Monday, 30 May 2011

Campaign Tour or Book Tour?

Rolling in on the back of a Harley the former Vice-Presidential nominee has been travelling throughout the East Coast appearing at several events but seemingly without talking anything political. She joined thousands of other leather-clad Harley-riding Americans in tribute to war veterans on Memorial Day as they rode from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Historically Republicans have always fared well with military veterans and on the day, with Palin surrounded by many who looked upon her favourably, many encouraged her to run. When one asked if she was going to run she replied: "Don't know."

Palin remains a question mark as to whether she would be willing run and the smart money says she won't when she can spend the next 4 years preparing and honing her skills without missing her window given age is on her side. Whilst this tour has certainly caused a stir in these early days of the Republican primary season it does not look or feel like she is teeing up an announcement of her candidacy for the nomination. Instead it would seem she is taking advantage of the circumstances and suspense surrounding her decision by broadcasting herself a bit more and getting her book out there. She isn't in Iowa which is where she should be if she is seriously considering a run so spending time in D.C is really a waste of her time; unless it's a book tour.

Photo by Fred Dunn via Flickr.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Tim Pawlenty Declares

The former Governor of Minnesota, 50, declared via YouTube that he has decided to seek the Republican nomination for President. Echoing the style of a previous video, in which he announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, he said: "I believe with all my heart that the challenges we face can be overcome."

Making direct attacks at the Obama administration he said: "The truth is; our country is in big trouble. We have far too much debt, too much government spending and too few jobs." He then moved to personally criticise the sitting President saying: "We need a President who understands that our problems our deep and who has the courage to face them. President Obama doesn't. I do."

He continued his speech by attempting to identify himself with the average working American (a proud label) saying: "I grew up in a blue collar town. My Dad worked as a truck driver, my Mom died when I was a teenager and I was the first in our family to graduate from college." He then pronounced his continued belief in the American dream adding: "I know the American dream because I lived it and I know for it to be there for the next generation."

After which he took another shot at Obama's style of politics: "We're going to have to do more than give fancy speeches. We've had 3 years of that and it's not working."

Pawlenty's video announcements are remarkably different in style to the ones we have seen so far from Newt Gingrich et al as they don't take the approach of looking at the camera and speaking for 2 minutes. (You can find these in the video tab at the top.) Instead the Pawlenty campaign - and their PR guys - are adopting the approach of mixing stills, videos of a skyline, home videos and other types to create a montage which, for some, puts them head and shoulders above anything we have seen so far. In terms of the backing music, over which the candidate speak, Pawlenty's music was more sober and moving rather than Gingrich's more sombre and placid piano backing.      

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Mitch Daniels is Out

Like his close friend Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi, Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana, has decided not to pursue the Republican nomination for President in 2012. He joins an increasingly large list of Republican politicians who have surprisingly declined the opportunity to run. Mike Huckabee, in particular, looked like a lock and possibly the race's biggest heavyweight given the relative success of his attempt in 2008 and his activities since then including a TV show on the Fox News Channel and books he has written.

Daniels is widely seen as a rising star in the GOP having been re-elected by an 18 point margin in 2008 and has made his name as a potent cost-cutter, budget-balancer and, to a lesser degree, as a limiter of abortion. David Brooks of the New York times described the Governor as the "Party's strongest [would be] candidate," adding that he "couldn't match Obama in grace and elegance, but he could on substance."

In an e-mail sent out in the early hours of Sunday morning to his supporters he told them: "I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all." Daniels expressed concern at the strain a national campaign, and the glare of the national media it entails, could have on his wife and 4 daughters.

In finishing his e-mail he wrote: "If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry. If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise.  I only hope that you will accept my sincerity in the judgment I reached."

Photo by Adam P Schweigert/WFIU via Flickr.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The First Ad of 2012

The first political attack ad of sorts has been released by pressure group Priorities USA. Although not formally linked to the White House or the Obama re-election campaign it does have links to the White House through former deputy press secretary Bill Burton. The ad latches onto possible Republican nominee Mitt Romney's position on Medicare, which he has yet to clearly define, and it is suggested that he is flip-flopping on the issue given his background. He is the former Governor of Massachusetts and during his tenure he instituted widely acclaimed healthcare reforms that became the basis of 'Obamacare.' The ad levels criticism at Romney for saying that he is on "the same page" as Congressman Paul Ryan who composed the plan to essentially abolish Medicare; a programme hugely popular amongst the country's elderly beneficiaries.

