On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Room for One More

ARCHIVES

A lot of Republicans aren't surprised by the inauspicious start of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign. GOP insiders who know and admire Gingrich and respect his intellect and creativity have long suspected that his candidacy would not end well. Some Republican operatives say they advised Gingrich not to run but that the former House speaker felt that mounting a presidential campaign was an itch he had to scratch. They say that Gingrich desperately wanted to run and would have gone to his grave second-guessing himself if he hadn't tried it once.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's odds of winning look as long as Gingrich's. The Republican Party's moderate wing is all but extinct today. It's hard to see how Huntsman's decision to accept President Obama's offer to serve as ambassador to China isn't fatal in a party in which as many as 45 percent believe that Obama was not born in the United States. Beyond that, Huntsman's proponents don't seem to have an explanation for why he lacks popularity in the state that knows him best. Even though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lived in Utah only while running the 2002 Olympic Winter Games (and used to own a vacation home there), he scored 56 percent to Huntsman's 26 percent in a February Deseret News/KSL-TV poll. In that survey, 37 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote for Romney and just 17 percent indicated they would definitely vote for Huntsman.

If he can't generate strong support in his home state, it's hard to see how Huntsman can gain momentum elsewhere. Additionally, the former governor and ambassador says he won't tap into his personal wealth or family fortune, based on the Huntsman Corp., an $8 billion chemical company founded by his father; this decision further undercuts his potential. By all accounts, Huntsman is an impressive individual, but it's awfully hard to see how this candidacy works.

At this stage, Pawlenty's strength is more theoretical than real.

Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania are trying to make inroads among the GOP's social, cultural, and religious base, filling the hole left by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's decision not to run. Neither of these campaigns shows many signs of catching on. Likewise, there's little reason to believe that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas will improve on his 2008 showing.

To the extent that there is a front-runner at this point, it is Romney. Although he enjoys national name recognition and an impressive network of supporters and donors remaining from his 2008 bid for the GOP nomination, Romney carries burdens that may limit his ability to expand his current levels of support. The health care plan he pushed through as governor gets good reviews from many experts in the field, but it is decidedly unpopular among conservatives and puts Romney in a defensive position that wasn't there during the last presidential campaign. It exacerbates a challenge that some call his "authenticity problem." Is he Romney 1.0, the brilliant, analytical problem-solving business executive initially portrayed through much of 2007? Or is he Romney 2.0, "the most conservative candidate in the race," as he described himself from August 2007 until dropping out of the race the following February. Finally, for a long time I was dismissive of suggestions that Romney's Mormon faith was a significant obstacle, but it does seem to be holding him back among rank-and-file Republicans, particularly evangelical Christians and voters in small-town and rural America, most specifically in the South and Midwest.

The candidate with arguably the best chance of bridging the gap between the secular, business-oriented, establishment wing of the Republican Party; the social, cultural, and religious wing; and the tea party faction seems to be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Although largely unknown nationally, he seems to be more broadly acceptable to all three groups, and any one of them has enough leverage to effectively veto a candidate's nomination. At this stage, Pawlenty's strength is more theoretical than real, but when you work through the challenges that each of the other candidates faces, he seems to have fewer problems than the rest.

However, there remains, particularly after Huckabee's departure from the field, a vacuum in both the social and the tea party brackets in this tournament. Unless former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin proves naysayers wrong and enters the race, watch for Rep. Michele Bachmann and/or Texas Gov. Rick Perry to enter the fray and fill that void. Although it is doubtful that either could win the nomination, they could change the dynamics of the contest in a significant and potentially unpredictable way. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and there certainly seems to be one on that side of the GOP equation.

 
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.