Republican Presidential Race: The Candidates

With not long until the Iowa Caucus officially kick-starts the GOP Presidential race and the likelihood of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph about as inevitable as the last two times I commented on the issue, it would perhaps be prudent to take a different approach and provide a short description of each of the candidates in the Republican field.

Mitt Romney: Front-runner and inevitable nominee, Romney attempted and failed to endear himself to the increasingly right-wing Republican base by adopting positions that were curiously diametrically opposed to those he ran with in the very same situation four years ago. Fortunately for him, the rest of the field are so desperately weak that he will win anyway. Introduced a healthcare system as Governor of Massachusetts upon which the controversial ‘Obamacare’ was partly based. Strangely, he’s not exactly fond of that fact.  Romney has run a campaign characterised by a somewhat understandable disdain for his opponents, consistently taking aim at President Obama rather than any Republican rivals. Briefly flustered by Newt Gingrich’s surge, he has regained his robotic swagger once again. Also not a career politician, despite first running for office in 1995.

Ron Paul: Currently polling second in Iowa, Paul struggled to get any media coverage during the early stages of the campaign. Given the inability of rivals to pose any stable threat to Romney, his astute focus on campaigning in Iowa and extreme Libertarian agenda looks set to draw support from both the usually reluctant young voters, driven especially by his opposition to US military involvement abroad, as well as some more unsavoury right-wing groups. If he does beat Romney in Iowa, it will still be seen as a Romney victory; Paul is too libertarian and too quirky a candidate to win the nomination, while his late rise in support means only now are opponents and the media digging for dirt that could hinder his chances. So opposed is he to federal government that he voted against a motion in Congress to express condolences to the families of the victims of the Haitian Earthquake. Victim of Sacha Baron Cohen character Bruno, who he says he should have punched rather than label a ‘crazy queer’.

Newt Gingrich: Former House Speaker Gingrich was tipped by some to pose the serious threat to Romney over the course of the Primary campaign, but his rise to the top of the polls proved just as short-lived as all those before him. Unlike those relative unknowns, who Republican voters entertained briefly before discovering that even they were less appetizing than Mitt Romney, it was that which we already knew about Gingrich that cut so cruelly short his surge. Thrice married, Gingrich’s infidelity never was likely to attract support from an increasingly socially Conservative Republican base. This only highlights the dearth of talent available; Republicans knew they didn’t like Gingrich and that many of them couldn’t vote for him, yet they still seriously considered doing so. Just in case there was any danger he could actually challenge Romney, another of Newt’s old failings sent his numbers careering back down in the polls. Labelled by some as ‘foot and mouth disease’, Newt’s inability to not say something incredibly damaging reared its ugly head as he got terribly mixed up on health insurance and then called for unemployed youngsters to be hired for less than the minimum wage as janitors in their schools. Likely to come third or fourth in Iowa, Gingrich’s campaign looks finished before it had even really started.

Rick Santorum (Note: readers are urged to Google ‘Santorum’ at this time): Anyone with Google will be aware that the chances of the Republican Party officially nominating a candidate with such slogans as ‘Santorum for America’ are zero. Yet, in a deliciously ironic twist, Santorum’s staunchly conservative views on issues from abortion to gay marriage (well, homosexuality in general really) have led him to emerge as the standard-bearer for the Evangelical and conservative Right. His late momentum heading into the Iowa caucus provided  the brilliant headline ‘Santorum comes from behind in Iowa’, which has little to contribute to this article other than to highlight that Santorum’s views are so comprehensively ridiculous that it is in many ways more challenging to make gags about his name. Despite this, the increasing possibility of a Santorum win in Iowa, the one state to which he has devoted almost the entirety of his campaign resources, would upset Romney and the Republican establishment, with the Democrats just waiting to pounce to label Santorum the standard-bearer of not just the Evangelical Right but the Republican Party as a whole. That this would cause such dismay is exactly why he will not win the nomination. Well, that and his name of course.

On the rise: Rick Santorum's social conservative appeal could see him make a late surge to victory in Iowa

Rick Perry: Who could forget the Texas Governor’s “oops” moment after a memory lapse in one of the many GOP debates?Apparently, the Republican Party. Perry won’t win Iowa, and he may even finish 5th, but he does seem to retain the ability to recover from that iconic error. Like them all, Perry has his flaws; weakness in debates, apparent drunkenness on stage, suggestion that Texas should secede from the USA and a seemingly ambiguous record of severe cruelty to illegal immigrants. However, should Santorum win Iowa and throw a spanner in the works of Romney’s cruise to victory, the George Bush Jnr. impersonator is best placed to offer voters that alternative they have been seeking from the very start.

Jon Huntsman: Rich, moderate, Mormon. If Mitt Romney is the frontrunner then why exactly is his political twin Jon Huntsman struggling to threaten double figures? The answer is the man they’re all battling to oppose later in the year: Barack Obama. While Romney’s greatest strength is his ability to confront Obama on every issue and portray himself as the non-Obama choice in a vote in which Obama is not an option, Huntsman has no such luxury. Having served under Obama as ambassador to China for four years, and possessing not insignificant integrity and intelligence on at least a few policy areas, Huntsman’s moderate logic has been drowned out beneath the excruciating wail of Tea-Party pandering and the deafening thud of Romney’s over-used flip-flops.

Michelle Bachmann: The very first of the candidates to challenge Romney at the head of the polls before succumbing to ridicule and ignominy. Bachmann ‘s campaign began with the momentum of a Palin ‘momma grizzly’, but has taken such a severe turn for the worse that she has attempted to claw back support in recent days with desperate references to the ‘Iron Lady’. At one time an unlikely unifier of social conservatives, her statement that the HPV vaccine led to ‘mental retardation’ and accusations that her husband ran a clinic vowing to ‘cure’ homosexuality left Bachmann toxic. Her campaign seems in serious trouble, with donors and senior aides jumping ship to Santorum’s resurgent challenge. Embarrassment in Iowa could see her bow out, which would not be a great shame for anyone really.

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Posted on January 2, 2012, in Comment, Foreign Affairs, Looking Forward, US Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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