Posts Tagged ‘ republican presidential nomination ’

Rick Perry fading after the last Republican debate

Texas Governor Rick Perry got hammered on the Fox News/Google stage last night. If someone were just tuning into the Republican Presidential contest for the first time last night, it might even have looked like Perry was the moderate on the stage. Mitt Romney came after Perry for supporting in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants while Michele Bachmann continued her line of attack on Perry for supporting giving the HPV vaccine to young girls. These attacks put Perry on the defensive and forced him to defend positions he has taken outside of mainstream Republican orthodoxy. That’s not a good thing for the candidate who is trying to be THE conservative in this race.

The press has been nearly unanimous in labeling Perry the loser in last night’s debate.  Politico/Yahoo wonders if this is the beginning of the end for Perry, saying that Perry’s performance will convince Republicans that the Governor is “not ready for the big leagues.” Chris Cillizza also suggests that Perry is not ready for prime time, putting him in the “losers” column, while Romney sits comfortably on top of the “winners” column.

And it wasn’t just his opponents attacks that took a toll on Perry. The candidate also made some unforced errors. Perry showed that he had never given any thought to national security issues. He was asked about what he would do if Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal fell into Taliban hands. Even though this is kind of a ridiculous debate question, requiring only boilerplate filler about always being prepared and acting decisively, Perry was clearly shaken and caught off-guard. He rambled his way through a “response” that trailed over to our weapons sales to India and Taiwan and was just painful to watch.

Romney and Perry are the two front-runners in this race for the Republican Presidential nomination, so Perry’s bad performance is good for Romney, right? Actually, several commentators have a different take on the  dynamics of this contest. Even though Perry was not acquitted himself very well lately, he is the most credible conservative in the race. Romney gives clear and crisp answers to the questions while Perry often fumbles around and misses opportunities, but conservatives don’t trust Romney.

Romney has an appearance problem. He’s only ever won one election in his life, but he comes across as the quintessential politician. His biggest accomplishment in his one term in political office is the health care plan that became the model for President Obama’s healthcare plan. He has a problem connecting on a personal level with Tea Partiers and conservative voters. The straight-shooting Gov. Perry has always been able to connect with the Republican Party’s base. He speaks their language in a way that Romney can never hope to.

The conservative base of the party wants a nominee they can be excited about. They haven’t really come to see Romney as that person. Perry, though, can fill the mold. As long as the questions about Perry’s candidacy don’t become too serious, the conservatives can carry him through. He has wide latitude for mistakes just because Republicans don’t seem to want to give this to Romney.

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Is Mitt Romney the Rudy Giuliani of 2012?

I’ve been thinking recently about the possible similarities between Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 Presidential campaign and Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign. Both were/are the national poll leaders more than six months out from the actual primaries, both were Republican executives from the Eastern US, both were/are favorites among big donors and both had/have taken stances or possessed attributes that are anathema to the Republican party’s base. In Rudy Giuliani’s case, it was his stances on gay rights and abortion (as well as his several divorces) and in Mitt Romney’s case, his past support for an individual health care mandate and his Mormon faith could make him unacceptable to many Republican voters.

Giuliani, as you might remember, fizzled out despite his large initial polling lead because he didn’t draw a significant vote total in any of the early primary/caucus states. He was nationally popular, but couldn’t build any momentum once the actual voting started because he was not popular in the first few states to nominate a candidate. Could Romney follow the same path? Continue reading

GOP Presidential Candidates Series: Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty is conservative to the core. That’s the message his campaign has been screaming from the rooftops. Every single ad, policy proposal, or public statement seems to be designed to tell the Republican electorate that this former 2-term governor of Minnesota is the “real deal” when it comes to conservative bona fides. But no, his campaign will tell you, Pawlenty is not one of the “crazy” conservatives (like Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain) that make corporate CEOs and Republican party elites very nervous. He is the kind of candidate that is both exceedingly conservative (let me tell you) and also a dependable good ‘ole boy.

Pawlenty has a long record as a fairly successful and mostly uncontroversial politician. He has risen through the ranks of the GOP, rising from the city council to become governor, while notably foregoing a a US Senate run to make the higher-ups in the party happy. He is unremarkable in demeanor, has taken almost no controversial stances (his past support for cap-and-trade, now repudiated, is a notable exception), has picked limited fights with democrats in the past, and has good relations with the party elite.

In short, Pawlenty is an extremely generic and uncontroversial Republican candidate. In many years, the Republican nomination goes by default to such a candidate.

