The long, convoluted campaign to select a challenger to US President Barack Obama in November’s election was kicked off in earnest by the Republican Party in Iowa this week; the results of that first primary throw mud into the water, and provide no clarity.
Former one-term Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney — supposedly the frontrunner in this race, and the undisputed darling of the Republican Party hierarchy — eked out the slenderest of wins in Iowa, beating former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by just eight votes, and collecting just 24.6% of the vote in Iowa in doing so.
We’ll come back to Mitt Romney.
The ageing Republican rebel, 75-year-old Ron Paul, finished third in Iowa with 21.4% of the votes, in what will most likely prove to be his best finish in the Republican primaries this year.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich was next with 13.3%; Texas Governor Rick Perry with 10.3%; Tea Party favourite Michelle Bachmann with 5%; diplomat and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman with 0.6%; and there were a couple of also-rans and disqualified or withdrawn candidates who polled a few votes.
The first observation I would make is that there aren’t too many elections like this one that card this sort of result; it took five candidates to account for 80% of the votes cast.
US elections generally have their raging favourites; in 2012, that favourite is Mitt Romney, who hauled in all of 24.6% of the votes in Iowa.
Most opinion polling in the US shows that, in a straight head-to-head contest with Barack Obama, Romney would win the Presidency.
Certainly, the US economy has consistently stalled and deteriorated on Obama’s watch; his supposed legislative triumphs have, in practice, been debacles; and most of the soaring, rhetorical dreams of the Obama presidency — if you’re that way inclined — have failed utterly and miserably to materialise.
But even then, it’s not so simple.
Mitt Romney — whilst the darling of the insiders of his party, with his telegenic good looks, self-made fortune, and brilliance in communication — is widely distrusted by most of the rank and file of his party.
Some of this can be explained by reading the excellent article that appeared in Vanity Fair magazine last week, which can be viewed here http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/02/mitt-romney-201202 .
It’s a cruel fact, but part of the problem is his religious life as a member and leader of the Mormon church; rightly or wrongly, tens of millions of Americans, along with a majority of Romney’s own GOP fellows, object to his suitability as a candidate for the Presidency of the USA on account of his religion.
But even then, the Romney story is too hard to pigeonhole: the man is branded as too liberal and permissive to appeal to the conservative core of the Republican Party, yet all accounts of his religious and business dealings are suggestive of the exact opposite: that Mitt Romney, in fact, is the most conservative candidate in the field.
As a mainstream conservative of great drive, I must say that I would shudder to have to work for Mitt Romney on a campaign or to try to achieve his election, were he to be endorsed, hypothetically, in my area of Melbourne.
So what of the rest of the field?
Santorum is a good man and a God candidate (by his own admission) who won’t matter a can of beans once the Republican show finds its way into the states that really matter — the ones disproportionately heavy with voters.
Ron Paul, aside from being too old for the American electorate to feasibly elect for a first term at 75, is a good man committed to politically lunar policies: no intervention in global hotspots, for example, even when America is provoked, is a recipe for God-alone-knows-what.
Fortunately, he too is likely to fade away after a creditable result at the polls in Iowa.
Bachmann has already quit the race; Huntsman will likely do so after the next couple of rounds of the battle; and Rick Perry — someone who probably should have had an easy run to the nomination, but stuffed it up by appearing…slurringly…at early campaign rallies will likely follow in short order unless the coming contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina yield something the rest of us can’t see happening.
I would add that merits and baggage considered, it’s a shame “America’s Mayor” — former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani — isn’t standing in 2012; but that’s how it is, and as such, we can only focus on the men left in the field.
To me, it leaves one name as a challenger to Mitt Romney: Newt Gingrich.
It’s very true Gingrich finished fourth in Iowa; it’s also very true his tenure leading the House of Representatives ended in a whimper and tears, and not with the type of bang he and his people might have hoped.
But alone in the Republican field, Gingrich knows US government; he has experience, ability and contacts; and he has the sort of charisma and political smarts that have led him to trouble in the past, but which could equally lead to greatness in the future.
Returning to analysis, it’s difficult to know what to make of the Iowa results, except to say that over 75% of the Republican Party’s voters in that state voted against the supposed lay-down misere candidate for the Presidency, Mitt Romney.
The observation must be made that after nearly six years, one comprehensive (failed) tilt at the Presidency in 2008, years of campaigning, millions of dollars in expenditure and an awe-inspiring campaign machine later, the fact Romney garnered just 24.6% of the Iowa Republican vote, and struggles to garner more than that in nationwide opinion polls, is both an indictment on Romney as a potential Republican nominee and on his prospects as a putative Presidential candidate.
This column, based as it is in Melbourne, Australia and written by an Australian citizen, does not have a vote in the GOP primaries.
Nevertheless, The Red And The Blue will follow the US Presidential race in 2012 very closely.
And as a conservative — of great zeal — I believe that the best thing my American readers and friends can do is to endorse Newt Gingrich to contest the Presidency against Obama this November, and to elect Gingrich as President of the United States.