I have refrained from commenting on American politics for a while now, but I can’t resist offering some thoughts on what’s been happening over there in regards to picking a challenger to Barack Obama for this year’s Presidential election.
First and foremost, the process of selecting that challenger is absolutely crazy. I suppose it is the radical difference between the system of choosing a party front man here (where it might take a few weeks from the resigning of one to the picking of another) to there (where it is an excruciatingly drawn out process of well over a year or more) that makes me think that. I’m not sure how the selection process has evolved to the point of being this clusterf**k that drains political resources and lasts ages, but it is one thing that the American parties should change. How much time and money do they waste on this comical show, the endless debates, the state-by-state voting? Who gave Iowa and New Hampshire so much power in this process? Whose idea was this?
And while the Republican candidates tear into each other, highlighting every little problem, Obama sits back and takes in the money for his re-election campaign, free of dissent. That’s going to be your big difference in the actual campaign, as whoever the Republican challenger is faces that critical shortfall in funds. Every time a sitting President goes for re-election, he has that advantage.
As for the actual potential nominees themselves, they are all flawed. Obama has disappointed, bombed in parts of his administration, but I would not like to see him replaced by any of these people.
Leaving aside the chaff who have been pushed to the side by the first result in Iowa (like Sarah Palin 2.0 Michelle Bachman or the occasionally idiotic Rick Perry) we are seemingly left with three men:
Mitt Romney. The frontrunner, the very likely nominee at this point, and in my estimation, the GOP’s best shot. But that is not saying much. He’s got that kind of everyman quality, seems a bit more electable than the other two. But he is still boring, pedestrian, unacceptable. Safe. That’s what he is, a candidate that takes no major stands. At least not anymore, having changed his mind of several things like gay marriage to make himself more acceptable for the Republican nomination. And he’s what, the rich candidate in a time of financial difficulty? Good luck skewing that.
Then, Ron Paul. An internet meme turned presidential candidate. Has a number of rather extreme and scary viewpoints on the American military, foreign affairs, and internal reform of government departments. A curiosity candidate I think, whose support is more a measure of dissatisfaction with the other choices. He’s Mick Wallace or Ming Flanagan essentially. If he was nominated, Obama would have a whale of a time against a man who opposes the Civil Rights Act. Paul would get absolutely crushed.
And Rick Santorum, the religious one. Thinks homosexuality is a choice and doesn’t like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. So, in effect, a moron, a bigoted moron at that, who should be kept several million miles away from any kind of military command. That’s all I need to know about the guy, who seems to be enjoying a bit of popularity from what they call the “Anyone But Mitt” crowd, but has fallen away in the actual polls (thankfully).
The GOP seems to be doing just what they did in 2008, which is gravitate to the centre candidate, having been scared away from the more extreme or less than adequate options. It didn’t work then, but nothing could have beaten the “hope train” that was the Obama campaign.
That “hope train” will not be chugging at full steam in November, but it will still have a new healthcare system, the end of foreign wars, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the repeal of DADT and other stuff to stand over.
In the end, it is Romney’s nomination to lose, but I do not think he can beat Obama. The President will have a challenge all the same, much different to the one that saw him triumph over John McCain. He has to defend, despite the previous list of accomplishments, a very mediocre record in office, characterised by a large deficit and partisan bickering beyond even the norm. Romney is not the man to beat him though, but I think one of the safest bets in the world right now is a Republican victory in 2016.
I agree with you that the nomination is shaping up to be Romney’s to lose, subject to one caveat. The fact that he is a Mormon, which hasn’t affected him so far, may play badly in the South. On the other hand the absence of a credible alternative candidate and the fact that Romney is a ”known known”, should be enough to cancel out the religious factor. Certainly he is overwhelmingly the bookies’ favourite – the best odds you can get are 9/50. I see his campaign strategy is being compared to that of Nixon in 68 – say nothing, firmly. As of now I don’t see him beating Obama unless the economy disimproves significantly.
On the Primary system and its evolution, Wikipedia has some good stuff. If you haven’t read it, historically one of the best book is Theodore White’s “The Making of the President 1960”, which invests the whole process with an aura of romance in keeping with a certain rose-tinted view of the US political system but which is a great read nevertheless . Vying with it, and a must-read for the cynic, is Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972”. Thompson’s book has many bon mots but surely none better than his observation that, in the end, McGovern (who only carried Massachusetts and D.C.) couldn’t have done much worse had he picked Charles Manson as a running mate ( McGovern had ditched his original running mate, Senator Tom Eagleton, after revelations that he had been treated for depression). The devastating pen portrait of Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail is also memorable.
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