However, the Republican party already has a default heir apparent for their nomination-Mitt Romney. Romney ran for the nomination four years ago, has  a considerable donor base, experience running a national campaign, high name-recognition and a national network of former supporters  to call on. However, he also has a flaw–the health reform he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts is nearly identical to end-of-the-world law Obamacare!

Hence the Pawlenty campaign’s focus on his conservatism. Pawlenty is trying to present himself as a credible alternative to Romney among voters who are concerned about Romney’s past support for an individual mandate, health reform, abortion rights and gay rights. Pawlenty is showcasing his conservatism at every turn so that he becomes the anti-Romney in this campaign among establishment Republicans and party elites.

However, there are also challenges for Pawlenty on the “conservative” front. There are several other candidates in the race who have much stronger conservative  credentials than Pawlenty, among them Bachmann and Cain. If the nomination becomes a race to see who is the most forceful conservative, Pawlenty can’t hold a candle to the charismatic and absolute conservatism of Bachmann and Cain. So, Pawlenty has to present himself as comparable to those Tea Partiers on the conservative front, but much more electable, and with a proven record as a public servant.

If it seems like Pawlenty is defined as a contrast to other candidates, its because that is what his campaign is based on. He is running as everyone’s second-option. He wants to be everything to everyone in the Republican party. Pawlenty’s own story is acceptable, but not compelling, he is conservative, but not unproven and unpredictable. He will be the electable alternative to Bachmann and Cain among conservatives and Tea Partiers and he will be the true conservative for establishment Republicans who may worry about Romney.

Now let’s look at how Pawlenty has tried to showcase his conservatism. He recently released an ad bragging about causing the first-ever government shutdown in Minnesota state history by refusing to sign a budget raising taxes on the richest Minnesotans. Instead, he and the legislature compromised on raising taxes–oops! I mean raising “fees”–on cigarettes (conservatives don’t raise “taxes,”  they increase “fees”). The ad also says he fought unions by causing one of the longest transit strikes in the nation’s history. The ad portrays Pawlenty as a fighter who will harm thousands of innocent people–do anything really– in order to stick it to unions and protect the richest Minnesotans from paying a bit more in tax. I guess the image of a governor who is willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable in order to score cheap ideological points plays well in Republican circles.

Pawlenty was one of the first candidates to urge the government not to increase the debt limit (see? he’s sooooo conservative). Why? He says it will “force hard choices now” and keep America from becoming Greece. Well, doesn’t Pawlenty know that failing to increase the debt limit will mean the government has to discontinue 40% of its spending this year? Does he have a plan to do just that? Absolutely not. No one does. Doing so would be impossible and unthinkable. No one has a plan to do that. Pawlenty says that this “hard  choice” on the debt should involve cutting nothing from defense while “means-testing the cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits,(this is actually a good idea, but it won’t do anything to keep us from hitting the debt ceiling) capping and block-granting Medicaid payments to states,(cutting Medicaid) and moving Medicare to a more efficient, pay-for-performance model (already being done through Obama’s ACA, and no one knows how well it will work).” Note that the savings from these action would NOT solve our debt ceiling problem or even come close to it. But Pawlenty has released a detailed economic plan, so let’s take a look at that.

Pawlenty’s economic plan is sheer madness. Pawlenty proposes to solve all of our nation’s problems by (you guessed it) LOWERING TAXES! Its a plan so incredibly simple, he can’t believe more people havn’t thought of it! In his plan massively lowering taxes on the rich will both solve our deficit problems and launch us into a period of prosperity unknown in modern American history. It will cause 5 percent growth for a decade. Never mind that America hasn’t seen 5% growth for any 3 consecutive years in modern history, let alone 5% growth for a decade. Pawlenty has found the secret: tax cuts for the rich. So what will these magic tax cuts look like? Let’s compare them to the Bush tax cuts:

No one will ever be able to out-conservative Pawlenty on economics. As Ezra Klein says, Pawlenty makes Bush look like Robin Hood. Pawlenty basically looked at the Bush tax cuts and said “the problem with them was that they didn’t give enough money to the rich, if they would only have shoveled MORE money to the top 1%, we would be in an economic paradise now. O, and these tax cuts will actually raise revenue.” How does cutting taxes raise revenue? I don’t know, but that cognitive dissonance makes about as much sense as anything else in his plan. The right-leaning Economist completely trashes Pawlenty’s plan saying

And no matter what party you belong to, you should find it troubling that Mr Pawlenty’s ridiculous economic plan could ever be considered acceptable by a large portion of the population.

But of course Pawlenty has a response to these reality-based critiques of his plan: anyone who doesn’t think it will work just doesn’t believe in America!

