Georgia Vetting Presidential Candidates This Weekend

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Georgia Politics will be presidential politics over this weekend, as two of the top three candidates will make Georgia appearances between Friday night and Sunday afternoon.  Ron Paul’s schedule lists him in Boise Idaho as his only public event on Saturday.  Romney visited the state last week.  Gingrich arrives tonight, while Santorum will appear in Cumming on Sunday.

Georgia Republicans received a major blow to their hopes to place Georgia squarely as the focus of Super Tuesday on Thursday, as Mitt Romney notified CNN that he would not participate in a debate scheduled for March 1st in Atlanta.  Ron Paul sent the same note within minutes.  By afternoon, Rick Santorum’s spokesperson was openly questioning if the Pennsylvania Republican would be participating, with CNN then taking the hint and pulling the plug on the endeavor.

The only debate now on the schedule before Georgia’s March 6th Presidential Preference Primary will be held some 1,800 miles away in Phoenix Arizona on February 22nd.   The lack of a debate on friendly turf, as well as the loss of an opportunity to reach out to voters in a format that has worked well for him at no cost to his cash strapped campaign is a significant blow to Newt Gingrich.

He has struggled to regain his footing since his convincing win in South Carolina.  Gingrich still leads polls in Georgia, whose 76 delegates represent the largest prize up for grabs on Super Tuesday, but is struggling to maintain competitive status elsewhere.

The real news in Republican presidential politics is the competitiveness of Rick Santorum, who is now leading polls in both Romney’s former home state of Michigan and Super Tuesday’s second largest state of Ohio.  Santorum can point to two factors for his turn as the possible front runner in the nomination process.  He’s the last of the “not-Mitt’s” standing if Gingrich fades.  He’s also managed to galvanize evangelical conservatives behind his campaign, pushing social issues to the forefront of the nomination process.

Evangelicals were largely left out of the Republican agenda when the TEA Party elevated Republicans to successful mid-term elections.  It appeared social issues were also going to take a backseat during the 2012 primary process as well.  Though Santorum has pushed them throughout his appearances, he was also largely ignored during the campaign activities that led up to actual voting.

With negative ads from Romney’s SuperPAC exposing that Gingrich’s negatives can even turn off Republicans – much less independents – when presented with facts about his past personal and public life repeatedly and in their most negative light, nervous Republicans fearing President Obama’s projected billion dollars to be spent on negative ads are taking a look at the last “not-Mitt” standing.

President Obama’s battle with the Catholic Church over requirements to cover contraception and abortion services through their health care plans for employees has also emboldened evangelicals to re-engage in the process.  As such, despite sustained unemployment, trillion dollar budget deficits, and the possibility of Israel and Iran moving to open war in the Middle East, the debate for the Republican nomination for President is somehow focused on contraception.

TEA Party activists – the original ones that strictly limited their cause to being “Taxed Enough Already” and not the newer generic conservatives who have morphed newly formed TEA Parties to their own causes and fiefdoms – have to be perplexed that the most clear opportunity to differentiate between an unapologetic tax and spend Democrat and a conservative nominee is now being debated as an issue over access to birth control pills.

Republicans of all stripes must acknowledge that the Republican nomination is a battle not just for control of the party, but for its future.  The TEA Party success of 2010 was that of a narrower scope for Republicans, who not only wanted to limit the size of the government but for the issues on which the party Represented activism.  A Rick Santorum candidacy in 2012 would mean a return to the Republicans of 2006, when the party ran from hypocrisy in both social and spending issues.

Not coincidentally, that was the last year Santorum was on the ballot.  Perhaps prophetically, Santorum lost huge at the top of his state’s ticket, taking many in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation out the door with him.

Republicans are facing the weakest record of an incumbent Democratic President since 1980.  Yet they also can’t seem to get out of their own way.  The primary process is about winning over party nominees, but independent voters are the ones who pick presidents.  Independent voters are concerned about stagnant job growth, falling home values, and rising gas prices.  Republicans must fight through the media clutter and focus on these issues – and decide who best represents solutions to them when choosing their nominee for President.


  1. kyleinatl says:

    “As such, despite sustained unemployment, trillion dollar budget deficits, and the possibility of Israel and Iran moving to open war in the Middle East, the debate for the Republican nomination for President is somehow focused on contraception.”

