) glowing praise of President Obama. The visceral hate of President Obama from so many on the right (Obama Derangement Syndrome) may make a candidate that not only worked for/with President Obama, but even had the audacity to say something positive about him, just too “extreme”.

A few odd things to note about Huntsman’s candidacy. First, though he continues to poll at only about 1%, he continues to be treated by the media as a “serious candidate” (while others who also poll at that same 1% are completely ignored). Things that make you say, “Hmmm”? And it is really quite telling that Huntsman took to Twitter a few weeks ago to say:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

Scary, isn’t it, that a candidate has to actually say that he believes in evolution and trusts scientists. Scarier still that the statement needs to be followed by “Call me crazy.” And scariest of all: That statement didn’t make any impact on Huntsman’s support (or lack thereof) or on the support being given to candidates who clearly don’t believe in evolution or trust scientists (I’m looking at you, Rick and Michele).

Presidential Candidate Gary JohnsonGary Johnson

Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico is a true libertarian. But that means that some of his views on social issues won’t meet with a lot of favor from a portion of the Republican electorate. More problematic for Johnson is the complete lack of name recognition that he has (or, to be more precise, does not have). In this month’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, Johnson, a declared candidate, was not included, while Bachmann, who only declared during the debate, was included. If Johnson can’t find a way to get in front of voters and to be on the same stage as the candidates who do have name recognition, then he is going nowhere fast.

Johnson can’t even get on the stage for the Republican debates. Nobody knows who he is and without that kind of exposure, nobody is going to learn who he is. Buh-bye.

Presidential Candidate Fred KargerFred Karger

Karger is openly gay. ’Nuff said? I don’t know. Maybe the 3 or 4 Republicans who favored repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the 1 or 2 Republicans who support civil unions or … gasp … gay marriage will vote for Karger. But in reality, his campaign is simply a stunt and he’s not a viable candidate. One question, I suppose, is whether Karger will draw any votes at all; if he does, those votes are likely to come from the more moderate portion of the Republican electorate, at the expense of candidates like Huntsman or maybe Romney.

The only interesting thing to note about Karger’s candidacy is that he’s filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against Fox News because Fox News refused to allow him to participate in the last debate even though he’d met all of their standards (including polling high enough in several polls). Karger doesn’t stand a chance, but it will be interesting to see how the FEC complaint is resolved (and note that NBC has also excluded candidates like Karger and Johnson from tonight’s debate). So long as the networks get to decide who are the “legitimate” candidates (i.e., why are Gingrich or Santorum more worthy of being on stage than Karger or Johnson), then how well is our democracy and primary system really working?

Presidential Candidate Rick PerryRick Perry

So far, Perry isn’t in the race, though in recent weeks there have been some inklings that he is considering throwing his proverbial hat into the ring. Perry has a lot of ups (at least as far as Republican voters and the primaries are concerned), not the least of which is that he (other than Gingrich) would be the lone Southerner in the race. And after Iowa and New Hampshire, the Republican primary contest moves to South Carolina. From there, southern states become very important on the path to the Republican nomination.

Perry does, however, have some serious baggage of his own. First, and this is just my own two cents, will voters be uncomfortable with yet another Texas cowboy in the White House? I think that even a lot of Republican voters don’t look back on the Bush presidency with great fondness. Thus, one has to wonder whether Perry’s ties to Bush (if I’m not mistaken, he was Bush’s Lieutenant Governor) and other eerie similarities (he even seems to like to talk like Bush, droppin’ his Gs and bein’ all folksy) will be too much. And the macho cowboy image he likes to portray (he jogs with a gun and kills wild animals while jogging?) maybe a bit much for a lot of Americans.

There are also persistent rumors that Perry is … drum roll please … gay. Enough so, that his “even though I’m not running” team is apparently working to counter those rumors. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? And even if there isn’t a fire, how will Republican voters react? Recall the drubbing that McCain took in South Carolina in 2000 when Bush supporters painted McCain as the father of a “black” child (his adopted Asian daughter). If Perry has to spend face time telling people that he’s not gay, it will just be less time that he has to talk to them about why they should support him.

Finally, there is the giant elephant in the room that I suspect every other Republican candidate will remind voters of time and time again and that is Perry’s flirtation with the early Tea Party movement and suggestions that Texas should secede if it doesn’t get what it wants from Washington. It will be hard to argue that he should be elected President of a country that he suggested, however obliquely, that Texas secede from. After all, it’s hard to play the role of the patriot when your opponents have red meat that they can display to suggest that you are anything but patriotic. My question is why the national media, in story after story on Perry and whether he may run, never remembers to mention that particular episode.

OK. So Perry didn’t really suggest secession. But he did seem to flirt with the idea. And even though he didn’t really suggest secession, I think that is an issue that he will continue to be challenged on in the primaries and in the general election. Since writing my original analysis on Perry, he’s hosted his prayer rally (see my post Rick Perry’s Relationship With the Most Extreme Elements of Evangelical Christianity), has called Ben Bernanke (head of the Federal Reserve) “treasonous”, made clear that he doesn’t believe in evolution, and suggested that climate scientists are engaging in fraud to line their own pockets. And yet Perry is also currently polling as the top candidate. So either Republicans still don’t really know Perry and are just desperate for someone other than Romney (or Bachmann or any of the other candidates) or they actually like a candidate with views as extreme as Perry.

