Why is the Republican field so weak this time around?

Featured

What has happened to the Republican party this election cycle? Why do we have to deal with these second-tier candidates who crawled out of the woodwork to form circular firing squads and have attacked each other on sacred cows like free-market capitalism! It’s just serves as more fodder for the late-night comedy shows. And the GoP base is having a lot of trouble rallying around one viable candidate who stands for their values. Instead, voters are forced to endorse either the cardboard-like persona of Mitt Romney (direct from central casting) because he looks like a President and apparently no one else has any hope of beating Obama in the General Election; or Newt Gringrich who has more baggage than an airline cargo hold and is arrogant at best and erratic at worst. Why did more promising candidates opt out of 2012?

The simple truth is that the heavyweights (such as Chris Christie – pun intended) have done their political calculations and 2016 provides a greater opportunity for a direct path to the White House than 2012. Here’s the deal: Obama is starting to get some positive traction in the economy with the job numbers, is ending two unpopular wars, and is acting more like a leader with a backbone than a compromiser in recent days. Obama keeps putting the Republicans in  no-win situations such as the payroll tax debacle and the appointments during pro-forma Senate meetings, all of which are strategically focused on issues important to the middle class. If they say “no”, they’re voting against the middle class and voting to increase taxes. If they vote “yes”, Obama looks like he is fighting for the middle class. Sneaky, but effective politics! If Europe doesn’t implode during the election cycle, and the Supreme Court does not overturn the federal mandate in the health care bill, it is an Obama victory this fall.

In 2016, the field is wide open on both sides – assuming that Obama gets the second term – so we will see a first-tier offering from both parties. Most of the smart Republicans have already figured this out. Of course, Romney had to run because he auditioned for the part last time and it’s his turn for a kick at the can. But we should expect to see a much better crop in 2016. No more characters out of the clown car such as Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann,  Rick Perry, Ron Paul, etc. They will be replaced by the likes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Tim Pawlenty, and perhaps some up and coming stars of the Republican Party such as Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, and so on. The circus atmosphere of this year’s primary (as entertaining as it has been) will give way to a serious discourse of the issues facing America and candidates with a realistic shot at the Presidency. History tells us that it will be the Republican turn at bat in 2016 so why waste time in 2012, unless it serves as a dry run for 2016. (Sorry Jon Huntsman, you need to run as a Democrat to get any votes, so this will probably be his swan song as far as Presidential aspirations are concerned – BTW, the Hunstman girls have a bright future ahead as long as it’s not in politics). Continue reading

Goodbye Super Tuesday: Who should stay in and who should drop out?

Now that Super Tuesday has been declared as a bust because Romney could not deliver the knockout punch, it’s a good time to assess the candidates and where they stand, specifically, should they stay in or get out. Note that because of proportional distribution of delegates this time around, and with the new SuperPAC ruling, this race could go on for a while. Below is the list in order of preference of who should drop out.  We’re left with a Mitt, a Rick, a Newt, and a Paul.

Ron Paul

Reasons to Stay In: The Gospel of Paul is continuing to play well to the loyal minions of this movement.  His supporters don’t want him to drop out. He wasn’t trying to win the election, but rather win the hearts and minds of the American public.  He has done that, at least for his ardent supporters. If he stays in, he gets to see the entire country for free while using money from his followers to preach his message of a sound monetary policy.

Reasons to Drop Out: Haven’t we heard enough of the same record? We get it. Over 20 debates, dozens of interviews and countless speeches, he has drilled home the same message. There’s no need to repeat it any further and continue to spend other people’s money to do it. Proof: no state wins to boast about. And the race is about delegates and he doesn’t have enough. There is no path to the nomination, and no way to affect the outcome. It’s time for him to go. But he’s going nowhere fast.

Newt Gringrich

Reasons to Stay In: Just like in Hollywood Squares, Sheldon Adelson (Newt’s Sugar Daddy) is using Newt to block Rick. Good plan. Mitt would be in a whole heap of trouble if votes for Rick weren’t being siphoned off by Newt, or split between Mitt and Rick. Collecting delegates can throw a monkey wrench into Mitt’s plans and possibly lead to a brokered (i.e., broken) convention, which will cause chaos for Mitt and the republican establishment, as Newt would prefer. He doesn’t much like Mitt so any stick in the spokes of Mitt’s attempt to win the grueling Tour de America would be sufficient payback for the carpet bombing he endured during the negative ad campaigns against him in several states.

