Thom Sudol / September 1, 2011

The Handicapper’s Guide to Republican Presidential Hopefuls

It appears the field of Republican presidential contenders is set. Palin still hovers about, deking the media, but will not likely enter the race – she couldn’t take the pay cut. The current field has a lot a variety, somebody for everyone. Not everybody is a viable candidate, however. A number of them are no names whose exploratory committee (wife, a brother and proud pop?) simply couldn’t say no to the luster of a presidential run. I mean I have never heard of half these people but, they are, in fact, declared candidates for the Presidency of the United States, on the Republican side. As a public service, I take it as my duty to inform you of the full slate of candidates so you can make a logical choice. So here goes, working from the unknowns to the more viable candidates.

The Wannabees, Never Were’s and Never Could Be’s

Vern Wuensche – A high energy Houston businessman who tried this in 08. Talk about spinning your wheels…

Buddy Roemer – A former Democrat and La. Governor. To quote Foghorn Leghorn: I say, I say again – who?

Tom Miller – A career flight attendant who’s all about small government. Can I get you a pillow?

Jimmy McMillan – Of the world renowned “Rent is Too Damn High” Party. Some great tonsorial licks, but not much else happening here.

Thad McCotter – Michigan rep, plays a mean guitar, is a solid conservative and a very likable candidate; just not in this decade, Thad.

Andy Martin – An unrepentant birther, Andy is a self-proclaimed tough guy who says he’s the only guy able to take it to Obama. Good to hear you have an active fantasy life, Andy.

Fred Karger – A political consultant and gay rights advocate is the first openly gay aspirant for the Presidency and is running as an Independent. I somehow am missing any connection to Republican ideals here.

Gary Johnson – The former NM governor was a solid fiscal conservative as governor, but he tends toward the libertarian side in most other areas. His thoughts on immigration, legalization of drugs, civil liberties and foreign policy are tough for most conservatives to stomach. A virtual unknown to the public, he will remain so for the foreseeable future.

John Huntsman – Much ballyhooed former Utah gov. and recent ambassador to China, Huntsman is something of an enigma – expressing respect and warm fuzzies for the President. Would he be tough enough to go head to head with a bare knuckles Chicago pol? Oh, and Howard Dean thinks he’s the perfect republican candidate…therein lies my singular reason to say fuhgeddabout him.

Newt Gingrich – Former House speaker and architect of the Republican revolution of 1994. It was and is his only claim to fame. While Newt is a very intelligent guy whom I respect, his penchant for dropping bombs and cozying up to the opposition makes him highly suspect. This is one case where the by-product of recycling is not viable.

Rick Santorum – Former senator from Pa. Santorum is a man of faith and a social conservative I really like. The fact that gay activists trash him regularly alone makes him worthy of admiration. But, all things considered, his name recognition is low and social conservatism is a secondary focus in this election. Sorry, Rick, it’s just not your time.

As you can tell, it’s pretty much a circus at the bottom end of the barrel so far. But what about the serious contenders: who are they and what are their prospects? Again, this is one man’s opinion; I am sure to anger a few people and that’s okay. I think I have been blessed with a good sense of discernment, tempered with realism. Go ahead and support the individual you think best embodies your values, wants, and needs in a candidate and work hard for him or her. No matter who you pick, we share one goal: to beat Obama and banish the creeping stench of nanny state government, uncontrolled spending, confused foreign policy and Euro-socialism in America. These top tier candidates are pretty varied and difficult to handicap, I must admit; there really is something to like about each and every one. For those who have better than a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the Republican nominee for president, here’s my take, in no particular order.

The Legitimates

Michelle Bachmann – A Tea Party darling, the rep from Minnesota bolted strongly from the gate following her announcement to run. A Christian and a social conservative, she is married to a counselor who uses reparative therapy to help struggling homosexuals, as part of his practice. For Republican and conservative voters of faith, this is a non-issue, despite the furor the mainstream press is generating. Bachmann has little in the way of accomplishments to show for her time in the House. She has been active and very vocal on the national scene, but her legislative creds are quite thin. Maybe that’s good though – how much more regulation can this country stand anyway? My take though, is that Michelle will continue to fade for any number of reasons. Some of her recent campaign appearances have been panned because she shows late and doesn’t like to rub elbows and “press the flesh” afterwards…not a good approach for Red State America. The candidacy of Rick Perry is another reason she’ll continue to fade. It may be a little sexist to say so, but she’s not the tough guy that Perry seems to be, and I really sense voters want a more macho confrontation with Obama. Going gently into that good night is Michelle.

Mitt Romney – Romney has a solid track record in business and in running the Olympics – there’s little doubt he knows how to get things done. He was the early frontrunner for the nomination and, because it eluded him last time, he might be considered the heir-apparent for the nomination. He’s not a career politician and many would think that is to his credit; he really has built credentials in the private sector. He’s a photogenic guy and a cool customer in most situations. But, not so fast, Bubba. The biggest liability he carries is Romneycare, his Massachusetts healthcare program. He’s also known as something of a flip-flopper on a number of issues (gun control, immigration, stem cell research, capital gains tax). How evangelicals will respond to Romney, a Mormon, is an unknown just yet; his faith for them may not be a plus. My biggest concern, however, that he’s not 100% authentic. There is something plastic about the guy. Slick and suave, Romney’s style is a bit too dispassionate for me. Make your own call.

Ron Paul – The Texas congressman is back for another try but I can only see the result being more of the same as in 2008. It seems strange that the mainstream media continues to ignore this guy even after his strong finish in the recent Iowa straw poll. He’s loaded with ideas and expresses them in straightforward manner. To me, Ron Paul is Ross Perot redux, albeit with more government experience, rabid supporters, and libertarian credentials. Don’t get me wrong, he is smarter and more articulate than Ross and I am confident he’d make a more cogent choice of a VP than did Perot. He is, for the most part, a solid conservative, but I just don’t see him as the ultimate answer to deposing the Emperor. He’ll not win the general election, he simply has too little charisma to sustain him. To defeat [dashed] hope and [negative] change, he needs more than a few good ideas.

Rick Perry – Good looks, charisma, a sufficiently macho demeanor, and a record of success in Texas make Perry the frontrunner right now. His entry has shaken the race and displaced Romney, quickly relegating Bachmann to also-ran status early on. His strong showing from Day 1 tells me he just might be the guy who can appeal to the establishment and Tea Party wings of the party. He’s likable, respected and seems like he is ready to take the fight to Barack. Questions remain – foreign policy, for example – and his campaign website is still light on positions. But he is a force of nature, highly anticipated and vaulting immediately into the lead in the top two national polls. At this point, he has to be considered the frontrunner for the nomination. It’s not a foregone conclusion, however. He’s got to stay on message and remain relatively gaffe-free…

Herman Cain – A successful businessman and a colorful speaker, Herman Cain makes a far more credible candidate on the Republican side than Jesse or Al ever could on the Democrat side. I could trust Herman to deal with domestic policy, but his lack of international experience or even his engagement with international issues is a big red flag. And how many blacks will vote for a black conservative? A little more seasoning might warrant a second look, perhaps. Pepperoni or sausage on that?

The race for the nomination is still too close to call but I am guessing that it will come down to Romney and Perry. Cain will continue to labor in obscurity, making some bold pronouncements, but not gaining much more traction than he now has. Michelle Bachmann has been supplanted by Perry’s entrance and, while she continues to take her shots at Obama, she will end up a distant third in this race. Ron Paul will be largely ignored by the mainstream media, relegating him to preaching to the choir (his faithful and fervent acolytes) and denying him a larger audience. Look for a tight run down the home stretch with the nomination going to Perry or Romney.

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