The race for the Republican Presidential nominee in the USA is getting interesting. Last Tuesday the good people of Iowa voted for their favourite Republican, with no clear outcome. Willard “Mitt” Romney won the popular vote by eight over Rick “please don’t google my surname” Santorum, but the actual allocation of delegates is unknown since Iowa uses a complex caucus system that no normal person understands. The only certain consequence from the Iowa vote is that Michele Bachmann has dropped out, leaving six serious contenders.
While all of the remaining candidates have an interesting story to tell, it is the rise of Ron Paul and a growing libertarian voting block that has the biggest long-term consequences. When I wrote about Ron Paul for “the drum” a month ago he was still being largely ignored by the mainstream media (MSM) despite consistent good polling and fund-raising. That is slowly changing. Given that Paul came 3rd in Iowa (with 21% of the vote), is currently polling 2nd in the next voting state of New Hampshire (~20%), and is the only candidate other than Romney with money and campaign infrastructure around the country, some people have started paying attention.
In November next year, Barack Obama will go up against a Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States, and defacto leader of planet earth. But before then, the Grand Old Party (GOP) of the Republicans will need to pick their candidate, which involves an eight month marathon of rolling mini-elections in 55 States and territories (including Guam and American Samoa) starting in Iowa on 3 January 2012.
While sane people have been ignoring the political circus, election junkies have been closely watching the long campaign as various candidates have come and gone. At the beginning of the year the pundits pontificated as a string of potential candidates — Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Mike Huckabee — all opted out of the race. Tim Pawlenty said “yes” then “no”. Tease.
And so when debate season rolled around, the field had been narrowed to a rag-tag bunch of about a dozen, with the most prominent being the millionaire Mormon ex-Governor of Massachusetts — Mitt Romney. From the start, Romney has consistently been 1st or 2nd in national polls among GOP voters with about 20-30% support, and he has been seen as the frontrunner due to his decent polling, wealthy friends, establishment support, and high media profile. The race has then been seen as a contest between Romney and “anti-Romney”, a mythical creature who has so far taken four human forms — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Newt Gingrich. Cain has since dropped out of the race.
America is more than a year away from their 2012 Presidential election, but things are already heating up. The “Grand Old Party” (GOP) of the Republicans are starting their process of picking their Presidential candidate to take on Obama, and as yet it is still a very open race. One interesting element of this nomination race is that there is growing strength among the non-establishment “outsider” candidates. It is still more likely that a “mainstream” candidate (Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, Perry) will win, but the “outsiders” (Bachmann, Paul, Cain, Palin) are all within striking distance.
So with only a little bit of poetic licence, I will run through the candidates in pairs… matching an “insider” and an “outsider” together for each category.
Frontrunners — Mitt Romney (establishment) v Michele Bachmann (outsider). Romney has been leading in all major polls since the start of the race, but many consider him to be a soft leader who is in front mostly on name-recognition. He was a contender in the 2008 nomination race before losing out to John McCain. Bachmann has been the outsider who has caught the most momentum in recent weeks, leading the polls in some states (all important Iowa) and second in others (New Hampshire). The problem with Romney is his history of supporting a health mandate and seemingly changing his opinions to suit the circumstances. Bachmann is considered more of a conviction and “tea party” politician, but lacks the experience and as a “mini-Palin” has occasionally suffered from “foot-in-mouth” disease. She’s free-market and socially conservative.
Just behind — Rick Perry (establishment) v Ron Paul (outsider). Rick Perry hasn’t entered the race yet, but if/when he does he will automatically be in the mix as he is already polling at or above 10%. In some ways he is a cross between Romney & Bachmann… with the experience and credibility of Romney but with some of the conservative convictions of Bachmann. He has previously voiced sympathy with the “independent Texas” movement, but some question whether America is ready for another Texan governor (following Dubya). On the other side is libertarian favourite Ron Paul who has consistently been coming in near the top of the polls (around 10%) and came in second in fund-raising so far. The principled doctor now has a more professional campaign, but he is still being over-looked by many in the media.