Romney's campaign team dismissed the ad as part of a "smear campaign." Romney is now off to South Carolina for a visit and is likely to make a decision on his candidacy in the next couple of weeks although it seems virtually certain that he will run.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Profile: Newt Gingrich

With an announcement on Twitter and a video on YouTube the former Speaker of the House and Congressman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, has declared his candidacy to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012. In the video he told viewers: "There's a much better American future ahead with more jobs, more prosperity, a better health system, longer lives, greater independent living and a country that is decentralized under the 10th Amendment with power once again back with the American people and away from the Washington bureaucracy."
In a not-so-veiled shot at the Obama administration and the Democratic Party he said: "there are some people who don't mind if America becomes a wreck as long as they dominate the wreckage." The author and historian, 67, is most famed for regularly locking horns with then President Bill Clinton and engineering the 1994 Contract with America which gave the Republican party control of the House for the first time in 40 years. However, just 4 years later after a disastrous performance by the GOP in the mid-term elections Gingrich resigned and has been working as a campaigner, as well as author, ever since. With his long career in Washington politics he has developed strong ties with several big GOP donors and party operatives; so a strong well-structured and well-funded campaign is expected.
Gingrich does however face questions about his family values and fidelity as he is already onto his third wife, Callista, who was a Congressional aide that he had an affair with whilst still married to his second wife. He blamed his aberration on his love of country and the stresses of congress. He has also recently converted to Catholicism and now has to work hard to win the religious, and protestant, socially conservative base. To do so he has associated himself with a rather controversial pastor the rather evangelical John Hagee who said on radio in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that New Orleans suffered the "judgement of God" due to its "level of sin." (No doubt a dig at the perceived culture around Bourbon Street in New Orleans although Hagee later retracted his words.)

Gingrich's campaign has however got off to a bit of a rocky start with the right of the party with his approach to the possible reformation of Medicare. In an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press' he labelled a GOP plan to overhaul the long-standing legislation as "right-wing extremism." The comments were seen as a rebuke to the orchestrator of the plan, the party's conservative rising star, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. A lot of the criticism levelled at Gingrich has come from the socially conservative and Tea Party embraced members of the GOP. South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley commented: "Here you’ve got Representative Ryan trying to bring common sense to this world of insanity, and Newt absolutely cut him off at the knees." Haley's endorsement is very much sought after as she governs the state that holds the primary season's third contest.
Later, Gingrich mentioned that he felt somewhat blind-sided by 'Meet the Press' presenter David Gregory's line of questioning despite appearing on the show 35 times. He has also drawn fire for his position on Obama's healthcare legislation as he didn't completely denounce it, initially, which is something widely expected of GOP members as not a single Republican in either House or Senate voted in favour of the bill. Regarding the individual mandate to take out health insurance, whether government or private, a key tenant of 'Obamacare' and opposed by Republicans he said: "I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay — help pay for health care." He later tried back-tracking on this by stating that he flatly opposed the law and backed it up signing a pledge to repeal it.
Photo by ajagendorf25 via Wikimedia Commons.
On top of this, Gin­grich then encountered the latest hiccup regarding his personal life. A report by Politico stated that he previosuly owed approximately $500,000 to iconic jewellery store Tiffany and Co. The accounts were apparently filed by his latest wife Callista and when ever pressed for details about them Gingrich has continually declined to comment.
As it stands, Gingrich's support amongst GOP voters has been somewhat weak. In recently published polling; CNN showed only 10% support amongst GOP voters and 5% in a Quinnipiac poll. This once Republican heavyweight may not wield the power he once did just over a decade ago but his access to the party's largest financial backers is unmatched and the envy of his competitors except for maybe Mitt Romney who has of course the many millions in his pockets he could dig into should his fundraising river dry up.

Article first published as Profile: Newt Gingrich on Blogcritics. Also as Who is Newt Gingrich? The man who would be president on The Commentator.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mike Huckabee is Out

Another one pulls up before the race even starts. Mike Huckabee joins Haley Barbour as two big Republican heavyweights who have decided not to run for the GOP nomination. Huckabee's decision is particularly surprising considering he has positioned himself well throughout the campaign so far.

There were rumours a couple of weeks ago that Huckabee might not be running and he had taken his foot of the gas somewhat as it was clear his campaign was at a much lower tempo than his rivals when. He had lost out on some key hires for his Iowa campaign team.

“All the factors say go,” Huckabee said in his Fox News Channel show. “But my heart says no.” Huckabee's withdrawal flings the campaign further open amongst grassroots conservatives as this was certainly the group from which he drew most support. Undoubtedly, he now makes a strong choice for running mate when the time comes.

