The Replacement Killers

None of the supposed GOP “front runners” — if there is such a thing at E-18 months — participated in last night’s GOP debate. This is probably why it was actually interesting. Feel free post your thoughts. Not much is settled at this point — we don’t even know what the issues will be in 2012. But my brief impressions of the guys who are vying for fourth place:

  • Gary Johnson does not have a chance. It’s a pity because he’s smart, libertarian and could win moderates. But he’s a little too … invisible to win the GOP nomination, especially when he’s on the stage with firebrands like Paul, Cain and Santorum. I did like him quite a bit, though and have since his gubernatorial days. Plus, how cool would it be to have a President who has climbed Everest?
  • Ron Paul reminded me of why I like him so much. Four years older and he’s still energetic and passionate. His defense of drug legalization was one of the highlights of the night. I’m not sure he’d be a good candidate given his past associations with Lew Rockwell and his somewhat kooky fiscal ideas. But having a Goldwater-esque pyrrhic victory might be just what Dr. No ordered. I really hope he stays in the field for a long time to force the other candidates to be honest. His influence has only grown.
  • Tim Pawlenty made zero impression on me. He’s trying to straddle a lot of issues, Romney-style, including creationism and cap-and-trade. I just don’t see him gaining much traction with the rank-and-file GOP. He wouldn’t be bad President, I think. But his personal appeal isn’t strong.
  • Rick Santorum reminded me that he is still a steaming bag of santorum. His Culture War positions were old ten years ago and his style is grating and sanctimonious. I do think, however, that he has a shot at the vice-presidency if a more moderate Republican (Romney, T-Paw) takes the lead. Social conservatives tend to like him and I probably dislike and slag him a lot more than he deserves.
  • Herman Cain had the best night, despite the panel’s attempts to avoid talking to him. This is really the first time he’s been on a national stage and he was clear, cogent and passionate. I disagree with Cain on a number of issues and am unconvinced that he would make a good President. But, like Paul, I hope he sticks with his candidacy for a while. He will liven up future debates. And between the two of them, they’ll make Trump look like an idiot.

Nothing is decided at this time. Pawlenty needed a good showing to make himself a legitimate candidate and I just didn’t see it. But I think Cain and Paul showed that they belong in the debates. Paul we knew about. But his was Herman Cain’s coming out party.

Predicting an election 18 months out is a fool’s game. But looking over the current field — last night’s five plus Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, Huntsman, Bolton, Palin, Bachmann (I’m assuming Trump will drop out at financial disclosure time), I’ll take a stab at prediction and preference. Right now, my preference is for Gary Johnson. My prediction is still that it will be Romney.

Now if only they could have gotten “The Rent is Too Damn High” candidate out there. (Yes, he’s running for the GOP nomination. Seriously.) Wouldn’t it be awesome to see him go up against Trump?

Comments are closed.

  1. Richtaylor365

    Hal, you didn’t really watch that debate last night, did you? {groan} either ,”you are one dedicated SOB”, or, “You gotta get out more often”

    But your post brought up an interesting question that I have been mulling over for a while (and might even be fodder for a fairly interesting post in itself), what qualifications do you think are essential for a presidential contender?

    When you look at our current president, was there ever anyone at anytime running with a more flimsy more diaphanous resume then him? One hundred plus days in the Senate with nothing to speak of to show for it, no demonstrable legislation sponsored (no, voting present all the time does not count), an academician, a community organizer (talk about living in a bubble) but where was the executive experience, where was he ever placed in a position of responsibility? He is presentable (who is the guy that intimated that he was a clean negro?) and he gives a good speech, oh, and he is of mixed race, but he got elected.

    Taking the path of governor of an individual state has been the old reliable, executive experience, dealing with the legislative process, working with budgets and taxation, making compromises for the common good, but what about a strictly legislative background like what Bachmann has, or even working in the Senate like JKK or BHO? I don’t see this as a particularly strong foundation. What about a illustrious business background like Romney? I would give much more weight to a strong business background then a minor legislative role. Here the guy has at least met a payroll, understands economics, taxation, and budgets. But does being a CEO of a company groom you for the White House? If things don’t go your way you can’t just fire everyone and start over.

    How important is looks? I’m a big Chris Christie fan (not as big as him, obviously) but on looks and stature alone, does he fit the bill?

    Obviously the ability to communicate is huge, but today you can get by without being a Lincoln who could oratate for hours, the magic of the teleprompter can make anyone seem like a Henry Clay.

    Some other attributes or traits I find essential: common sense-manifesting itself in life decisions that worked out, life experience-being old enough to have been around the block and seen some things, perseverance- starting out from humble beginnings, working hard and actually making something of yourself in the form or your own business or some other feat of accomplishment, and patriotism- understanding what this country is all about, what it stands for, and being proud of that.

    Any others that I missed?

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  2. Anonymous

    I actually think Pawlenty was the winner on substance. I also thought he did well on the cap and trade question. Santorum seemed more about hyping his past record. Agree that Cain was the most plain-spoken. It’s too bad about Johnson because he comes across as a younger version of Paul but complete legalization is a non-starter. Couldn’t understand what creationism had to do with anything.

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  3. Hal 10000

    I think political experience can be massively over-rated. Lincoln, for example, had one term in the House prior to being President. Experience helps certainly but is importance is over-stressed by … well, experienced politicians. If their experience consists of budget busting that’s not every good experience.

    Having a strong and clear political philosophy and a record of getting things done is more important than experience. John Kerry was plenty experienced at … gaining experience. Accomplishments, not so much.

    What I really look for is a temperament. Someone who has principles but can change when events do. Someone not overwhelmed. Smart but with an awareness for his limitations. Someone who doesn’t act rashly (this was the chief reason I soured on McCain). These are more important, in many ways, than where someone stands on an issue. Because we don’t know what issues will be important in the next four years.

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  4. Rann

    Lincoln had less to contend with, though (well, day-to-day, I mean… okay, the Civil War’s a lot to contend with, but I mean… larger context… yeah). While I’m not saying the job was simple then, nor obviously that he had a simple time of it, I really think the job of President has changed over time to involve a lot more… well, keeping a schedule, among other things.

    I think people who occupy the office need a decent amount of political experience just so they can get used to the demands of the schedule, how to manage themselves and their people, and so on. I think that’s why we’ve tended to favor Governors for the position in the past… it’s about as close as you can get to a practice presidency.

    Apparently that’s one of the problems Obama has had… he just can’t keep his schedule. I don’t think he picked up the time management skills that, say, a governorship or just being in office long enough would teach him. Obviously this isn’t the make-or-break of a President, but it would probably help.

    Another issue of experience is that over long enough, you learn enough about someone to establish a precedent, and enough of their secrets will come out that you have a general idea who they are under it all. (And their supporters can feel free to ignore that if they like, but at least it’s there.) Obama’s lack of experience also meant he was able to coast by on his “Present” record and arrived in the office as an almost complete mystery, helping spawn a million conspiracy theories. If he’d had to at least serve awhile longer in the senate, had a governor bid, a lot of the digging into his past could have been done and gotten out of the way with. (Of course, having gotten more of an idea of his character, it’s likely that the idea of President Obama would have returned to being laughable… which is likely why he was rushed into office as an inexperienced unknown.)

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