Oh, and about those views. I had no idea that Perry wrote a book, just 10 months ago (!), in which he claims that virtually every federal program and many federal laws (including, but not limited to, Social Security, Medicare, child labor laws, environmental protection…) are unconstitutional. How will his claim that Social Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme play in Florida? And yet Perry is currently polling as the top candidate… (did I say that already?).

Right now, Perry is the guy to watch. It will be interesting to see how he does in the debates (apparently he’s only ever debated a tiny handful of times, even after serving more than 10 years as Governor of Texas and for the last 26 years in various elected offices). And it will be interesting to see how the other candidates treat Perry; will they challenge his more crazy positions or will they give him a free pass?

Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

What is there left to say about the blathering idiot from Alaska (or is that Arizona)? The half-term governor (and half-bus tour non-candidate?) is like a lightning rod of love and hate. She appears to have an adoring public who would probably be willing to kill the other candidates (and voters, too) to get Palin elected. But I don’t think that there has ever been a candidate with more negative polling numbers than Palin. For every voter who lovers her, several absolutely detest her.

Could Palin win the Republican nomination? I don’t think so. I think that once she had to stand on stage with the other candidates and debate them day after day, the grin and wink routine would wear thin. She only debated then-Senator Biden once and he didn’t pound on her the way the other Republican candidates might. If she runs for the Republican nomination, she’ll have to debate the rest of the candidates, some of whom at least appear to have a firm grasp of some of the issues (however delusional their policies may be) where Palin can offer little more than “gee, shucks” folksy bon mots that don’t really say much. And heaven help Palin if she is ever actually forced to really discuss an issue in depth. If she really runs, she won’t be able to limit press access to Fox News and friendly reporters. Who knows, some reporter might even ask her really hard questions, just like Katie Couric. Or they might ask her another gotcha question like “What have you done today?” And you can bet that if she gets in the race and starts making headway, some candidate’s opposition research team will begin to put forth Trig-trutherism information (that is, advancing the conspiracy that her baby was not really hers but rather her daughter’s…). Just like Obama Birtherism, Trig-truthism remains an active conspiracy among some.

If Palin is unable to handle any of that, just as she was apparently unable to handle the extreme stress and attention of governing Alaska, then how will voters really respond to her desire to be the Republican nominee for President?

She still hasn’t entered the race. Why would she? She’s making a killing as a Fox “analyst”. She’s become the ultimate “reality TV” personality. She’s a personality. On TV. Talking about reality (politics). Sarah Palin is not running for President.

Other Candidates

Jimmy McMillan, Tom Miller, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer, Vern Wuensche, and maybe others. You may have heard of Judge Roy Moore (the Alabama Ten Commandments judge) or Buddy Roemer (former Democratic Governor of Louisiana). All of these guys make Fred Karger look like a highly viable candidate with a good chance to win.

Nothing new. Move along.

The Kingmakers

One additional point that needs to be raised with regard to all of the candidates. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess, depending on your viewpoint), none of this may matter in the least! Why? Because the decision of who is chosen as the Republican nominee may, in all practicality, be out of the hands of voters. Instead, the decision may be entirely up to corporate donors who can now spend unlimited amounts to say and do whatever they want to help or hurt their chosen champion. If a particular candidate generates corporate or SuperPAC support sufficient to drown out competing candidates and viewpoints, then voters may never get the real chance to make any kind of meaningful decision. A candidate with a good message but not enough funding to spread that message will whither in the face of a well-funded onslaught. And if that weren’t enough, we have to remember that the real GOP kingmaker is probably Fox News. If they support a candidate and give wall to wall favorable fair and balanced coverage while turning the fair and balanced “dynasty of lying” (to use John Stewart’s phrase from last week…) on the non-favored candidates, then those actions, too, may take meaningful decision-making out of the hands of Republican voters who may simply believe and do as they are instructed (or have no choices left by the time that poorly-funded, non-Fox supported candidates have been forced from the race).

Ah, democracy.

Think about this last point for a moment. Who is leading the race right now? It looks like Perry, with Romney in second, and maybe Bachmann in third. And how do we know this? Do we know this because of the votes that have been cast? Of course not. No votes have been cast (other than those purchased at the Ames straw poll that Bachmann won). Tim Pawlenty has already dropped out of the race before a single vote has been cast. And why aren’t we going to see Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, or Buddy Roemer on stage tonight? The simple fact remains: The nomination process is being decided largely in the media, on the basis of who the media spends time covering, which issues are addressed, which gaffes are publicized, and which questions are asked of whom. Voters in states other than Iowa and New Hampshire have barely had a chance to hear from candidates and yet the the race may already be down to two or three people.

Ah, democracy.

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