In Iowa, prospective GOP presidential candidates participated in the second debate of the season. On view was an incessant display of derogatory critiques of President Obama’s handling of the economy in addition to a sideshow atmosphere of one-liners, sound bites and the seemingly dysfunctional collection of participants that could only be outdone by those who participate in the local pie-eating contest.
It is difficult to compare the GOP collective to President Obama, but they can be compared to each other in three distinct categories: pragmatists, radicals and extremists. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has withdrawn from the race after coming in a disappointing third place in the straw poll and Texas Gov.Rick Perry has entered the race. With no word from Sarah Palin, this is how the remaining body politic stacks up.
The Pragmatists: The candidates comprising this group are John Huntsman, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Ron Paul. The only problem with pragmatism in the GOP race is that this is a behavior deemed inappropriate by the ultra conservative faction of the GOP and tea party brass alike. Paul will likely be the only Republican who could gather a sizable portion of the Independent vote. Santorum, on the other hand, is pandering to the evangelical portion of the party that he will lose to Congresswoman Michele Bachman. Huntsman, although the former governor of a state with a history of economic boom and experience as ambassador to Singapore and China, has too much common sense to be considered appealing to the average conservative voter.
The Radicals: Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are the only two in this group. They are radical in a sense that they can stimulate the conservative base, yet at the same time are out of tune with the average voter regardless of political affiliation. Their trump card is their executive experience in the corporate world. However, this is their weakness for it disconnects them from the people on Main Street, who though they want a president with experience in the business world, still view corporatist as a dirty word.
The Extremists: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry. The extremists are so far from the mainstream that they may as well be in another galaxy. Rep. Michele Bachmann makes her decisions based on what God tells her to do. Although she is the first woman to ever win the Iowa straw poll and is a tea party conservative, her misstatements and record in Congress will have to be addressed incessantly. Perry, in the last of his 10 years as the governor of Texas, is a strong social and fiscal conservative. Albeit somewhat erratic, compared to the rest of the bunch he is the top billing. There isn’t much to say about Newt, this danseur lost most of his staff when he entered the race. Plus he has little chance of collecting support from even tea party members.
President Obama doesn’t have his had filled with any of these candidates with the exception of Perry. Regardless, 2012 will be no cakewalk for the president, so he should take no one lightly, even if they can be likened to characters on the Loony Tunes cartoons. –torrance t. stephens, ph.d.