    This reminds me of A Game of Thrones, where every little fiefdom is arguing and warring about who should be king, while no one is even thinking about the monsters that are coming from the north. That was my DragonCon comment for the day.

  2. ted in bed says:

    I’d bet the candidates would have shown up if the debate was structured differently.

    Sue Everhart picked poorly when she teamed up with CNN. I’m not sure why any Republican leader would think it was a good idea to subject their candidates to the biased spotlight of CNN. CNN doesn’t want debate they want to embarrass Conservatives (we can do that on our own thank you).

    Georgia Republicans should have done a web-based debate with conservative bloggers from the Super Tuesday states asking the questions via Skype or Youtube.

    The lack of debate is pretty disappointing especially when we had the chance to do something very well.

    • Lawton Sack says:

      CNN is doing the Arizona debate on February 22 and the candidates have not cancelled there, so it is not a CNN issue. CNN is based out of Atlanta, which made them a logical choice for doing a debate in Georgia. Also, it is not that easy to call up FoxNews and tell them we want to do a debate. You have to have an eager partner to dance with. CNN was going to pay the bills, so to speak, to hold the debate, so they would need to ensure that they make money off of the debate. That gave them rights to pick a venue, debate format/schedule, etc. They then have to get the candidates to sign off on everything.

      Countless hours were spent on this by Sue Everhart, the GAGOP staff, and many volunteers over the last few months to hold this debate. They do not need to be blamed for things that are totally out of their control.

  3. Calypso says:

    “…despite sustained unemployment, trillion dollar budget deficits, and the possibility of Israel and Iran moving to open war in the Middle East, the debate for the Republican nomination for President is somehow focused on contraception.”

    The only way the Republicans can give the election to Obama any more nicely would be to put a friggin’ bow on it.

  4. debbie0040 says:

    The candidates have appeared in other CNN debates, so CNN was not the issue. I think Sue Everhart and her team did a great job to put this debate together but there were things out of their control. They had no way of knowing the Romney would chicken out of the debate…She has done an outstanding job as Chairman of the Georgia GOP.

    The more Romney appears in debates, the more people dislike him because he comes across as plastic and phony. Reminds me of something created in a cold war East German laboratory to be the perfect candidate…

    I loved the joke Santorum told at CPAC. ” A conservative, a moderate and a liberal walked into a bar. The bartender said , “Hello Mitt”.

    There are no good candidates left but all of them would make a better President than Obama has..

  5. Engineer says:

    Republicans are going to yet again steal defeat from the hands of victory…. In an election season in which 90% of the major issues are financially related, they instead keep going to these social issues. There are many socially liberal yet financially conservative folks out there that would vote for a Republican if they would go easy on these social issues.

    • Harry says:

      Social issues may be unimportant to you, but some of us really are concerned about the policies and messages that politicians dispense to our families and fellow citizens.

    • kyleinatl says:

      I’ve said it a million times, Republicans would win 9 times out of 10 these days if they would just stick to Barry Goldwater rhetoric and stay far far away from the evangelical ghetto, they just can’t stop taking the bait.

      I’m starting to feel like this contraception issue may have been a masterstroke by the Obama administration.

      • Harry says:

        You have a mistaken and perhaps warped view of the majority of the voter population, including even socially conservative “minorities” who were previously thought to be safely locked up on the Democrat(ic) plantation.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        “I’m starting to feel like this contraception issue may have been a masterstroke by the Obama administration.”

        I don’t know that it was mastermind, though it may turn out to me. Who knew that that a large part of the GOP base would voice its opposition to conception?

        I think the administration’s initial position on contreception as concerns religiously affliltated organzations was sound politics. The administration took a page from the GOP playbook. Put forth a position in order to comprimise to a reasonable position that was adequate all along. The comprimise position wouldn’t have stood had it been initially proposed.

  6. jim2011 says:

    With Public Service Commission Chairman Tim Echols in charge of Santorum’s Georgia Campaign and the help of TeenPact, he’ll have a great chance of winning GA. At the very least he’ll pick up a lot of delegates. I know some here don’t like him, but keep in mind, Chairman Echols is a brilliant campaign manager. Tim has a history of working with outsider and underestimated campaigns and winning. He was manager during Paul Broun’s unprecedented underdog win and Oxendine would have won had Tim not left the campaign (he was winning while Tim was in charge) to win a 4 man race for the PSC. He won his race against all current and former members of the Legislature!

    Here is a great article that includes Tim’s endorsement of Santorum.

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