A View from the Cheap Seats
An Undecided Voter Surveys the Field
I have to start all the way back on August 29, 2008. It was the day after the Democratic National Convention ended in Denver. I was leaving on a business trip to Italy that day, and found myself on a flight to Boston filled with delegates from the Convention. As you might imagine, there was quite a bit of chatter about the convention and the Presidential race. Sometime midway through the flight, the captain made an announcement that John McCain had chosen his Vice Presidential running mate. Most Republicans had expected the selection of Tim Pawlenty. Much to my surprise, the captain announced that his selection was Sarah Palin. The delegates on the flight immediately went into full panic mode. The conversations went back-and-forth between denial and outrage. Soon the discussions turned to what they would need to do to bring her down. As we all know, McCain went on to lose the election in spite of his selection.
I was much more involved in politics 4 years ago than I find myself now. Back then I had two children in high school, and another two in middle school. Those of you who have been through that know it takes a lot of time shuttling them to and from their events and trying to remain involved in their lives the last few years they are at home. We also struggled financially as many others have through periods of unemployment.
The single factor that led to my backing away from politics though was discouragement. Tea parties came and went as opportunists came in and looked to make a few bucks off of the frustration of everyday people. Elections were lost due more to fighting ourselves than the other party. Corruption settled in with the local party, setting us back years, if not decades.
I never really wanted to be involved in politics. I’d rather be spending my time playing catch with my kids in the back yard, spending the day in the mountains, or heading down to the amusement park. But like many, I found myself outraged at the attempt of our new government to rush headlong into the socialism that has ruined many a good nation around the world.
Fast forward to 2011. I see no need to go into the details of the current political climate. Many others have done a much better job of that than I ever could. Suffice it to say that the economy sucks, debt continues to build at an alarming pace, and since the Republicans took back the House in 2010, a stalemate exists in Congress. Our President never really wanted the job, and it shows in the way that he governs. Honestly, I wish he’d told us in advance that all he really wanted was a free golf tour across the nation. I would have gladly contributed to that so we could have had a someone in the White House who actually wanted to be there. In many ways it recalls the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. All we needed to do was find another Ronald Reagan.
Even a casual observer of history knows that most leaders are of the ordinary kind. Extraordinary leaders only come along once in a great while, and that nation (and often the world) is a better place because of him. Such was the case with Reagan, and we find ourselves once again going through our every-four-year exercise of trying to find the next one.
I joined the blandwagon early this year when Tim Pawlenty threw his hat in the ring. I liked his quiet confidence and very successful conservative record in the purple state of Minnesota. His demeanor was a refreshing change to the unfounded arrogance of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He had a common American story, the son of a truck driver who worked hard and rose up through the ranks. His love of family and country was something that resonated with me. Unfortunately, the political climate was not favorable to the type of candidate he would be, and he was out of the race early.
Many others were rumored to enter the race, but for one reason or another decided this was not their time. A strong draft movement tried to draw Mike Pence in, but he decided to run for Governor instead. Mitch Daniels didn’t have the support of his family. Haley Barbour wisely decided that this wasn’t the year for a white Governor from the deep South. Sarah Palin teased until the last possible moment (and longer), only to announce she was not going to run. Donald Trump stirred things up for awhile only to decide not to run. Well, maybe not anyway.
It appeared to most that Mitt Romney would become the next George HW Bush or Bob Dole. It was his turn, and that is how Republicans play this game. To combat his cloak of inevitability, unpoliticians were encouraged to run by some. Herman Cain was the best example of this, and he ended up like the rise and fall of the Roman Empire except that it only took weeks instead of centuries. So we find ourselves less than a month away from the oh-so-important Iowa Caucuses that every Republican hates (save for Iowans). The candidates that we have are the candidates we have, for better or worse.
Before I get into the remaining candidates, it’s only fair to say a little bit about myself. We all have our biases, and I am no exception. The come from our personal philosophy and experiences in life which mold our eventual worldview. Some of you will say my ultimate decision will be based on this worldview. Of course it will, as is the same for all of you.
