Today’s Courier Herald Column:
It’s hard to believe anyone really cares about the GOP nomination for President these days. Those that do are either hard core political junkies or are likely on the payroll of one of the campaigns. Or they live in a state which parades candidates around a year before the first primaries and caucuses making them eat fried butter on a stick at their state fair to prove they’re one of them.
Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will not get a Christmas break from Presidential politics. Iowans vote on January 3rd, with New Hampshire residents visiting the polls on January 10th. As such, those looking to read tea leaves with movements of campaign momentum are largely looking to these two states to see where the campaigns stand.
As expected, Ron Paul appears to be continuing with forward momentum in Iowa. The state’s caucus setup requires organization and money to translate poll numbers into votes, and Paul is deploying both throughout the state. A Ron Paul victory in Iowa would once and for all do what Paul’s supporters have been demanding throughout his multiple Presidential campaigns. It would require other candidates and media to take his campaign seriously. They may need to be careful what they wish for.
Despite running for President before, Paul has never been treated as a candidate who has had a chance to win the nomination. As such, he has never been on the receiving end of a single negative ad, nor has he had the media colonoscopy that is a complementary perk of being a viable candidate. If Paul wins Iowa, he will begin to receive both.
Voters that are somehow just discovering Ron Paul would learn about anti-Semitic newsletters written under his name over a period of years which he now disavows, but refuses to name the actual author nor explain how he profited from a venture that was sold as his personal views for years but now claims the opinions were not his. He will have to explain how he believes he will be an effective leader that could build legislative coalitions despite the evidence of his decades in Congress where he remains a lone wolf on the issues he finds important. His views on foreign policy, including that Iran should be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons, will be closely inspected.
Most importantly, he will be subjected to actual quotes of his, not taken out of context, where he decries Social Security, Medicare, and large baskets of other social programs as unconstitutional. If independent voters winced at Paul Ryan’s reforms to Medicare and Social Security which still took 23 years to balance the federal deficit, they are likely to be repelled in droves by Paul’s approach to federal spending.
As for Mitt Romney, he has finally begun appearing on television interviews. Perhaps one of his best early performances was his presentation of the “Top Ten List” on David Letterman’s show. He’ll need to do more self-deprecating humor to assist with his image as an uptight all business task-master. Letterman was a good start.
Gingrich, on the other hand, sailed to “front runner status” in the first couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, and received both the renewed scrutiny described above that awaits for Ron Paul, as well as the buyer’s remorse that has affected everyone proclaimed “front runner” thus far in the cycle. Gingrich, without the money or organization in Iowa that the other leading candidates have, is falling in Iowa polls. Nationally, he still polls competitively with Romney with a possible advantage in Florida and South Carolina.
There have been sightings of both Newts this month on the trail, and the campaign and the candidate need to do a better job of keeping one of them hidden. The self assured, know it all Newt needs to take another Mediterranean cruise, this time until November. He needs less statements that “I will win the Republican Nomination” and more of the contrite, circumspect Newt that talks about his grandchildren and how America can be great again.
The vast majority of other candidates will likely be squeezed out of the process sometime between Iowa and the days immediately following the New Hampshire Primary. Gary Johnson has already bolted for the Libertarian party. Others are likely working with headhunters and those that book keynoters for the lecture circuit.
And then, still others are again being urged to enter the race late. This is the fancy of reporters and pundits with time on their hands. These folks will soon move to writing about potential third party candidates. It is quite possible this year that these stories will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the campaign that has become a reality TV show, new characters are likely to be introduced to keep the storyline fresh. Hopefully, we won’t be required to watch any potential newcomers eat fried butter on a stick. We’ve had enough of that to last four more years.