It seems that in recent political cycles the American electorate more and more has come
to the ballot box to pull the lever for the lesser of two evils. This primary cycle is proving no different as voters seem dissatisfied with their primary options. The latest polls place former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Georgiabusinessman Herman Cain, and current Texas Governor Rick Perry all within striking distance of the nomination. Yet no single candidate seems able to muster more than 30% of Republican voter support. In fact, in an election cycle that shows the President being soundly defeated by a “generic Republican” the top tier candidates can only get within the margin of error. Why do Republicans seem so turned off by other Republicans?
I would begin with an analysis of Mitt Romney – the Mormon wunderkind. Mitt’s first problem with the base is his religious affiliation, for many conservative Evangelical Christians there is an in-built concern over Governor Romney’s position of submission to the leadership of the LDS. Could a President Romney disobey his religious authority if it brought him in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States? It is a similar question to which many American asked of Roman Catholic candidate (and then President) John F. Kennedy way back in 1960. I believe it to be a legitimate question.
Perhaps more disconcerting for non-Evangelical members of the base, however, is Governor Romney’s authoring of RomneyCare in Massachusetts. President Obama and his advisors have made no bones about the fact that they modeled the recently passed nationalization of the healthcare industry dubbed “ObamaCare” on RomneyCare. Another issue for the base is Romney’s one time pro-choice stance, is his switch to pro-life real or something conjured up for a Presidential run? The greatest deterrent may well simply be that Governor Romney is a moderate Massachusetts Republican at a time when the Tea-Party passions of the Republican Party are begging for a staunch conservative.
For Governor Rick Perry the problems seem less egregious but the poll numbers do not support that. Since Governor Perry’s announcement as a candidate he has seen his stock soar to official “likely” candidate and drop to also-ran. The tumble in popular perception has come due to the glaring light of media attention. The sins Governor Perry is now paying for? He is a one time Al Gore supporting Democrat politician who switched to the Republican Party in 1989. He mandated the use of the HPV vaccine Gardasil in the great state of Texas– something he has since apologized for. He also spoke out against the popular (with Republicans) Arizona border law, and went so far as to support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in Texas Colleges. In my opinion he could have overcome all of this, but the proverbial “straw that breaks the back” may have been this statement. It is never a good idea to call the people you want voting for you “heartless”.
Herman Cain is the ultimate spoiler. The chance for Republicans to prove to the media, the intelligentsia, and the left wing race baiters that our values, beliefs, and convictions have nothing to do with race, creed, or color but with the man (or woman as the case may be). Herman Cain has no experience as an elected official, and that may well be his greatest boon or his biggest failing. He is the epitome of every great conservative storyline; the man who is raised “right”, and makes the decision from early on to make a way for himself through hard work instead of using the “system” to slide by. He worked hard all of his life and made a name for himself (as well as a fortune) as a businessman. He has turned around failing business ventures and been part of guiding a portion of our economy. He also happens to be an African-American raised in the South during the Civil Rights movement. A more powerful story you won’t find, not even in the Democrat Party.
However, for all the gold in Mr. Cain’s candidacy there are some problems. He has never held elected political office – for some this is a positive, but for many more the issue of “experience” will hinder their selection of him at the ballot box. Republicans don’t need much reminding of what happened after Governor Palin was chosen by Senator McCain to be his running mate. Also, the idea of having someone as inexperienced as President Obama follow directly on his heels may be a bit unnerving for some. Mr. Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan has also become a problem for some as we have learned recently that it could actually increase the tax burden on some.
Beyond these “upper-tier” candidates we find the second tier; Dr. Ron Paul and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Dr. Paul’s candidacy in the primaries in my view is a non-starter because of his difference in views onIsrael– the base will not support a candidate who does not wholeheartedly supportIsrael. It is pleasing however, to note, that many of the ideas Dr. Paul has been espousing on the economy for the last 4o years are finally being listened to by mainstream Republicans. For Speaker Gingrich the road to the Presidency is much murkier – in any light he is a great candidate. He always does well in debates, he is usually the smartest guy in the room, and he has the “street cred” for any political dog fight. Yet, he has almost no chance of being the nominee because of his personal failings. It is important for Republican candidates to note that their personal and social lives are extremely important to the mainstream Republican voter. For many Republicans, your personal life reflects your commitment to honesty and integrity.
What Republican primary voters are going to have to decide is whether they will choose purity to Republican ideals or they will choose electability. Many will be proud to vote for the Republican candidate on Election Day 2012; others may have to hold their nose as they do it.