The state of the Republican primary race at the end of summer 2011

While I tend to not follow closely all the twists and turns of the primary season, I would present this analysis of the Republican primary race in advance of Wednesday’s candidate debate, aware that the picture might change quite a bit by the end of the week.

In looking at the field of prospective nominees, at this time I’m most comfortable with a Perry run as I don’t see any of the previously other declared candidates capable of beating Romney.

Pawlenty’s withdrawal says that low-key isn’t going to cut it this cycle. Cain and Bachman stir the heart, but Cain’s lack of governmental/executive experience (and Bachmann’s too) against an incumbent President is a huge negative. Obama only got away with it due to 2008 being an open race plus a worshiping press. Gingrich is appalling and damaged goods; Santorum cannot carry independents, especially once the campaign videos come forward (e.g. “Man on dog”) – nor even carry his home state of PA.

Huntsman is a most baffling entrant; given his negligible support among Republican voters, his motives for staying in lend themselves to a number of interpretations, some quite ominous. The debate next week should clarify whether he actually is still running for President or whether he is just running against certain other Republican candidates.

Bachmann’s support seems to be weakening, but I think that her staying in the race for some time yet will help to push the primary race fulcrum/conversation towards a more conservative point. I would add a proviso, similar to what I just said about Huntsman – that Bachmann is credible only so long as she is running for President and does not adopt a scorched-earth approach to the other candidates (especially her closest rival, Perry) in a desperate effort to pull out a victory. That would sink her ability to prevail in the general election even if she wins the nomination. We all lose if she goes nuclear.

A Romney nomination will totally demotivate the base and thereby most likely deliver the election to Obama. And if Romney decides on the 2008 playbook and tries to bribe the base with someone like Bachmann, his success will match that of McCain. I hope Bachmann is smart enough not to get into Palin’s 2008 shoes.

But even if Romney did win in 2012, nothing in his record or present behavior indicates that he has the depth of conservative convictions or the political tenacity to do more than slow the rising tide sweeping our nation to despotism via the accelerating expansion in the size and power of the Federal government that the election of Obama and a supermajority in Congress initiated. We can and must do better should the voters give Republicans another chance.

Which now brings us to Ron Paul. Rather than debate his policies at this time, I would move to raise two points that usually are not in the conversation. First, his record as legislator is marred by his inability to advance effectively his proposed legislation, indicating a serious difficulty in working with others. This trait does not bode well with his holding the highest executive office, given that the President needs skill to persuade legislators to support his programs.

My second concern is much of Ron Paul’s support base comes for conspiracy-minded elements and, more seriously, from groups whose historical roots date back to the nativist & isolationist movements of the first half of the 20 century, movements that historically have stained themselves with anti-Semitism and xenophobic excesses.

I do not want to stain with that brush those whose support for Ron Paul rests on his economic policies, but the fact that Ron Paul in his campaign reaches out to these unsavory elements in the American electorate (evidenced most recently by his agreeing to let Alex Jones interview him) is most disturbing. And that appeal is something which other supporters of Ron Paul do need to address if he is to be viewed as a credible candidate to the American electorate as a whole.

As for Sarah Palin, her present outfit (as mobilizer) suits here very well, and she’d be a fool to dress up in clothes that really aren’t cut for her. Her entry would turn the whole race into chopped liver, and the resultant smoke from the media firestorm can only help Romney’s chances. I hope she has the sense to stay on the sidelines and from there to utilize her unique assets to advance conservative interests.

Perry certainly has some apparent flaws in his conservative credentials, though I think that his greatest weakness – one that has led to the biggest missteps in his political career – looks to be a propensity towards cronyism. I wonder if this is an occupational hazard of Texas governors, as Bush also seemed prone to cronyism too

But given that an Obama win could well spell the end to representative democracy in our country, Perry represents an acceptable alternative – and he’s the best I see we’re going to be able to do this electoral cycle.

Nobody more “conservative” than Perry currently running (or under speculation) can articulate the case for conservatism and – equally importantly – sell it to enough voters to win the electoral college.

Conservative principles and policy are good, but (as the Bush administration proved) if you as a conservative can’t articulate your position and can’t successfully sell it to the American people, the media and Democrats will tear you limb-from-limb.

The next few weeks will determine whether Perry can successfully navigate the transition to the national stage and how well he holds up to the fusillade of opposition that is lining up from Democrats and the media – and from a fair number in the Republican establishment as well. His outspokenness and the Bush 2.0 meme will offer a vantage point to launch attacks. Perry certainly will have to push back, but with surgical skill.