One also has to question if the window is now closing for Huckabee. Should he run in four years time he would likely encounter one Sarah Palin, who seems unlikely to run this year, and this would result in a serious tussle for the votes of the socially conservative base. It really seems now rather than later is Huckabee's best opportunity to challenge for the highest office in the land.

Donald Trump is Out

With all his talk of exposing Obama as a foreigner and being a 'really bad student' at Harvard - because lots of bad students become the first Afro-American editor of the Harvard Law Review - the Donald now scuttles away back to the safety of the private sector after balking, not for the first time, at the opportunity to run for President. A Ross Perrot-esque candidacy isn't going to happen any more which is sad for many, like myself, who would delight in writing about something that would definitely spice up standard procedure.

However in his statement he maintained: " the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election." So why not run? "Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."

He went on to say: "This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country. I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half heartedly."

As part of his continuing work in the private sector he is obliged to fulfil his lucrative contract to NBC with another series of his multi-million making TV show The Apprentice.  

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Profile: Ron Paul

The evergreen and libertarian leaning Ron Paul has officially announced his candidacy to be the Republican nominee for President. The 75 years young Republican Congressman for the 14th congressional district in Texas is making his 3rd run at the Presidency after first running in 1988 as a Libertarian.

He is now somewhat of a cult hero amongst in American politics after running a uniquely swashbuckling campaign in 2008 for the Republican nomination. Clearly he's looking to build on that success saying in his announcement on Friday: "The time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years." Adding: "So I think the time is right."

Speaking of his aspirations for 2012 he said: "I'd be fine by doing very well. I believe right now, we're coming in number one and the Republican primary is an absolute possibility." He went on to say that this time around his prospects were, "many, many times better than it was four years ago. Our troops, our supporters - the grassroots - are enthusiastic, more so than ever."

Ron Ernest Paul M.D. is also a very experienced obstetrician having delivered over 4000 babies and is naturally opposed to abortion but, in keeping with his libertarian beliefs, he is opposed to the government intervening on the issue. With abortion being one of the third rail issues of American politics such a perspective is going to be unpopular with the socially conservative grassroots of the Republican party which is undoubtedly the faction of the GOP he appeals to least. In the event he does become the nominee his appeal will be strongest amongst the socially moderate in both parties, fiscal conservatives including Blue Dog Democrats, libertarians and independents. Whilst his appeal is certainly broad his biggest struggle will be with the first hurdle.

Photo by Gage Skidmore.
The nature of the primary process ensures that nominees must first impress the party grassroots before they earn the opportunity to broadcast their message on a national stage. His relatively moderate stance on social issues such as abortion, drugs, faith in schools and other topics falling in the realm of 'American values.' In the past we have seen relative GOP moderates, such as John McCain in the 2008 election, move to the right on these issues in order to secure the party nomination.

It would be unlikely for Paul to bend his beliefs and pander to the grassroots of the party so late in his political career. Currently he serves of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Joint Economic Committee and Committee on Financial Services. He is also chair of the near 20 strong Republican Liberty Caucus which seeks to promote the ideals of individual liberty, limited government and free market economics within the GOP. According to the American Journal of Political Science the Pennsylvania-born Congressman possesses the most conservative voting record in Congress since 1937 although undoubtedly this is as a result of his views on fiscal responsibility than his social views.

He also happens to be the father of junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and also seen as a founding influence of the now ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Initially the movement was set up to protest against the first two budgets of the Obama administration consisting of 3 and 3.8 trillion dollars. They preached for fiscal restraint which is something at the core of Paul's libertarian values however as the movement increasingly became a threat to the mainstream party it became increasingly co-opted. As a result the movement has departed from its unfiltered message of fiscal responsibility and morphed into a group that became the stomping ground for more socially conservative politicians such as Sarah Palin, the infamous Christine O'Donnell and the then unknown Marco Rubio who beat out party big wig Charlie Crist for the Senate.

Based on Paul's 2008 run we can come to expect a strongly committed grassroots base with even more than the 500 'Students for Ron Paul' groups organised in the last election. With the strong youth vote he draws he is expected to continue his strong online presence which earned him the highest rate of contributions from individuals and military personnel amongst Republicans. Whilst it is fair to say Congress' 'Dr. No' is a long shot to be nominee he will certainly have the national spotlight shone on him given his pedigree and undoubtedly will ruffle a few feathers in the candidate debates like he did with Mitt Romney in 2008.

Article first published as Profile: Ron Paul on Blogcritics. Also as The importance of being (Ron) Ernest (Paul) on The Commentator.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Ron Paul Declares

Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States of America on ABC's Good Morning America. "The time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years," he said. "So I think the time is right."

