With the dates of the first primaries and caucuses still unsettled, the
next several days and weeks will likely produce a lack of drama in the 2012
GOP nomination contest for president. (But surprises do happen!) In those
days ahead, barring the unforeseen, The Prairie Editor will try to address
the current environment of political issues, with less attention to a
preoccupation with the candidates and the ups and downs of the individual
But first, some quick thoughts on what has transpired so far.
There have been a series of "political bubbles" in the GOP contest since
the campaigns began in earnest, beginning with Donald Trump, and
continuing with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now, Herman Cain.
Mr. Cain's "bubble" seems to have peaked as this is written, but his
sympathetic temperment may mean a decline in his numbers in the polls
will not be as severe as happened to the other three. Mitt Romney
remains the so-called frontrunner, and his ability so far to outlast the
"bubbles" of his rivals has strengthened his early claim to the nomination.
But one formidable candidate remains. Initially a "first-tier" candidate,
Newt Gingrich made some serious campaign blunders, lost most of his
initial high octane campaign staff, and seemed headed for obscurity.
Unlike Tim Pawlenty, who showed much promise, but suffered similar
mishaps, Mr. Gingrich did not withdraw, but re-formed his campaign as
an untraditional one, emphasizing his own issues and political skills. His
poll numbers took a nosedive to low single digits, but now have risen to
low double digits, and he has clearly been the overall winner so far (along
with Mr. Romney) of the candidate debates. He seems to have positioned
himself as the next "anyone-but-Romney candidate," and The Prairie Editor
thinks his will be the next (and last) "bubble." Many commentators,
including young conservative ones, have written him off, and I have been
reluctant to suggest he has any chance to win, but poll numbers and
favorable comments about his debate performances have been so positive,
I am making this prediction (with the caveat that Mr. Gingrich can be his
own worst enemy). Provided that he will avoid rashness, and maintain his
new self-discipline, he has a small opening in the weeks ahead. He is still a
long-shot, but his sheer talent and experience is not to be underestimated.
President Obama's fundraising continues to be considerable, but there are
credible reports that it is approximately 20% below expectations. It now
seems unlikely that his financial advantage will overwhelm his Republican
opponent, as it did in 2008 and was predicted to be again in 2012. (It is
also dubious that millionaires are begging him to "tax us more." A simple
rejoinder is that if these rich voters want to pay more taxes, they are free
to do so voluntarily. There is no evidence so far of this largesse, so these
reports can be fairly assessed as propaganda and false.)
The Occupy Wall Street protests continue as the weather across the nation
is unseasonably mild. There is no evidence so far that they are producing
either their desired results or enhancing the prospect of Democrats who
have belatedly embraced them.
Early assessments of likely contested U.S. house and senate races indicate
modest gains for Republican in the house, and significant gains for the GOP
in the senate.
Foreign policy issues have played a minimal role in the presidential contest
so far, but international events have historically had a way of intervening in
purely domestic campaigns. Sometimes, the defining "last-minute surprise"
is a domestic event (as the mortgage banking crisis was in 2008), but often it
originates (or seems to originate) overseas. No matter how the campaign
goes from here on, there will be "surprise" possibilities all the way to the
first week of November, 2012.
Both Democrat and Republicans should already be doing some serious
thinking about the 2016 primary and caucus calendar. The game-playing
and uncertainty in the GOP 2012 calendar should be an alarum of likely
chaotic conditions in the future.
In a previous column, I made some suggestions for the remaining 2012
Republican presidential debate formats. It my be even more important for
both President Obama and his likely opponents to give some thought to
the presidential debates that will take place between the two nominees.
The Prairie Editor thinks a new format is long overdue.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.