The Freak Show: Let The Games Begin

With the Presidential election a year and half away, we’re starting to get hit with the usual plethora of candidates jockeying for early position. We know who the Democratic candidate will be, but there’s a large number of Republicans who want the job. We recently had the first debate in Manchester, NH, where a number of the Republican candidates started laying out their positions. Makes you long for the days when the campaign actually lasted months instead of years. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at some of the Republicans who are in the running.

One of the front-runners is Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. He’s got high name recognition and has been a loyal supporter of other Republican candidates, building up a strong base. He has a business background and by most accounts was a successful governor. He has flip-flopped on a few positions, which could cause him trouble. One was abortion, which he had to change in order to have any shot at the Republican nomination. The other was the fact that he successfully overhauled the healthcare system in Massachusetts, and to the Republican base, that smacks of socialism and can’t be tolerated. He is also a Morman, which may cause him to lose support from the Christian right. But as of now, he is as strong a candidate as the Republicans have.

What can you say about Sarah Palin that hasn’t already been said? She doesn’t appear to be especially smart and she’s made some idiotic statements that have come back to haunt her. Also, the fact that she resigned as Governor of Alaska and coincidentally six months later received a million dollar book deal (the length of time she was required to wait before accepting such an offer) makes her appear as an opportunist, even though she said she quit because she thought she could “help the country” better by leaving office. In spite of these things, she has a strong base among the far right along with definite star power. She is the darling of the Tea Party and has accepted large sums of money to speak at their events. Very few Republicans believe she can win, and if she runs she’ll risk her icon status, so she may not want to do that. Because of all these reasons, she’s not very likely to be anything but a supporting player.

Mike Huckabee is a very likable guy. He has a TV show so he has a pulpit from which to preach. But his message is very conservative and Christian-oriented. As with Romney, he did some things when he was Governor of Arkansas that were too liberal for the Republican base and he’ll have to distance himself from those. He may be a player but, like Palin, would have trouble in the general election getting moderates to support him.

Ron Paul is a Congressman from Texas who gained prominence for his libertarian positions, often criticizing both Democrats and Republicans for their votes. He has the most conservative voting record in Congress since 1937 and is considered the “grandfather” of the Tea Party. He opposes any military intervention and was the only Republican who voted against the Iraq war. He wants the U.S. to withdraw from the UN and NATO, and would let states decide things such as education policy, marriage and even legalizing drugs such as marijuana. While many of his positions, which are far outside the mainstream, would usually automatically disqualify him from getting much support, the fact that he is extremely intelligent and lays out his positions in a thoughtful and convincing manner make him a force to be reckoned with.

A very well known candidate is Newt Gingrich. He led the GOP resurgence in the ‘80s and has been making the rounds of the important primary states. His main problem is that he is so well known, and not always in a good way. He has a controversial past to overcome.

The consensus winner of the New Hampshire debate was Herman Cain, a businessman, political activist and radio talk show host from Georgia. He is best known as the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza He is an exciting speaker and has reportedly brought audiences to tears with some of his speeches. He makes convincing arguments for things that aren’t standard Republican fare, like the Federal stimulus, claiming that it was right to do it but it was done in the wrong way. Would the Republican Party nominate an African American such as Cain? It would certainly make for an interesting campaign if they did.

Another unlikely, but interesting, candidate is Fred Karger. He has been a political consultant for nine Presidential campaigns, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has successfully managed Presidential, congressional and judicial campaigns, and consulted for many industries. He won a straw poll among college Republicans in New Hampshire, winning a close race over Mitt Romney. His biggest drawback? He is the first gay Presidential candidate.

Michele Bachmann is a Congresswoman from Minnesota who has a lot of support, in spite of some statements that rival Palin’s in terms of stupidity. She is the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. She has been chided for saying that President Obama has anti-American views and even accused him of costing taxpayers $200 million a day for a needless trip to Asia, renting 870 luxury rooms and bringing 2,000 people with him. Apparently she read it on a website in India and didn’t bother to check to see if it was true. She also has said the gay community “is specifically targeting our children.” And that our founding fathers “would not rest until slavery was extinguished in our country.” I guess her school didn’t teach that many of our founding fathers had slaves, and it wasn’t until 100 years later during the Civil War that it was abolished.

Other potential candidates include Donald Trump (it would take a whole column to discuss that!), Governor Chris Christie, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others. I’m sure we’ll get to more of them in the coming months.