Lots going on around the country. Just a few thoughts for a Friday morning.
GOP Contenders and Pretenders
It’s way too early to get hung up on the polls showing support, and lack of support, for many of the Republican presidential hopefuls. We’re still about a year and a half out from the election. An eternity in political years. At this same point in time in prior elections, we wouldn’t have found strong and cohesive support for eventual winners such as Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, so it would be a mistake to conclude what will happen during the Republican nomination process based off of the early polls.
For the last year the media has talked about the big four: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. Two aren’t running, and Gingrich will be a non-factor. He had no chance before a series of missteps sabotaged his campaign. I’ve always felt like it was Romney’s race to lose, and that he would do just that. Lose.
If you had asked me a couple months ago, my prediction would have been that the eventual nominee would come from a handful of governors such as Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour or Tim Pawlenty. But this dynamic changed significantly when three of the four decided not to run, and Pawlenty has failed to gain any traction towards the nomination. It’s still too early to know for sure, but Pawlenty just doesn’t look like he can excite either the Republican establishment or the Tea Party activists. Most of the rest of the field looks unelectable, but I would again issue the warning that it’s far too early to draw such conclusions.
Dick Morris has an interesting analysis of the nomination process. He describes that the Republicans are currently in the quarter finals where they will narrow it down to one establishment candidate, and one more conservative candidate. Morris lists Romney, Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman (who has informally announced his intention to enter the race) as the likely establishment candidates, with Romney as the most likely winner from this group. He also lists Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain, and to a smaller degree Gingrich, as the most likely to emerge as the main opposition to Romney. Dick’s analysis only considers those who are currently running.
Personally, I believe that Bachmann, Cain and Gingrich are all unelectable. But I’ve been wrong before. I wasn’t convinced that Americans were ready to elect a black president, and am glad to admit that I underestimated the American people.
My prediction? I think it’s incredibly likely that somebody else is going to enter and impact the race, with the most likely being Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. The Tea Party activists will like his track record of creating jobs in Texas. And he could appeal to many in the Republican establishment. Truthfully, I know little about Rick Perry, and am not endorsing him, and won’t bother spending any time researching him until he officially declares his intentions. But if I was a betting man? I think Perry has a very strong chance to win the nomination given what we know about the current field.
So now I’ve ignored my own warnings about coming to conclusions this early in the process.
Economy is in Bad Shape
According to DNC party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “We own the economy. We own the beginning of the turnaround and we want to make sure that we continue that pace of recovery, not go back to the policies of the past under the Bush administration that put us in the ditch in the first place.”
This pace of recovery? You mean the 1.8% economic growth this last quarter and the rise in the unemployment numbers?
This does seem to fly in the face of President Obama’s continued assertion that the current economic conditions remain Bush’s fault. I’m glad to see one Democrat stand up and admit that their party owns the economy. They do. Expect to see the Republicans use this repeatedly against the Democrats for the next year and a half.
For some strong analysis on the current state of the economy, read this from Martin Feldstein in the WSJ. I don’t completely agree with his comments on the stimulus, but overall he’s right on the money. The strongest paragraph:
The economy will continue to suffer until there is a coherent and favorable economic policy. That means bringing long-term deficits under control without raising marginal tax rates—by cutting government outlays and by limiting the tax expenditures that substitute for direct government spending. It means lower tax rates on businesses and individuals to spur entrepreneurship and investment. And it means reforming Social Security and Medicare to protect the living standards of future retirees while limiting the cost to future taxpayers.
Feldstein was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan, and is a professor at Harvard.
Weiner-Gate is Over, We Think
Yesterday afternoon, Anthony Weiner announced his resignation from the House of Representatives. I don’t want to spend a lot of time rehashing what happened. As long as we have politicians, we will have political scandals. It happens in both parties. It’s happened before. And it will happen again.
But there are a couple things we should learn from this:
1. Don’t take on the media. Gary Hart was the front-runner for the Democratic in 1988. When reports started to leak about his infidelity, Hart dared the media to follow him. And follow him they did. What was Hart thinking? Who knows. But the media quickly got pictures of Hart with Donna Rice, and Hart’s political career was over.
Weiner thought that he was smarter than the media, and could lie his way out of his mess. What was he thinking? Who knows. He basically dared the media to dig up the truth with his ongoing press conferences and interviews. You can’t sit there and blatantly lie to the media and expect even the most liberal of media outlets to ignore you forever.
2. Tell the truth. Isn’t this something we were all taught as children? The lesson should be simple. Tell the truth and throw yourself on the mercy of the American people. Overall, we’re a forgiving people. I suspect that Weiner could have weathered the storm if on that first day he had just said “I screwed up. I have told my wife what I’ve done, and we will work through this. I apologize to everybody…” The mainstream media would have been happy to brush this story aside. Some rightwing bloggers would have hung on for a week or two, but it likely would have gone away.
3. Moral leadership from our politicians is rare. And I struggle with this a bit. We should hold our elected officials to high standards. Yet I’m tired of career politicians, and would like to see term limits placed on Congress. And if we want to elect the best people to these offices, we will need to overlook a few skeletons in their closets. I could have overlooked this behavior in Weiner if he hadn’t so brazenly come out and lied about it.
Just ask Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. The truth will come out, and you better be on the right side of it.