Since I managed to make just about every Sarah Palin fan on earth mad on Friday by quoting Palin, I decided I would go on and make everyone else mad too. I keep getting the “you’re Rick Perry’s guy” stuff now, which follows on the “you’re Tim Pawlenty’s guy” and the “you’re MIchele Bachmann’s guy” and the “you’re Herman Cain’s guy”, all of with mix with the healthy ramblings of the out of touch who accuse me of being “Mitt Romney’s guy.”I actually am no one’s guy because I think none of the above are truly stellar candidates. I was, in fact, in 2008 quite excited about Mitt Romney until I felt like every other day there was another changed position and I couldn’t rationalize in my mind how someone could change so much on so much from 2002 to 2008.This year, I’ve been excited by Cain and Bachmann and Pawlenty and Perry, if only to be a healthy alternative to Mitt Romney so we can finally have a debate on the consistency of the conservative message before getting to Obama. After all, we just had a pile of Republicans run in 2010 as tea party conservatives only to see them go to Washington and have guys like Allen West vote more with House Republican leaders than against.So I kind of want to be cautious. And while I’m willing to settle for Mitt Romney, I think even though the GOP typically nominates the guy who has waited in line there are times we need to break out of the habit and this year is one of those times.But, just so I don’t lose my well earned reputation of hating on everybody, below the fold, I’ll tell you precisely what it is about each of the candidates that I don’t much care for. You can take it or leave it. I speak for no one but myself.
What I don’t like about Michele Bachmann is her lack of substance. I know the Bachmann team and supporters will disagree, but this is my view.We have, by most accounts, one of the sharpest, quickest studies in the House of Representatives campaigning on an emotionally driven campaign that is selling the repeal of Obamacare and angry at Barack Obama and the GOP establishment. That’s all well and good, but anger only sustains you for a while.Michele Bachmann is the only tax attorney running for President. Hell, she may be the only tax attorney to ever run for President. That background gives her probably a more substantive background on which to run a campaign on real issues than any of the other candidates and instead she focuses on HPV vaccines and raw emotion about the state of things in Washington. It all comes back to optimism, and I know she is trying to convey it, but I don’t think it comes through the doom and gloom.
Everyone knows I know Herman. I took over his radio show when he left to run. I feel obligated to support Herman, though in my capacity here I try my best to call it as I see it.And what I see from Herman is a campaign with a lot of passion and a lot of optimism, but with a campaign strategy to get attention for the sake of getting attention. Herman says the bold things to get attention. He campaign comes out with the bold plans to get attention. They come out with the catchy “999” to get attention. The campaign gets outraged at the outrage to get outrageous amounts of attention.I first started thinking about this back when Herman left his radio show and I did an “exit” interview for him. In 2008, he wrote a column favoring TARP and at one point had come out against auditing the federal reserve. By the time the campaign rolled around, he said if he knew how TARP was going to work out, he’d have opposed it (but it worked out exactly as planned) and nuanced himself on the fed. That suggested he was trying to be the perfect tea party candidate, but I think Herman would have been stronger being Herman instead of the perfect candidate.For an upstart campaign that is understandable. But it also does not come across (again, it is just me here) as either a well oiled machine or wholly credible. It’s more Great White Hype than Great White Hope, but black of course. And, if I’m really honest with myself, I’m really upset Herman is doing so, so well right now because I really, really, really want him to come home and primary Saxby Chambliss.
What I don’t like about Gingrich is pretty straight forward. He’s always come across as the guy who thought it was his turn. I know way too many people who thought Gingrich should have run years ago, but Gingrich decided this was his time and he’d be greeted as a hero. Except it did not work out that way. And in the past few years, Gingrich has been on the wrong side of just about every single high-profile fight between conservatives and the GOP establishment from Dede Scozzafava to Bob Bennett.People forget that in the Coup of 1998, House moderates stood with Newt Gingrich against conservatives. That’s all I ever really needed to know. But then beyond that, Newt comes to the field with a ton of personal baggage that I just can’t get passed. He is too deeply flawed to be my choice for nominee.
Forget my problem with Huntsman himself — being the President’s Ambassador while clearly deciding to run for President against his own boss. But it goes to a bigger issue for me — loyalty and ambition.And that comes across in the campaign. Huntsman has a profoundly conservative economic plan and has had some sharp things to say on foreign policy. But his campaign can be basically summed up as a middle finger to conservatives. He picks issues like global warming and evolution on which to separate himself from the pack. He tells lame jokes that come off as snide during the debates. Then there is Utah, a state that would pick Romney over Huntsman and, when the former Governor of Utah moved home from China, decided against running a campaign from and moved to Florida. Then there is his faith — he tells reporters he’s more a spiritual person than a Mormon. While Herman Cain has made these tweaks to himself to get the attention as the perfect candidate for the tea party, Huntsman has made his tweaks to be the perfect candidate in the media. And along the way, he’s shown no loyalty for his faith, his home, his base, or much of anything else.Huntsman could be a great leader except he knows he’s the smart, super ambitious guy. And he wants the rest of us to know it too. That’s a profoundly dumb strategy.
