The Republican picture is only marginally clearer than it was when we last checked in back in December. Mitt Romney is a more definitive frontrunner, to be sure, and Mike Huckabee is out. The field has sorted itself out to some degree.
But then again, no. Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani may still enter the race, and, according to Gallup they are running 2nd, 3rd and 4th (tied), in that order, after Romney (see attached). If one or more of them jumps in, the race could be dramatically altered. And face it, Chris Christie is not really out of it until, um, a few weeks before New Hampshire. He’s the only player out there who, I think, could enter at any time over the next five months, without any money or organization, and tilt the whole thing. But Perry, Palin and Giuliani need to get in very soon, or never.
So, a lot could happen! But not a lot has happened yet, with the rancor in Washington overshadowing the campaign. Back in 1988, at this same point, frontrunner Gary Hart had already “Monkey Business’d” his way out of the Democratic race, and Joe Biden was just about to “Neil Kinnock” his campaign to the same fate. Today’s crowd isn’t making that kind of noise, yet.
So let’s get to your responses to my five questions, and then back to the campaign. I received 13 projections, about half the “precincts” reporting, typical of early season doldrums!
1) Republican Presidential nominee:
Dec.10 Jul. '11
Romney 2 12
Christie 1.3 1
Bush, J. 1
Our December frontrunner (barely), Tim Pawlenty, now gets pawlenty of nothing -- zero votes -- and Mitt Romney is cleaning up. More on this below!
2) Republican Vice Presidential nominee:
This one is all over the map, with many of the other announced candidates represented in the #2 slot projections. It’s interesting to see that Marco Rubio, the young (40), charismatic, articulate, Tea Party-backed freshman Florida Senator, is your front runner. Nikki Haley, Tea Party-esque Governor of South Carolina, gets a nod. And David Petraeus pops up here, as he does in the later questions:
3) Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee
The premise of this question is basically that Hillary has indicated she will not serve another term as Secretary of State, and that position has always been Biden’s dream. But most of us thought “Uncle Joe” will stay put as Veep. Some think Hillary wants to leave an even larger legacy as the first female VP, but (see down below) she may have even bigger plans in 2016!
4) Democratic Secretary of State
A number of fascinating answers, including Bubba himself! Biden and Kerry are certainly worthy picks; Susan Rice (UN Ambassador) is well-qualified; the ubiquitous Petraeus, moving around government in his post-military career, now heading the CIA, is a good thought, as is Richard Lugar, the veteran Indiana Republican Senator who could very well lose to a Tea Party candidate in 2012 (he just voted for the debt ceiling bill, gutsy as ever and that could hurt him).
S. Rice 1
B. Clinton 1
5) Will Hillary run in 2016?
She has vowed that the answer is “no” but doth the lady protest a bit too much? Most of us appear to think so! For the record, she will be 69 in January, 2017, about 9 months younger than Reagan was at the start of his Presidency. Whether or not Obama wins in 2012, the field will be wide open to her, and that may be too tempting for her to pass.
The only other potential candidates I can think of who might have some momentum are Andrew Cuomo, the now exceedingly popular Governor of New York, or whomever Obama makes VP if Biden moves somewhere else and Obama wins in 2012. But then again, no one had heard of Barack Obama in August of 2003! He was still a State Senator in Illinois, and a relatively new one at that! Any ideas?
THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION
At this point, our little poll underscores the extent of Romney’s lead. But it is so fragile. Why?
While Romney conforms to the “next-in-line” theory that has governed Republican nominations for decades, he simply does not have the stature of his “next-in-line” predecessors: Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. Each had decades of high party visibility and/or leadership, and all the loyalty that goes with that, before they got the nod. Romney simply cannot claim that mantle.
There is little love for Romney among the Tea Party, and, guess what, it looks likes their influence is indeed growing! (Which Romney obviously knows, which is why he announced he was against the debt ceiling bill, even though, as the businessman he is running as, he obviously knew that not passing it would be disastrous to the world economy). So, the “base” will not be “energized,” which means lower Republican turnout, which is very bad…and Republicans know this. This is why “establishment Republicans,” who otherwise look down on the Tea Party and want a moderate for the general election, are not happy with Romney as a candidate.
Health care, health care, health care…ObamaCare is really O’RomneyCare, and the connection is much tighter than even commonly thought. Romney’s Massachusetts program was the blueprint for Obama’s and many of Romney’s advisors helped craft the Obama plan. Romney’s attempts to distance himself from ObamaCare sound as ridiculous as they are. Not being able to bash Obama on this -- or looking silly trying -- will take away a key leverage point for Republicans, and the debate season will draw this one out, for sure. Pawlenty may have whiffed on bashing Romney on this one in a recent debate, but that won't happen again.
I bet that, like me, not many of you can possibly imagine any of the other announced candidates as ultimately heading the ticket. Romney by default (or Christie). Which brings me to…Rick Perry’s ever louder footsteps. Romney is very lucky Huckabee dropped out, leaving the Tea Party without a really credible candidate. But while Governor Perry is an idiot, he could seriously threaten Romney, assuming he campaigns with more vigor than late-entrant wannabee-Republican-savior Fred Thompson did in 2008!
How might this all play out?
The Republican primary and caucus dates are not yet set in stone, but for the sake of argument let’s assume it remains Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in that order. Romney is not going to give a full court press to Iowa; already he is not participating in the August 13 (next Saturday) Ames Straw Poll there. So one way to look at this is to concede Iowa to Bachmann, then give Romney New Hampshire (over Huntsman).
What does history tell us? The winner of South Carolina has been the Republican nominee since at least 1980…and the winner of South Carolina has always won either Iowa or New Hampshire. So assuming he wins New Hampshire, can Romney win South Carolina? Well, he ran a poor 4th there in 2008 (after McCain, Huckabee and even Thompson – that bad!), and he is running a poor 3rd there in polling now, behind Perry and Palin. So I think the answer is likely “no” if Perry runs, and may be “no” even if his Iowa-winning opponent is – gasp! – Bachmann!
But here is where I think history might actually lead us astray. The coming Republican primary season is going to be much more spread out than in 2008…Super Tuesday simply won’t be as Super. And some of the primaries are abandoning the traditional Republican “winner take all” format in favor of the Democrat “proportional” approach. This will make the race less susceptible to early “knock out blows” and favor Romney, who has the money and the experience to win a marathon. So that theory overrides the “as South Carolina goes, so goes the nomination” theory. I think he could lose SC and still win in the long haul. As long as he didn't lose by a huge margin.
Face it, a lot depends on Perry, a) if he runs, and b) if he gets off to a good start. If he was for real, he could win Iowa and South Carolina and take the whole South, Romney’s weakest area. No wonder Mitt is urging the Western states to move up their primaries….he is way ahead in the West!
The Republican Dream? This has been articulated by one person on this list….Romney and the Tea Partiers slug their way to a draw, with no one having enough delegates to claim a win at the convention. And the convention turns to…of course, Chris Christie, who accepts, wins the nomination, clobbers Obama and saves the nation from certain ruin. It’s possible!
Is there a dark horse? I’d say Huntsman at this point. He’s the only other moderate (besides Romney) in the race, and could be the go-to guy if Romney never catches fire. He’s off to a slow start, but he’s personable, telegenic, informed. That is, he’s a nice contrast to the crazies on the right.
I hope to hear from you…feel free to either copy the group or just reply to me! I’m happy to hear all other theories!
Stay tuned!!!!! I’ll leave you with a new campaign theme song authored by my brother Steve and me, which we are ready to ship off to the Pawlenty Campaign, if we can find them….titled “I Got Pawlenty of Nothing.”