Reasons to Drop Out:  No chance of being the nominee mathematically, and he may run out of money. His big ideas are a whole lot of hot air from a big mouth. There is no substance behind these “ideas”, and the term is being used loosely! He is a schoolyard bully who is turning off the electorate everywhere except the deep south where bullying is tolerated. Being a bully doesn’t necessarily make you qualified to be President, and claiming that you’re the only one who can debate Obama and win is one of the weakest arguments in the history of Presidential politics. Speaking of history, he needs to take a course on world history one of these days rather than spouting off a lot of fictional stories while claiming to be a historian.

Rick Santorum

Reasons to Stay In:  Just in case Newt drops out, he can beat Mitt in a variety of different states and perhaps force a contested convention. He’s the last best Hope for America as a non-Romney candidate, although these days he seems to be running for Pope of America.

Reasons to Drop Out: No chance to catch Romney unless Newt drops out and that won’t happen unless Newt loses in Mississippi and Alabama.   His quesitonable off-message remarks on social topics have put off segments of the voters such as women and Catholics, along with moderates.  Fiscal conservatives don’t see him as a fiscal conservative. He better continue to raise money or he’ll have to drop out. Does not seem likely that he will drop out.

Mitt Romney

Reasons to Stay In: The inevitable winner one way or the other, but needs everyone else to stay in and split the vote. He may need to write a check to Newt’s campaign or SuperPAC just to make sure he stays in the race. The establishment wants Mitt at all costs.  Target end of June to wrap up the 1144 delegates, so get ready to spend lots of money that could have been used in the General Election. The superdelegates will back Mitt if he can’t reach 1144 delegates. Otherwise, get ready for a fight at the convention!

Reasons to Drop Out: There is no reason to drop out until Nov. 6. At that point, the voters will give him a reason to drop out.

Why the GOP candidates are avoiding the Real Issues

As the GOP candidates swing hard to the right to win over voters in the primary elections, they are totally avoiding the real issues of America – and for good reason! The problems are just too hard to solve in sound bites and stump speeches.  Partisan issues of birth control, abortion, religion, gay marriage and elite media tactics are at the forefront of the discourse because they provide fodder to galvanize the base. Other topics such as the bad state of the economy (hard to make the argument at the moment), the rising price of gas (hard to do anything about) and a hawkish foreign policy (more reckless spending) still provide  sources of red meat for the electorate so they are a staple of every interview, debate or speech. It’s just a way to attract and distract the voters.

But what about the national debt, budget deficits, and job creation. Where are the solutions to these problems?? No where! It’s as if they don’t even exist. Yes, lip service is paid to these issues, but no solutions are offered. Nor will they be offered any time soon (well, except for Ron Paul, but his solutions of $1T of spending cuts immediately and a sound money policy are not workable in the near term and he won’t win the nomination anyway).

Let’s start with the Debt. The biggest misconception is that Obama is running up the national debt like no other President in history. It’s heading towards $16 trillion and it’s his fault. But is he really responsible for that, or is something else going on here? Ever since Ronald Reagan (and even before him), every President has taken their turn to crank up the national debt. But Bush II deserves the real credit for breaking the bank, not Obama. In fact, the “Yes We Can” President has tried to cut some spending and increase taxes on the rich and some corporations with no luck due to the “No You Can’t” republicans in Congress. The budget deficit each year inherently leads to more debt. If you don’t fix that, then it will only get worse. Most of the Debt is held by the public, the social security trust fund and other trusts, government reserves, and foreign countries (China, Japan, Britain, etc.).

Consider the analogy of a typical household finances: Let’s say you have a house mortgage payment, a car payment, a number of utility bills and a security system bill every month.  Add to that your federal, state and local taxes, as well as a minimum payment on your credit card bills. Assume that it adds up to 80% of your income. You must pay for all of these or else you will have no where to live, no way to get around, no electricity or gas, no credit cards, no safety in your home and the IRS at your door. They are loosely equivalent to the federal government’s budget for social security, medicare, medicaid, military spending and paying interest on the national debt. Now, with 20% left, you have to pay for food, clothing, gas, entertainment, repairs, etc.  But, if the bills added up to $100K per year and your family income is only $75K per year, you will run up a debt of $25K per year which goes on the credit card. In the case of the US, the budget is $4 trillion and the revenue is $3 trillion, so guess what – the deficit is $1 trillion per year.  It’s a structural deficit that directly adds to the debt — it’s built into the system unless you cut spending or increase revenue. There’s no other way to solve the problem!