Ron Paul has a dazzling economic message, has been proven substantively right on plenty of issues, but his foreign policy is insanity. He may be the perfect libertarian, but he scares the crap out of me and many others.His campaign is much more polished this time and if he’d just keep his talking points to economic matters, he would not have seen his numbers fall so sharply of late. But while Paul’s economic message rallies many libertarian minded supporters, his foreign policy dazzles the worst of the left. It’s intolerable.But there is more to it than that. Ron Paul will not nuance anything. And that may be awesome to the kids who love him — and I am struck by the profound lack of maturity in many of the people, regardless of age, who support Paul as some sort of messiah. I’m no fan of Michael Gerson, but I think this is pretty spot on:
If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.
Ron Paul talks truth to power, but it is a cold truth that sees a handful of his supporters cheering on the thought of letting a hypothetical 26 year old with no health insurance die instead of the state paying to bring him back to good health.
No matter how often I may say Perry is not my guy, I will never dispel the myth since he announced at the RedState Gathering. To be sure, I like Rick Perry a lot. I know him personally. He has been a good friend of this site. And I had hoped Perry could be a good alternative to Romney. My problem with Perry is pretty straight forward. I’ve been muttering to myself since that third debate, “My God. This guy is undefeated?”Seriously, his performance has been less than stellar and is reflected in the polls.My bigger problem with Perry is one many Perry fans and close supporters disagree with me on. I get it, but I still disagree. My problem is that when I hear Perry speak I hear him talking about Texas, not the nation. He sounds too much like a regional candidate — not by accent, but by substance. I don’t like what he did on HPV. I don’t have a problem with his immigration position. But I think it all compounds by what has thus far been an inarticulate vision for the country because he has been so focused on Texas.Yes, it is true that what he is doing is talking about his record. But I know I’m not alone in hearing it not as his record, but as how awesome Texas is. Okay, I will concede that Texas is awesome despite what we’re hearing from the mainstream media and, more troubling, the conservative commentariat convinced they must disparage Texas to disparage Perry.Still — Perry is the only candidate on the trail right now that I hear focused on his state, not the nation. Part of that is because Romney does not have the record, he and Perry are the only governors in the race, and that necessitates the other candidates talking about the nation and not what they did for State X. Nonetheless, it bothers me. He needs a jobs plan now to refocus him on talking about the nation and his vision for the country.
I always laugh when people say I am a Mitt Romney guy. Surprisingly, I get that a lot. I was a Mitt Romney guy once. Back in 2007 and early 2008 I fully supported Romney. But my problem now is the same reason I left him then.He and his family are super people. But Mitt Romney the candidate has been on every side of virtually every issue in modern American politics. That’s the whole reason for my discomfort.In 2008, Romney ran as a conservative. This year he runs as a centrist. He is one of the least successful politicians to ever run for the Presidency as a top tier candidate, having lost every race but one and then, being unable to win re-election and not wanting that loss to impact his Presidential run, he gave up his re-election bid. Along the way the Romney of today has taken different positions from the Romney of yesterday and from the Romney of the day before and the Romney of the day before that.That’s my problem. I think Mitt Romney is an opportunist driven by the memory of his father’s failed bid for the Presidency. It impacts both his candor and his positions. And I think it will become a deep, deep vulnerability should he challenge Barack Obama, in the same way John Kerry’s multifaceted positions hurt his run against George W. Bush. To Mitt Romney’s benefit, however, the issue now is our economic situation, not our survival in the face of terrorists.
Part of what prompted this post was a phone call on Friday from a Santorum guy wanting to know what my problem is with Santorum. In particular, had Santorum slighted me in some way.No. My problem with Santorum is straightforward. Like Mitt Romney, Santorum could not win re-election in his home state. Unlike Romney’s state, Pennsylvania is a swing state in which Santorum is polling third. He comes across as too angry on the campaign trail and too desperate. He’s trying to be this year’s Mike Huckabee, but has to fight for it with Bachmann and Cain and he has neither the money nor resume to effectively compete. And despite his rhetoric and occasional name dropping of Jim DeMint’s name, Santorum has a terrible record on fiscal issues in his congressional tenure.But my biggest problem with Santorum is that given his lack of high polling, his lack of money, and his inability to win re-election in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, I find him a nuisance and distraction whose presence as the seventh or eighth person on stage prevents us from having a more substantive conversation with the six or seven candidates ahead of him who have a better shot at the nomination. And besides, the GOP and Democrats both nominated Senators in 2008 — current Senators no less. Look what happened to them.