First and foremost I am a Christian, and unashamedly so. God’s Word informs my life and every decision that I make when I’m not rebelling against Him, which is way more often than I’d like. I grew up in a typical middle class family, though the early years were a struggle for my parents. This was in California back when it was a great place to live. I served in the Army, but only for a short time due to asthma. Still, I took the oath and had every intention of fighting for my country. My discharge was honorable. I’m married, but this is not my first marriage. I have six children and seven grandchildren. I have a degree in Computer Science that I received last year. I’m a computer geek by day and a sports official by night (and some weekends). Philosophically, I tend toward the practical over the ideologically pure, but I am not a moral relativist. Enough about me.
Since it’s clear we are not blessed with our next Reagan, we’re going to have to find the candidate that has the right combination of positive attributes to be successful in the general election. No amount of wishful thinking or projection will make any of these guys into the next Ronald Reagan. The successful candidate will have executive experience, a solid conservative approach to governing, the ability to successfully communicate his plan to the voters, and the ability to stand up to the every-increasing onslaught of the media.
We have six* remaining candidates. I will address each of these candidates in my current order of preference, starting with the least preferred. Remember, this is how I see things from the cheap seats, and in my many discussions with coworkers, friends, and family, this is how a lot of other people see things. It is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of any of the candidates.
Michelle Bachmann: Bachmann lacks the executive experience necessary to effectively govern. She would be little different than the Republican version of Barack Obama. While she has a solid conservative plan, she lacks the ability to successfully communicate that to a majority of voters. I see no evidence that she would be able to build a coalition to accomplish anything.
Rick Santorum: There’s no question that Santorum has a conservative approach, however, two Senate terms isn’t executive experience. He’s been a polarizing figure for quite some time, and was decimated in his last election. I have little confidence that he would even be able to carry his own state. He has not successfully communicated his plan to the voters in any significant way.
Jon Huntsman: Huntsman is somewhat of a dichotomy. He certainly governed in a very conservative way in Utah. I just can’t seem to get over his going to work for Obama. It’s not that I care if a Republican works for a Democrat, but the moment Obama uttered the words, I Won, no Republican should have lifted a finger to help him. The other thing that bothers me is his run to the middle, while eschewing conservatives. He thought he could win by ignoring us. He successfully communicated that he did not need me, and therefore shouldn’t expect my vote.
Mitt Romney: Mitt was also my third choice four years ago. I almost placed him behind Huntsman, but at least Mitt expects my vote because it’s his turn. There’s no question he has the executive experience, both in the public and private sector. He governed well as a Republican in a blue state. We can all Monday Morning quarterback his decisions as governor. Some think Romneycare prevents him from being electable in the general election. I personally believe he should have stayed out of it and vetoed their bills and made them override him. Single payer would’ve been a quicker failure and might have prevented Obamacare from being passed.
Yet, I believe it is his private sector experience that would be his undoing in the general election. Say what you will about the #OccupyWallStreet folks, and there’s much that can be said. But some of what they have to say has been resonating with the voters. The democrats would use his banker experience against him successfully.
Romney has been an utter failure at communicating his plan. Nobody really knows what he would do if elected. It is my belief that he would become more like Bill Clinton than anyone else. He would govern whichever way the wind was blowing at that point in time. Nothing would change during the next four years, except we’d just be further along the road to disaster. Mitt Romney is the opposite of hope and change. If you like how things have been going for the past few years, Mitt is your guy. If Mitt wins the nomination and is elected, we will find ourselves right back here four years from now with nothing having been changed, and a candidate that has to find some way to excuse his lack of performance. That is not where you want to be heading into an election.
Rick Perry: After Tim Pawlenty dropped out, I found no one else that I could support. When rumors started getting serious that Rick Perry was going to enter the race, I was expecting that he would be my guy. His executive experience is second to none in the race. While unemployment rose everywhere else, Rick Perry was maintaining an environment where businesses could retain jobs and even absorb workers displaced from other states. Although he has always been working with a Republican legislature, they have not always been on the same page. His approach to governing has been from a federalist point-of-view, which really appeals to me.
Where Rick Perry falls down is his ability to communicate his plan to the voters. I don’t know why this is, but it is. His Southern Gentleman approach is no more effective for him than a similar approach was for Tim Pawlenty. He spends too much time talking about things in Texas, and not enough about how he will foster an environment for Americans to return our nation back to its former glory. Although he’s raised considerably more money than most of the other candidates, he hasn’t put that money to effective use.
