2012 is already shaping up

It just seems like we elected Barack Obama, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s been nearly two years since he’s taken office, and already the fray for 2012 is starting to heat up, with names buzzing around the media as to which Republicans might be interested in taking on the President.

Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and current US Ambassador to China had a successful tenure as governor.  While he was governor, Utah was named the best-managed state in the country by the Pew Research Center.  A moderate by any standard on hot button issues such as energy policy and civil unions for gays, he focused his administration on health care and education, delivering positive results for the state.  A problem for any candidate who’s only been a governor is foreign policy.  I think that his service as ambassador to the most populous country in the world that also happens to have the fastest growing economy would put him head and shoulders above any other GOP contender, instantly.  I’m not sure how his tenure as an Obama appointee would work out for him, and his moderate views on some issues may complicate primary efforts, but watch out for this guy.  If he ran, I would think that he would have the best chance of any Republican to beat Obama.  He’s young, he can be moderate, he’s got a leg up on any other contender with his experience in foreign affairs.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, moral crusader and twice-divorced adulterer who successfully impeached Bill Clinton when Gingrich was cheating on his own wife is showing remarkable fundraising ability, and has never really left the spotlight since he was ousted from his post as Speaker in the late 1990s.  Since Obama’s taken office, he’s been rooting for his failure, hysterically claiming that the President is going to destroy the country.  He’s said that he’s going to wait until after the midterm elections this coming November to make a decision.  But, for whatever differences I have with the guy, he’s smart, he’s articulate, and in stark contrast to the rest of his party, he’s actually offered innovative solutions to political issues.  Gingrich’s best asset may be his government experience, which in this day and age would seem to be a liability, with incumbents dropping like flies, but his service ended over a decade ago, during the Clinton boom years.  He looks kind of presidential, and he certainly sounds like it.

Governor Mitch Daniels (IN) is the guy that people talk about, but not too loudly. He’s also the one that I find the most interesting.  First elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008 by an 18 point margin, he has sky-high approval ratings for having managed Indiana well.  Having had a variety of posts both in the private and public sectors, this guy has a serious resume.  He led the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, and put it on sound financial footing.  President of Eli Lilly’s North American operations in the 1990s, he later became the Senior VP in charge of Corporate Strategy and Policy during the latter half of the same time period.  He also served as George W. Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.  The drawback in his experience at OMB would be to argue that he squandered a huge budget surplus and that he erroneously stated that the war in Iraq would only cost $50 billion.  To date, the war in Iraq has cost the country more than $845 billion.  He initially stated that he wouldn’t run, but has his position, saying he’s open to the prospect.  Also, perhaps an issue, is the fact that he’s of Syrian extraction.  With the phenomenon of the ‘Birthers,’ I’d be interested to see how the GOP would go about fielding an ‘openly’ Arab candidate.

Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts was one of three candidates in 2008 that actually had a realistic chance of winning the nomination.  He’s also widely viewed by many as the GOP front-runner for 2012.  He may well be, but in my gut, I don’t think this guy really has a shot.  He signed the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform bill, which was remarkably similar to the bill passed by Congress just this past year.  That, along with his reversals on abortion and gay marriage are all going to be extremely problematic with a base that’s been getting riled up by Obama for the past two years now.  Romney needed to move to the center in order to be an effective governor of a liberal, northeastern state like Massachusetts, but that may well have painted him as a flip-flopper of the first order.  His father, George, also a former governor (MI) almost took the GOP nomination in 1968 for president, having a huge lead early in the polls.  However, he self-destructed at the very end of the campaign, claiming that he had been brainwashed by government agents after a fact-finding trip to Vietnam in the 1960s.  The result:  Richard Nixon.

Then there’s the other governors: Tim Pawlenty (MN) and Bobby Jindahl (LA).  It’s no secret these guys want to be president.  I’m really not going into much detail on them, other than the fact that they’re governors, they seem to be moderately competent, and they really haven’t done anything to either distinguish themselves or to completely screw themselves.  I doubt that either is really going to gain much traction either in the polls or in terms of fundraising, but they deserve a mention, nonetheless.

To close, I’ll briefly mention two people who would be unmitigated disasters for this country if elected President.  There’s Sarah Palin, who has the intellectual horsepower of a box of hair.  She may well make a run, but I don’t think it’d be a genuine one.  I think, most likely, she’s out of politics, as she’s found that there’s a group of Americans who think she’s the best thing since sliced bread, and they’re willing to fork over their hard-earned wages to a woman who can’t string together a coherent sentence.  If she ran, I think it’d be a marketing ploy to solidify her position as a infotainer.

To close, there’s former Senator Rick Santorum (PA).  Serving two terms in the House from a western Pennsylvania district beginning in 1990, he was elected to the Senate in 1994.  Possibly the most antigay member of the Senate ever, he was famous for saying that homosexuality was wrong, comparing it to bestiality and pedophilia.  He was also of the opinion that key Supreme Court decisions, including Griswold v. Connecticut (the decision that allows women the right to birth control), ought to be overturned.  He’s a dark, strange fellow, and much of what he represents is best summed up with this story.  In 1996, Santorum’s wife gave birth to a  child very prematurely.  The child died, and the family brought the body home.  They touched it, sang to it, took pictures of it, held a private Mass for it.  In addition to his repugnant policies and positions, he was the least liked members of the Senate, which, admittedly, is a hard moniker to earn in what’s already a body of outsized egos.

Any thoughts as to other GOP hopefuls that I may have missed?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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