But what do you cut out of your family budget? The big ticket items are immovable objects, and the small ticket items don’t make much of a difference. It’s the same for the US Gov’t. No one has a debt or deficit reduction plan  because it’s too hard to figure out what to cut in the budget and what to do with $16 trillion dollars on the credit card. When Obama came into office,  the debt was around $11 trillion. Note that under Bush, the two wars, the prescription drug bill and the tax cuts for the rich amounted to $4 trilllion!!  Now Obama is being blamed for another $5 trillion. But almost $4.2 trillion is due to the budget decificits and holdovers from the Bush administration. Only about $800B can be charged to Obama due to the stimulus plan and other programs (tax holiday, Obama-care, etc.).  Under Clinton, there were surpluses, although they “borrowed” from the Social Security trust fund to balance the budget whenever needed, and that added to the national debt. Newt Gringrich keeps referring to 4 balanced budgets but forgets to mention that they robbed social security to do it! So really, everyone is to blame for almost all of the national debt. Yes, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II – not just Obama! If anything, he’s probably had the least impact on the Debt!

To top it all off, every Republican plan for the economy and job creation is a tax plan that increases the Debt year after year, and the foreign policy plan is a war with Iran to further add to the Debt. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would add trillions to the Debt over 10 years with their tax reduction plans (but don’t tell the voters!). Anyway, how does a tax plan create jobs while reducing the deficit, and how does a war reduce the Debt? They don’t! When will a viable GOP candidate step forward and offer ways to bring in more revenue, make tough spending cuts on the entitlements and military to balance the budget, and stop fighting undeclared wars so that a major dent can be made in the Debt? Not anytime soon, so don’t hold your breath!!

Rick Santorum’s Debate Debacle and Fall from Grace

The unexpected rise and soon to be the expected fall of Rick Santorum has been largely due to his own folly. He was the undisputed front-runner after sweeping MN, MO and CO in one night. He had done what no pundit had predicted – he defeated Romney in all three states! This trifecta propelled him into the national spotlight where the glare was too much for him to handle, even on the night he pulled off this upset.  His lack-luster victory speech was not presidential, nor inspirational, and he seemed nervous about being ahead in the race. That was a sign of things to come.

What did Santorum do with this lofty position of front-runner? The same thing that all the others did before him – he bungled it so badly that within a couple of weeks he will have talked himself out of contention.  Take for example the CNN debate (Wed Feb 22, 2012).  While Perry had a “oops” moment last fall that eventually caused him to drop out of the race, Santorum had a “oops” debate.  The problem is that he can’t lie, or even use creative truth-telling like other politicians. He just lays out the facts, explanations and excuses to justify what he did but just end up shooting himself in the foot. He did that over and over in the debate every time he was challenged by Romney or Paul. His long voting record in the House and Senate has betrayed his social and fiscal conservative positions that he has proclaimed all along the campaign trail.

He voted for contraception, abortions, debt increases, earmarks and large-scale spending programs, as well as two wars that have incurred a significant loss of life and treasure. This does not jibe with his rhetoric on the campaign trail. You’re right Ron Paul, he is a fake.

Now he’s decided that women should not serve on the front lines in war because they are “emotional”, defends an abstinence program from the federal government (which costs money), is against gays and gay marriage, believes that college is for snobs, and does not want a separation of church and state (although he does want separation of mosque and state, synagogue and state, or any other religion and state). Whatever happened to the freedom and liberty that he quotes in every speech? All of these things restrict freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh well, more campaign red-meat and rhetoric for the uneducated masses.

Consider, for example, the “No Child Left Behind” question from the CNN debate, which is very telling. Here’s what he said and a “translation” into simple English:

Santorum: “…I have to admit, I voted for it…against the principles I believe in…”

Translation: I am unprincipled in my voting.