He also hasn’t fared well with the media. This isn’t about debates either, although we’re all aware of his performance there. I’ll be honest with you. I have not watched a single debate. I only know what I’ve read here and in other places, and what I’ve heard. Here is where I believe the comparisons to GW Bush are valid. The onslaught of the media will only increase as the election moves on, and he just as Bush never really faced them, Perry doesn’t seem to be able to handle it either. Sure, Romney seems to have a glass jaw when it comes to the media, but when it’s your turn you expect the media to play your game. Perry should have no such expectations.
Newt Gingrich: In my wildest dreams I never expected to end up here. Yet, at this point in the race, Newt stands above all of the others. Unless you’re willing to give all the credit to Bill Clinton for balanced budgets and surpluses, and for welfare reform (which I’m not), you must agree that Newt has successful executive experience as the Speaker of the House. How much of a part he played matters little. In my America, ultimate responsibility goes to leaders. That includes successes and failures.
When I first started considering Newt again, I decided to go look at his website. What caught my attention first off is, rather that list issues like everyone else, he listed solutions. A small matter, just a word perhaps, but I believe it speaks to the underlying mentality of what’s needed today. Some of Newt’s plans are similar to others. He’s even been accused of stealing the plans of others. It’s not like there are very many different was to do things. But when it comes right down to it, wouldn’t you rather pay 15% than 20%? While Perry’s plan would keep funding at the status quo, Newt’s plans would reduce revenues to the point that things would have to be cut. Could either of them get their plans through Congress? That’s hard to say at this point without knowing what the makeup would be, but I like going into the battle with a better hand.
Newt is an ideas guy. While everyone else has been trying to figure out how much money we should spend on healthcare, Newt had a solution idea. While we all know that the cost of healthcare has grown at a much higher pace than inflation, we know the reasons for this are primarily better care, and an aging populace, especially the latter. Newt’s idea is to spend more money right now to find cures for the most common ailments of the aging (e.g. Alzheimer’s). This makes a lot of sense in the long term. It’s capitalistic thinking as well (investment now reduces costs later). I could go on, but I really like that he’s an ideas guy. Reagan did a lot of this too, but he had a guy he could blame the crazy ideas on (Watts).
Newt also scares the heck out of me. He has no small amount of baggage. He’s done some dumb things in his life, both personal and professional. He’s loyal to the Party to a fault sometimes. If he is elected, I’ll probably buy stock in television sets and shoes, because I’m pretty sure the demand for both will increase. His prior marital issues may or may not turn off enough women voters. That he is disliked by many of his peers on both sides of the aisle is a positive to me, not a negative. Successful leaders are not liked by everyone, and there are times you have to simply run over people to accomplish things.
His ability to handle himself with other candidates and the media is second to none. He’s probably more arrogant than Huntsman, but doesn’t come across that way to the general public. He’s definitely the smartest man in the room and likes to make sure everyone knows it, but sometimes there’s a confidence conveyed in that.
Right now, from where I sit, Newt seems to be the best candidate. Based on the polling numbers, there appear to be many others that agree with me. The next Ronald Reagan isn’t running this time, so we have to go with the best we have. I believe that Newt has the best chance to beat Barack Obama.
And I Want To Win.
I’m also still undecided. Although both of you that have stuck with this diary all the way to this point will probably believe I’m in the tank for Newt, that simply isn’t the case. I think he has the best chance to weather the coming storm and win. I’d love to see Rick Perry step up and change my mind, but I see no reason that he would or could. Whatever we do, let’s agree that after this silly season is over that we work together to ensure that Barack Obama is a one-term President.
*I realize that I did not include Ron Paul. This was not an oversight. I didn’t include Buddy Roemer or any of the other declared candidates that almost no one has heard of. While Ron Paul is actually polling higher than some that I have included in this list, his supporters are not going to vote for a Republican candidate not named Ron Paul. I see no reason to include someone whose followers are not Republicans. You don’t like that? It would be difficult for me to describe in words how little I care.