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September 30, 2011

The Next Gipper?

Joe Charlebois

Where is the perfect candidate? The Republican electorate has a bevy of candidates that have thrown their hats into the political ring, but yet they seem to be unsatisfied with their choices. They are still hoping that a candidate will emerge from this pack as a true Reaganesque figure. One just might.


Even though the candidate that will climb the stage stairs at next year’s convention and raise his arm in a victory wave will not be the “Gipper.” It will be one of the candidates that left the debate stage in Orlando on September 22.


The source of dissatisfaction in the Republican electorate has had more to do with the leading candidates than the field as a whole. Prior to the Orlando debate there were two candidates who – based on national polling – held a solid lead over the field despite potentially limiting negatives. The second tier of candidates was hoping for an opportunity to have the nation learn their name, their ideas and to take notice that all candidates bring something to the stage, and that this is just the beginning of the primary race, not the coronation.


The first primary that included Gov. Rick Perry (TX) and former Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, was held at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney, as the de facto leaders in the field, were the obvious beneficiaries of the Reagan Library Debate moderated by MSNBC and


The two news organizations editorially eliminated – through their questioning – the other seven candidates from much of the debate, all but asserting that these gentlemen were the only two serious candidates on the stage. The questioning there may have had more to do with creating a ratings win than providing information about all of the candidates a full fourteen months prior to the 2012 General Election. This was the first debate to have Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney on stage at the same time.


The debates are the best way for the parties to present as many ideas as possible while showcasing the candidates for the electorate to decide who will make the best nominee. The temptation of news networks to focus on two candidates and their in-fighting for a ratings boost does not only the viewers an extreme disservice but potentially cuts off the opportunity for other candidates whom the country needs to get to know.


Fortunately the next debate in Tampa, FL, which was moderated by CNN and sponsored by the Tea Party Express, was a much fairer and informative debate as all candidates shared the stage. Strengths and weaknesses were revealed and the most recent entrant into the arena was the target of many arrows. Both of the debate’s incoming front runners are men with serious conservative credibility issues – Mr. Romney with healthcare and Mr. Perry with government overreaches and benefits to illegal immigrants.


Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann and former United States Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, both targeted Mr. Perry’s record on the mandatory HPV vaccinations for young females in Texas as well as revealing the candidates’ views on the illegal immigration issue, while Mr. Romney went mostly untouched.


What has emerged from the field is one shining light for the party that is another solid debate performance by and the emergence of – former Chief Executive Officer of Godfather’s Pizza – Herman Cain.


Mr. Cain has a commanding and confident presence, a firm grasp on economic issues and is quite capable of going toe-to-toe with adversaries. He made an extremely effective speech last Saturday in Orlando and won the Florida Straw Poll by a large margin. He has even made headway in the latest Zogby poll, released on Monday, by leading both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney with 28% of likely Republican Primary voters. Governors. Perry and Romney garnered 18% and 17% respectively. What makes these numbers even more significant is the fact that Mr. Cain’s name is one of the least recognized names in the Republican field with roughly 50% of respondents in a recent Gallup poll.


In the release of Fox News poll yesterday, Mr. Cain officially made it a three-way race again. The top tier now constitutes Mitt Romney at 23%; Rick Perry at 19%; Herman Cain, 17% with Newt Gingrich making great strides reaching 11% of those polled.


This is good news for the Republican Party as it is way too early for this to become a two-man race. Even though the current top three have negatives and are far from perfect, the easiest road to overcome is Mr. Cain’s. His lack of expertise in foreign affairs is his current limiting factor; but there is a great deal of time for Mr. Cain to get a grasp on the minutia that a presidential candidate needs to know in order to gain the public’s confidence in his/her grasp of foreign affairs.


While there may not be a perfect conservative candidate at this time, there is one in the making. Mr. Cain, who at the start of this race was a political neophyte and certainly considered an unlikely flag bearer for the GOP – when compared to the likes of polished Mitt Romney and the nation’s longest serving governor, Mr. Perry – is presenting himself as a formidable chief executive.


Don’t be surprised if – at the end of the day – the pundits pronounce Mr. Cain’s positive view of America, fiscal constraint and poise earn him the title of Reaganesque.


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