Though he has an interesting political strategy, if any of the things that Pawlenty says he wants to happen actually do happen, America is in trouble. I can’t endorse someone who glorifies shutting government down, wants the US government to default, backs the Republicans’ terrible balanced budget amendment, claims to be a serious candidate while laying out completely unfeasible economic plans, and proposes to balance the budget on the backs of the poor while passing massive tax cuts for the rich.

For past entries in the series, see: Herman Cain.

GOP Presidential Candidates Series: Herman Cain

I’ve decided that it would be good to do an intermittent series on the numerous candidates who want to run for President on the Republican ticket. Even though chances are very low that I would ever vote for one of them in the general election, the choice of who will run against President Obama is a very important one. I hope I can shed some light on the major players.

That being said,  I will start by looking at a candidate that I don’t think I could ever support (to give me time to make  up my mind about the rest!). Herman Cain is the former CEO of Godfather’s pizza, a radio host and a Baptist minister. He is  the only black man in the race on the Republican side and was raised from very humble origins in segregated Georgia to become a successful businessman. However, he has  never held any elected office, though he did run for the Republican nomination to be the US Senator from Georgia in 2004  (and lost badly). Lately he has been making some huge waves in conservative Republican circles by drawing considerable support from Tea Party Republicans. As Nate Silver explains, Cain’s poll numbers are  what makes him such  an anomaly:

In the post-reform primary era (1972 onward), there’s never really been a candidate that combined such limited name recognition, such underwhelming credentials — and such impressive polling.

So, not many Republicans know of Cain, but among the ones that do, he is very popular. This probably speaks to the anti-Washington fervor of many Republicans  more than anything, but it is very interesting that someone with no political background is being considered by so many for so high a position. Let’s leave it at that and dig into his policy positions, which is where the interesting stuff is.

Cain has said (and I have heard it repeated by some Republicans) that his candidacy would “take race off the table”  because  he could criticize Pres. Obama without being labeled a racist. Well, as this piece in Slate  magazine lays out, Cain’s candidacy might take some black/white racial issues off the table, but nominating him would bring other racial/ethnic issues to the fore.  You see, Cain has a problem with Muslims. Specifically, he does not trust Muslim doctors to operate on him (He though he was being operated on by a Muslim once, but phew!  it was only a Lebanese Christian). He also said he would not appoint a Muslim to be a federal judge or as a  cabinet official (the Slate article) because apparently Muslims are  not dedicated to this country or to the Constitution. This was not a temporary slip-up either. He has repeatedly said that he would illegally administer a religious test for people to take office in the United States. He said he would force Rep. Keith Ellison (who is  a Muslim) to swear his oath of office on a Bible, instead of on his Holy book. In a country where Herman Cain was once forced to the back of the bus and denied  the chance to drink from a “whites-only” water fountain, a President Cain would bring back prejudice and racism towards people from a different background than himself.

But its OK because  he’s only targeting Muslims, right? (sarcasm)

Among Cain’s other stances he has promised not to sign a bill that is longer  than 3 pages (though that’s probably just a stupid, populist pandering line and not a serious pledge). On his website, Cain states: “liberals have forced excessive environmental regulations that have stifled our domestic energy production, and instead, forced American consumers to rely far too heavily upon foreign oil.” I have never seen a serious study that says getting rid of regulations would significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. (if you know of one, put it in the comments) He really does  not like the EPA at all and has  said that he would appoint the CEO of Shell Oil and other energy executives to a commission that would get rid of regulations on their own companies. Is that a conflict of interest?

On healthcare, his website is mostly just a bunch of lies about the Affordable Care Act and then a couple of platitudes about tort reform and promoting HSAs, neither of which would address rising costs more than a percentage point or two. He also wants to expand the health insurance tax exemption for employers to include employees as well. The exemption is certainly a problem for the market, but the way to fix  it isn’t to expand it, the way to fix it is to get rid of the special tax  break for employer-sponsored insurance. Interestingly, in the “economy” section of his campaign platform he lambastes the federal government because

The federal government should not be in the business of picking and choosing industries they support financially. This happens in the form of subsidies, and special tax breaks in which the government “plays favorite” with one industry and in turn, hinders the competitiveness of another.

So he doesn’t support special tax breaks for specific industries… except he does support the biggest one of those special tax  breaks. He doesn’t support the government “picking and choosing industries” to support financially, unless its the health insurance industry, presumably…. how inconsistent.

Well, I cant find much to like here. I hope Cain fizzles out soon. America would probably be better for it. If you have any questions or disputes, leave a comment.