The evergreen libertarian leaning Republican is somewhat of a cult hero amongst libertarians and fiscal conservatives and will undoubtedly be popular amongst independents, more moderate Democrats including the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs. This is Paul's 3rd run at the nomination with his first in 1988 when he ran as a 3rd party Libertarian. The man known as 'Dr. No' earned acclaim for his unique swashbuckling style in his ultimately doomed but rather popular bid for the Republican nomination in 2008.

Newt Gingrich Declares

Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States of America in a 2 minute YouTube video. Looking straight at the camera and backed by some rather questionable  music he said: "I'm Newt Gingrich, and I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget."

The former Speaker of the House from Georgia joins Gary Johnson, Fred Karger and most recently Ron Paul as the main runners for the GOP nomination who have officially declared their nomination. Whilst undoubtedly he was a big name in the party just over a decade ago, famed for locking horns with President Bill Clinton, his star somewhat waned as he later resigned after a disastrous performance in the 1998 mid-term elections. He's now 67 years old and it is probable his longevity will be brought into question but side-lining him as being too old would be a mistake. He's popular amongst both social and, to a lesser extent, fiscal conservatives and was once the darling of the party even rivalling a President in popularity with the American people.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Prospective GOP Field

Whilst Gary Johnson and Fred Karger remain the only 2 legitimate politicians to declare their candidacy for the Republican nomination the following are prospective nominees that we can expect decisions from in the coming weeks:

  • Michele Bachmann - Minnesota Representative, prominent Tea Party member
  • John Bolton - former UN aambassador, considered a neo-conservative
  • Mitch Daniels - Governor of Indiana, more of a fiscal conservative
  • Newt Gingrich - former Speaker, orchestrated 1994 Contract with America 
  • Rudy Giuliani - Mayor of New York during 9/11, failed 2008 candidate
  • Mike Huckabee - former Governor of Arkansas, social conservative
  • Jon Huntsman, Jr. - former Governor of Utah. former ambassador to China
  • Sarah Palin - running mate in 2008, social conservative, grassroots darling
  • Ron Paul - iconic libertarian Republican, fiscal conservative, evergreen 
  • Tim Pawlenty - former 1-term Governor of Minnesota, social conservative
  • Buddy Roemer - former Governor of Louisiana, was a Democrat
  • Mitt Romney - former Governor of Massachusetts, health-care reformer
  • Rick Santorum - former Pennsylvania Senator, social conservative
  • Donald Trump, Sr. - multi-millionaire businessman, quasi-celebrity, PR stunt?

This is not a comprehensive list of all the possible nominees but it is a list of all those who have any kind of legitimate shot at the nomination that have either expressed intention to run or are widely speculated to do so. (Bold type constitutes the widely regarded heavyweights within the party.) Santorum could be added to this list because much of his career has been prolific except for the fact that he suffered a humiliating and colossal defeat in his 2006 Senate campaign. Since then his career has somewhat stalled whilst Gingrich was one of the most high profile Speakers in American history because of his famous bust-ups with Bill Clinton but since his resignation in 1999 he has yet to recapture those previous heights.

Gingrich is expected to announce as early as the start of next week whilst Bachmann and Trump have said they will make their minds up by June. However, it is Mike Huckabee whose nomination will be followed most closely as he is no doubt a heavy-weight contender that has done everything expected of a nominee except promptly declare. Pawlenty and Romney are heavyweights that are certain to run whilst the smart money would be on Palin not to and wait 4 years.

The Republican field is slowly taking shape but at the moment what we are seeing is a really big game of chicken. Once a heavyweight candidate declares the rest will promptly follow suit but until then the prospective candidates jostle for pole position. Think of it in terms of the start of the Grand National at Aintree, although only the first 30 seconds of the video are relevant, it was a good race anyway. 

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Obama's Comic Relief

The annual White House correspondents' dinner provides a welcome opportunity for the President to indulge in some light hearted banter and general mickey-taking at the expense of nearly anybody within the political realm.

There is usually a comedian of sorts who has free reign to dole out all manner of abuse with some making more use of the opportunity than others. Recent dinners have seen Stephen Colbert's attempt verging on downright abuse, loyal to the style of his TV alter-ego, whilst it is fair to say Jay Leno did not live up to his billing.

Below is Obama's attempt from this year where Donald Trump was seemingly target number 1 due to the infamous 'birther' issue. In all honesty, with that dyed hair and fake tan he is a bit of an easy target.