Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Several Republican contenders for President gathered in South Carolina last night for a debate hosted by FoxNews. The participants hardly represented the Republican’s “A Team”, or at least those polling at the front of the pack. It was significant, however, that the public part of the 2012 Presidential campaign is now underway.
Though the distance to November 2012 seems like an eternity, in reality voting may begin in early primary caucus states in a little over 6 months. Like it or not, a new campaign is upon us. Georgia’s primary date has not yet been set. A new law passed this year gives Secretary of State Brian Kemp the authority to set the date for the Presidential Preference Primary.
Florida is considering jumping ahead of the traditional starting states of New Hampshire and Iowa, at a cost to the state of half of its Republican Convention delegates. If Florida chooses to fall in line and follow the rules, an early February date is probable, along with many other states. Under this scenario, Georgia may move its primary much later in the schedule, choosing instead to be a late campaign state that helps pick the ultimate winner assuming a tight race that appears headed to the convention without a certain victor. Political historians will note that the last time Republicans did not have a virtual nominee well before the convention was in 1976, when the aftermath of Watergate had delegates battling between President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Georgia will also have a unique spot during this Presidential campaign because two candidates plan to run as Georgians. Newt Gingrich opened his campaign office in Atlanta this week, taking time off from his tour announcing that he will announce something soon. Georgian Gingrich will run this phase of his campaign from the same Buckhead building that houses the offices of the Georgia GOP. Georgian Gingrich will be happy to note that the nearest office of the Georgia Department of Driver Services is only 8.7 miles away, and the fine folks there will be happy to help him exchange that Virginia Drivers License he somehow has been using to drive with a one issued from his “home” state.
The other Georgian in the race claims to have been born in Georgia, though birthers haven’t yet started asking for his birth certificate. Herman Cain most recently has been a talk show host for WSB radio in Atlanta, but also has served as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and executive positions with Pillsbury and Coca Cola. Cain rounds out his experience with a stint as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, and is a veteran of the US Navy.
Surrounded by an incredibly weak field, Cain emerged from last night’s debate as the winner judged by a focus group conducted for FoxNews by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Cain is running as an “outsider” who has never served in elected office at any level, losing in his only attempt prior when he ran for US Senate against now Senator Johnny Isakson and then Congressman Mac Collins. His second place finish did garner him a sense that he exceeded expectations, however, and within Georgia, WSB’s radio market, Cain is looked upon favorably. It remains to be seen if Cain can build a nationwide campaign infrastructure to make himself known and be viewed credibly by Republicans nationwide. Cain’s message at least to be somewhat issues based, which is refreshing.
One potential candidate however, is not touting his Georgia ties. Donald Trump, who appears to be angling for making his campaign a new NBC reality TV show, impregnated then temporarily married Dalton Georgia beauty queen Marla Maples in 1993. Trump brings “interesting” credentials to the race to become the nominee of the party of family values.
While it remains a long time until the November 2012 vote, the time of being able to watch or read political news free of Presidential campaign madness is drawing short. We’ll try to let it invade this space only sparingly. But as the road to the White House must eventually come through Georgia, we’ll do our part to keep it interesting, as well.