Monday, January 19, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: It's A Free Country, Isn't It?

This the time of presidential trial balloons. With a new
president certain to be elected in 2016, hopefuls and
aspirants in both major parties are testing the waters,
rounding up staff members, and appealing to major donors.
It is an old ritual with contemporary procedures and
techniques. It is big-time American politics on a grand

The establishments of both parties have a tendency to try
to control this process. In the case of the Democrats, they
have a frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, who is way out in front,
with no one yet in sight who can wrest the nomination
from her. She leads in all polls, not only against potential
Democratic rivals, but also against every Republican
opponent. The Democratic establishment therefore would
like to end this contest early, and prepare for the general
election. When Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
began making competitive waves from Mrs. Clinton's left,
the liberal establishment got nervous, and started trying to
warn Mrs. Warren off the contest. Their nervousness was
increased by the fact that Mrs. Clintons initial campaign
roll-out has been notably less than successful. There are
several other Democratic wannabes, including Vice President
Joe Biden, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer,
former Virginia Senator James Webb and Vermont Senator
Bernie Sanders. Should Mrs. Clinton falter or pull out, other
big names in the party could enter, including notably New
York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

On the Republican side, there is no true frontrunner, but there
is an establishment favorite, former Florida Governor Jeb
Bush. Another major candidate would be New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie. Also potentially serious candidates include
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich,
Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisiana Governor Bobby
Jindal, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, former Arkansas
Governor Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry
and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Less serious
now, there are a number of hopefuls who might take a crack at
the nomination. (Abraham Lincoln was at the bottom of the list
of nine GOP candidates as late as February, 1860, and look what
happened only six months later when he won his nomination.)

Then there is Mitt Romney. In 2008, he was runner-up to
John McCain in the GOP nominating contest, and in 2012,
he was the Republican presidential nominee. He lost to
Barack Obama that year by a relatively small margin, but
as it turns out, most of what he said on the campaign turned
out be right, or rather more right, than what Mr. Obama
said. Nevertheless, some in the GOP establishment do not want
Mitt Romney to run in 2016, and are saying so out loud. 

It so happens I agree with those who say Mitt Romney is not
likely to be the best Republican nominee in 2016, but I do
disagree that he should be told not to run. I don’t agree with
much that Elizabeth Warren has been saying, but I also don’t
think she should be told not to run.

After all, it’s a free country, isn’t it?

Some folks in both parties fear open contests with many
candidates. Republicans particularly point to the large field and
numerous debates in 2012 as having hurt their ticket in
November. I disagree with that strongly. There were perhaps
too many debates (27), but the process, in my opinion, made Mr.
Romney a better and stronger candidate. Newt Gingrich, for
example, was by far the best debater in 2012; Mr. Romney held
his own in the debates, but he had to face someone who was
formidable early in the process. Romney did not lose because of
the number of GOP rivals he had or the debates. He lost because
of the successful (and unanswered) personal attacks on him made
by the Democrats early and often, and because the Democrats
had a much superior get-out-the-vote effort. (That the GOP did
not have a better one, truth be told, was Mr. Romney’s

The nation and its political process is best served, as I see it,
by open and competitive nomination contests. The number of
candidates does not really matter because the process is
designed to weed out those who cannot win very early.

So I say to Elizabeth Warren, Mitt Romney, and anyone else
who thinks they should and can be president: Feel free to run!

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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