Santorum:“I took one for the team…look, politics is a team sport”

Translation: I voted based along party lines, not based on what was good for my state which I represent or for the country that I believe in,  but whatever the party decided was right, which makes me a typical Washington insider.

Santorum: “It was a mistake.”

Translation: I make mistakes by voting without thinking it through because it seems like the right thing to do to support the President’s program.

Santorum: “It was a bad idea…for all the money that was put out there…”

Translation: I’m not a fiscal conservative since I spend taxpayers dollars without worrying about debts or deficits.

Santorum: “I will repeal No Child Left Behind”

Translation: I was for it before I was against it.  Oops!

When your votes contradict every position you take in your campaign speeches as a candidate for President, you lose all credibility.  Sorry Rick, your fifteen minutes are almost up!

The Romney Playbook

Remember the book entitled “How to succeed in business without really trying”?  There must be another book somewhere called “How to run for President without really trying” now being used by Mitt Romney as the basis for his campaign.  The initial paragraph of the book probably reads something like this:

“Congratulations on the purchase of this book! It is your first step to a successful run as the party nominee and eventually the presidency.  This guide book will provide you with enough information to win the nomination of your party and defeat an incumbent President who stands in the way of your rightful place in the White House. Let’s get started.”

Throughout the book, there are undoubtedly lots of do’s and don’t’s for use along the campaign trail. Do look Presidential, Don’t give a lot of interviews (if any!), Do use negative attack ads, Don’t admit to any flaws, mistakes, or flip-flops in the past, etc. Somewhere in the book, there must be a section describing how to construct a stump speech that the candidate will have to give over and over, except for a change in the name of the city or state being wooed.

Stump Speech Outline:

o Start by pointing to random places in the audience during the initial applause as if you know everyone there and then thank the state for its warm welcome (make sure you remember which state you are in!) and mention a whole bunch of local politicians in the audience to make it look like you have lots of endorsements from the state

o Tell a heart-warming story about immigrant parents who came to this country with a dollar in their pocket and a promise of a better life, and sacrificed a lot so that eventually you and your ego could run for president

o Then attack any rivals in the primary with exaggerated statements about their minor offenses as the main mechanism to influence the crowd to vote for you. Lots of mud-slinging is encouraged since some of it may stick for those not following closely, which is most of the voting public

o Throw out a lot of applause lines, sound bites, red meat and vitriolic statements that tend to pander to the audience. These portions will show up on the 24-hour news channels and increase your visibility in the media, effectively getting free air time.

o Attack the incumbent president on all partisan issues and say you’ll do better. Tell them what a lousy job the administration is doing and that the country is headed in the wrong direction. But NEVER say exactly how you will do better. Keep them guessing. Otherwise, they will find some flaw in your approach. NEVER let them pin you down on any issue so keep specifics out of the speech. In fact, do not let them know where you stand on any issue so that it cannot be debated in the media, or anywhere else.

o Wrap yourself in the flag, the constitution and religion, as you recite various portions of the Declaration of Independence. Sing God Bless America, America the Beautiful and the National Anthem – even if you can’t sing. Remind the crowd that you want your country back, that you are fighting for the soul of America and that the government is by the people and for the people. Toss in a line about keeping the military strong and remind everyone to “Support our troops at home and abroad” to seal the deal. None of this means anything but voters will eat it up like hogs at a trough!

o End with the fact that America’s best days are still ahead, and it’s the last best hope for the earth as the shining city on the hill. Now smile and wave like you just gave the best speech in recorded political history! Start glad-handing with the folks on stage and then in the audience, while keeping the smile pasted on your face and an ample supply of hand sanitizer in your pocket.

With this type of speech, repeated over and over like a broken record, you will win over a large segment of the GOP population. Make sure you stay on script every time you give the speech; otherwise, you might inadvertently say what you mean, rather than not meaning what you say. Although you’ve said absolutely nothing of substance in the speech, everyone will walk away thinking that you are the right person to lead the nation to glory.

Commentary: Isn’t it about time for Romney to re-work his entire stump speech so that it has some content, some vision, some positions on key issues and most importantly – solutions? It’s getting tiresome listening to the same old uninspiring talk everyday. It’s not working! And while he’s at it, he should stop following the guide book and start working on a real campaign than can excite the GOP electorate!!!