Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meet Your GOP Field, Debt Ceiling Chicken, Some Easy Predictions

The GOP Field is Set, Sort Of, Maybe
We have gained a lot of clarity over the course of the past few weeks about who is in and who is out in the race for the GOP 2012 Presidential nomination. The Huck isn't running. Neither is Trump (read back to my earlier posts when he first started making noise if you don't already understand why.) Daniels is sitting this one out. It's actually a pretty thin field as it stands. There are five meaningful players who have not made decisions yet. Accordingly, here are my power rankings of the "in" and the "maybe" candidates.

The "in" candidates:
1. Mitt Romney - the clear and undisputed front-runner. Yes, he used to be a pro-universal health care, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, Massachusetts moderate. But, let's face it - an attractive face with business experience and a strong governing record is a pretty good place to start for a party that actually wants to win.

2. Tim Pawlenty - if Romney stumbles or health care becomes too much of an issue, Pawlenty is the other "legit" candidate. He has gubernatorial experience, he is liked both within the party and popular in his home state. Pawlenty's biggest problems are a. that he backed cap-and-trade at one point, b. that few outside the mid-west and the party loyalists know him and c. he isn't particularly charismatic. He's going to have to count on a Romney slip-up to get seriously in the game.

3. Newt Gingrich - the highly intelligent but deeply flawed Gingrich is clearly qualified as former Speaker of the House. He is also a pretty famous jerk, both personally and professionally. His personal life will dog him in the GOP primaries including his two failed marriages, his cheating and his overall lack of personal morals. He is also not very inspirational and highly confrontational. I can't seem him winning, but outside of Romney and Pawlenty, he's pretty much the only other credible candidate.

4. Ron Paul - the ever-entertaining libertarian is running again. He will make some noise, raise some money and even get some votes (heck, he could finish 2nd in libertarian-leaning New Hampshire!), but he can't get the nod - he would be a disaster for the GOP if he did.

5. Herman Cain - Cain is a great speaker and lit up the first debate, but he's hard to take seriously as a candidate. No experience governing and if you peel back the brilliant surface rhetoric, he's not particularly insightful. He'll be fun to watch, like Paul, but will be a sideshow.

6. Gary Johnson - if you took Ron Paul and subtracted the wit and charisma, you'd have Gary Johnson. Another devoted libertarian, Johnson will create havoc for some of the front-runners, but will get few votes, thanks to the much better known and far more entertaining Ron Paul.

The "maybe" candidates:
1. Rudy Guliani - shockingly, the 2008 electoral disaster hasn't kept Guliani from polling near the front of the 2012 field. He could be a real player, but I'm left with the following question: if the GOP didn't like him in 2008 and he hasn't done much since, why will they like him now?

2. Michelle Bachman - the darling of the tea-party could make some noise. The tea-party has shown its muscle over and over again in GOP primaries. Bachman winning the nomination would be a disaster for the GOP, however, as she would likely get absolutely torched in the general.

3. Jon Huntsman - the erstwhile Obama Administration Ambassador to China is actually just the sort of general election candidate the GOP should want. He's a center-right candidate who works extremely well across the aisle and has a proven ability to govern. But can you imagine the GOP nominating a former Obama Administration official who is a social moderate? Me neither.

4. Rick Perry - the conservative Texas Governor is one candidate I've had my eyes on for a while. He's the perfect intersection for the GOP of a candidate with conservative enough chops to be appealing to the tea party while being mainstream enough to not freak out the general public. Still - nobody knows Perry and it isn't totally clear he is even interested.

5. Sarah Palin - her star has faded fast. I admit to being wrong about her - I warned not to underestimate her in 2008, but she has been a paper tiger with frequent gaffes and no depth. Besides, she's making too much money at Fox to run.

6. Rick Santorum - he's a complete afterthought. His far-right social views may appeal to some on the fringe, but other candidates will have that space well covered and Santorum couldn't even run competitively for re-election in Pennsylvania. He shouldn't waste his time. And don't Google his name unless you have strong intestinal fortitude.

The GOP is Playing Chicken - And It May Work
The US Government has hit its debt ceiling, but Congress seems in no hurry to act. Tim Geithner has given an approximate "real" deadline of August 2nd, which the government can get to by stopping payments to pension funds and deferring other short-term payments. The bottom line is that the debt limit will have to be raised as no one has proposed anything approaching a budget that is balanced for this year -- even the most conservative proposal for the Fiscal 2011 budget called for about a $1.4T deficit and the one enacted was slightly more moderate than that. But Republicans are staging grand theater, holding symbolic no votes on a ceiling increase with no spending decreases attached and demand major reform to everything except taxes.

So what do we make of all of this? The GOP isn't trying to destroy the country, I don't think and will therefore make sure that the debt ceiling is increased prior to August 2nd. A compromise that allows all sides to save face will likely occur, which will likely involve big planned defense reductions, big reductions in domestic discretionary spending, token changes to Medicare and no change in tax policy. This is the middle ground that both sides can probably live with, although it will likely leave the two biggest problems with the budget - taxes and entitlements, mostly unchanged.

Be prepared for action to come at the very last minute, so expect at least another month and a half of wrangling before we throw together a short-term fix.

Some Easy Predictions
Allow me to stick my neck out. Write me later when I'm proven to be an idiot:
(1) Mitt Romney will win the GOP nomination -- why? There is nobody credible enough to beat him. Besides, he's the "next guy in line" (read my posts from 2008 to understand how important this is to GOP nominations.)

(2) The debt ceiling will be raised prior to August 2nd. See above.

(3) The Democrats will not retake the House and will lose the Senate in 2012. Read my prior posts - the map is just awful for them.

(4) The Presidential race will be within 5% and the key states will be Virginia, Colorado and Ohio, not Florida and Pennsylvania.

(5) Sarah Palin won't run for President.

If you like this site, tell your friends.

No comments: