A big question on the minds of conservatives in the upcoming presidential election is who to support. We need to carefully examine each candidate so that we know their credentials and their views. We all want to know what wings of conservatism each presidential candidate belongs to and what views that they share with each wing. All of these wings will support one or more candidates in the 2012 presidential election. The question is what candidate(s) will these wings support in next year’s presidential election? Who appeals to each of these wings? It’s just a matter of time before the endorsements start rolling out for each candidate from a different wing of conservatism. Most of us belong to multiple wings of conservatism, and a candidate who has similar views and who belong to the wings that we support may be the candidate you want to vote for. This is a guide to help you decide who to vote for in the 2012 presidential election.
Tea Party Conservatives (TeaCons): With the tea party movement in full swing and this new branch of conservatism here to stay, the tea party conservatives have a boatload of candidates vying for their support. Almost every candidate has some tea party support, with some having more than others. Almost all of the tea party conservatives share the views of being pro-life, anti-gay marriage, pro-limited government, pro-Second Amendment, and supporting strong illegal immigration policies. The views of the tea party are basically a combination of fiscal conservatism and social conservatism, with mixes of other, smaller wings of conservatism. Some have called the tea party movement as the re-emergence of right-wing populism (RWP), and has been characterized as “a right-wing anti-systemic populist movement,” (Rasmussen and Schoen 2010).
A few of the candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination have openly courted tea party support, while a couple of these candidates depend only on tea party support. Without a tea party base, they are long-shots and unknowns. U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has ridden the tea party wave to become the main tea party candidate currently, and her support from the tea party has driven her up in the polls to second place. Bachmann has shared her tea party mind, stressing her pro-life views and her anti-Obama sentiment. Businessman Herman Cain of Georgia also has a lot of tea party support because he is an outsider and has never served in political office before. His anti-Obama views and new proposals, like bringing back the gold standard, bring many tea partiers to his base to support these new ideas. Cain’s performance in the polls is fairly decent due to his tea party support and the fact that he is perceived as an outsider.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has also received ample tea party support, more so than some other candidates. His fiscal conservative views have brought many tea partiers to his base, although his past support of cap-and-trade, and his regret on attacking Mitt Romney for “Obamneycare” may come back to haunt him when the primaries come along. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has always received support from the tea party, although she hasn’t officially declared her candidacy yet. She is the most popular figure among tea party conservatives. Palin’s poll numbers have been dipping lately due to the rise of fellow female candidate Michele Bachmann. Palin has been controversial in the past for many reasons, and these controversies have haunted other conservatives and Republicans away from her. Her tea party base will always stay by her side, though. It will be a tough climb for her if she gets into the race.
Texas Governor Rick Perry will likely get into the race sometime in early August, and he is currently rallying support from tea partiers from across the country. His rise in the polls is due to his newly founded appeal to tea partiers. His likely entry into the race will yet again split the tea party conservative vote. His fiscal conservative views, budget-handling in the state of Texas, job creation, and tax cuts have attracted support for his potential candidacy. His candidacy will likely bring together tea party conservatives and mainstream conservatives/Republicans, which will help his poll numbers rise even more than they are right now. U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who recently began his campaign as a long-shot candidate, is also trying to tap into the tea party base to receive support. McCotter has some tea party supporters, but will likely drive away most tea partiers because of his pro-union views and his support of the auto bailout.
The last candidate currently in the field considered to have mostly tea party support is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum is performing poorly in the polls, receiving approximately 2%. His base is mostly tea party conservatives mad with other candidates and their social views. Santorum is probably the most socially conservative in the field, which pleases tea party conservatives. With three candidates and potential candidates already vying for the support of fiscal conservative tea partiers, Santorum steps in as the candidate to represent the social conservative wing of the tea party conservatives. The fight he shows when he shares his social views fire up the tea party base to vote for him. Besides Michele Bachmann, the other candidates don’t really share their social views, which angers some tea party conservatives, and helps Santorum. Some view Santorum’s candidacy as a way to try to get his name recognition back up in his home state of Pennsylvania so that he can run for his old Senate seat against Bob Casey, Jr. (D) next year.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich from Georgia has also tried to tap into the wave of tea party support going around to many candidates. Most tea partiers rejected him because of his past controversies, including having two mistresses. Some tea partiers don’t mind his past and have decided to support him because of his tea party-like views and the proposals he shares to help lower the national debt. His support is mostly concentrated among mainstream conservatives, though.
Libertarians/Libertarian Conservatives (LibertyCons): Libertarians believe in liberty and personal freedom for all. Generally, most conservatives share a few views with libertarians, especially having less government intrusion into people’s personal lives and having a limited government. A lot of people don’t consider libertarians as part of the conservative ideology, but since it did form from conservative, it is a wing of conservatism. Libertarians are generally pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-government intrusion, pro-marijuana, pro-Second Amendment, pro-free market, and pro-business conservatives. Libertarians are generally fiscally conservative and have a large block of voters that are also tea party conservatives. Some Libertarians join the Libertarian Party; the third-largest party in the U.S., because this wing of conservatism best represents them.
There are two candidates currently vying for the Republican nomination that want the libertarians’ backing. They are U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Paul is running on an aggressive libertarian platform. He wants to legalize all drugs, he is pro-choice, and he wants to leave the gay marriage issue up to the states. Paul has fired up a base of young voters since his 2008 run, and has attracted many new constituents to the libertarian movement. Many believe Paul is too old to be elected president, as he is 77 years old, but he is acting young on the campaign trail with the fire in his belly trying to stress liberty for all.
Meanwhile, Johnson is running on almost a one-issue campaign. Most of Johnson’s followers are backing him because he is pro-marijuana legalization. He is also pro-civil union and pro-choice and appeals to some libertarians who don’t want to become too much to the left with their views by legalizing all drugs. Johnson has been performing poorly in the polls, receiving approximately 2%. Many view his campaign as pointless.
Also, potential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who ran in 2008 and is a former New York City Mayor, appeals to some libertarian voters with his gay marriage stance and his moderate-to-liberal views on most issues. Giuliani won’t be the libertarian’s candidate, though. Former Utah Governor and former Ambassador to China under President Obama Jon Huntsman, Jr. may also appeal to some libertarian conservatives with his pro-civil union stance and his moderate views, but otherwise isn’t really a libertarian-appealing candidate. Gay rights activist Fred Karger also may appeal to some libertarians who support gay marriage, but, Karger isn’t included in most polls, and when he is, he receives 1% or less. Many say Karger is a one-issue candidate, like Johnson. The fight for the libertarians’ backing will be a tough one, but Paul is very likely to win.
Neoconservatives (NeoCons): Neoconservatives tend to believe in using American economic and military power to defeat American enemies. They also believe in free-market economics, while promoting moral and cultural issues as being more significant. They generally support the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. The candidate that best fits the neoconservatives is former Ambassador to the UN under President Bush, John Bolton. Most other candidates are probably neoconservatives and support the wars that we are currently fighting, but, we don’t know that because most candidates don’t say if they are a neoconservative or not. The issue of war is a soft one right now, except that we are now bombing Libya.
Bolton has pondered running for president and will probably make a decision soon. His foreign policy views have always been known, and he has said that if he runs, he will make foreign policy an important issue in his campaign. Many have called him a one-issue candidate because of his foreign policy views and how he is always talking about them. He has denied that he is a one-issue candidate and has stated that if he were to run, he would take from all issues important to the current world. After resigning from the Ambassador post in 2006, he became the most outspoken neoconservative critic of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. He was against the negotiations with North Korea and Iran over nuclear programs issue. He has also been a critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, and a run for the presidency would show his frustration with our country’s current foreign policy. If Bolton does run, his message about foreign policy will bring a new issue to the table, and let voters consider another candidate. If you are a strong neoconservative, John Bolton is your guy.
Also, Newt Gingrich has talked about the issue of war on the campaign trail and does have some neoconservative support because of his war views. He has spoken about how President Obama’s foreign policies are very bad and should be changed. Most neoconservatives will be driven away from him, though, because he was critical of the way President Bush handled the Iraqi War, and he now favors pulling out of the Arab regions, and putting together a new strategy.
Sarah Palin may also draw some neoconservative voters because of her support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Michele Bachmann and Thad McCotter voted no on pulling troops out of Iraq back in 2008. Herman Cain has said that there is no plan in Iraq or Libya. Ron Paul favors pulling out of Iraq and Libya, and has stated that we need to stop giving foreign aid to every country, and that we need to keep money here. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman both favor pulling out of Afghanistan. Rick Perry wants freedom for all in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rudy Giuliani doesn’t favor pulling out of any war yet, but he disagreed with a neoconservative adviser that we needed to immediately bomb Iran back in 2007. Rick Santorum supports the war in Iraq. Some of these candidates may be able to receive neoconservative support because of their war views, but it will be tough because most are soft on the current war and foreign policy issues relating to Libya and North Korea.
Coming up in Part 2: Moderates, Liberal Conservatives/Republicans, Bioconservatives, Christian/Religious Conservatives, Paleoconservatives, and the Birthers.