It's Romney's to lose... the GOP field as it stands

Polls and resources point to a Romney win for the GOP candidacy. James Dwyer walks us through the candidates strengths and weaknesses.

The field...
James Dwyer
On 7 July 2011 11:01

As America celebrated the 235th celebration of its independence this week, the contest to see who will be the Republican contender for the 45th presidency ramped up.

The GOP is uncomfortable with the situation the party finds itself in. Half the party seem to favour a hard-line, Tea Party-style candidate whilst the other half - perhaps in recognition of the state of the nation - would like to see a more moderate candidate who can attract independent and undecided voters.

All the while, Barack Obama can raise money and build his campaign base unscathed by uncoordinated attacks from the right. The longer the Republicans show uncertainty and a lack of direction, the more Obama will build the foundations of his campaign. So where are we in the search for an electable GOP candidate for 2012?


Vitally, it was revealed yesterday that Romney’s fundraising efforts have eclipsed his rivals thus far. He has raised about $18m in the last quarter, adding to previous warchests. Huntsman, for instance is languishing around the $5m mark.

The ghost of ‘Romneycare’, Romney's health-care plan for Massachusetts that is seen by many as the precursor to Obama's health-care plan - will continue to haunt him throughout the campaign. For many traditional, conservative Republicans, Romney is not hard-line enough and will not attract enough support from the base.

Many in the party are trying to assess whether having a moderate candidate who is not so traditionally Republican would do more damage to the party in the long run. By the same token, Romney is currently their best chance to regain the White House.

Michele Bachmann has burst onto the scene over the last few weeks and is proving to be a real dividing character. Polls conducted in Iowa last week showed that she has support from 22% of those asked - only 1% less than Mitt Romney. Bachmann is seen by some as the more presentable version of Sarah Palin - liked by the Tea Party and the traditional core, with character and sincerity.

However, she struggles with the more detailed side of the campaign trail - getting your facts wrong on American history does not go down well with Republicans. Many also seem worried about the depth of her campaign - she makes a solid first impression but over a year-long campaign, the fear is that she will not be able to withstand the rigours of campaigning and the scrutiny of the press.

Newt Gingrich's campaign never quite got off the ground, and this was compounded by the ‘Newtiny’ when his campaign team quit. His record with marriages and seemingly half-hearted attitude to the race thus far has effectively ruled him out. It will take nothing short of a miracle for him to get back in the running.

Tim Pawlenty is a candidate that many feel should be doing better than he is. He stuttered in the first debate in New Hampshire and hasn't seemed to recover from that point.

He's politically astute and has a good track record, and in many ways has everything the GOP would look for in a president. However he looks fragile and unwilling to step out and really push his campaign, and so is faltering in the polls.

If he makes a strong push between now and the end of the year, he may be able to recover some ground. If not, it looks like his campaign will be somewhat of a false start, despite the Hollywood glitz he originally tried to portray.

Herman Cain is popular, and is definitely would mark a different approach from the Republicans. He seems well-liked in all circles, has a good economic track record and brings with him a different sort of experience. However, there are already murmurs that he’s only in the running so the GOP can claim its racist days are behind them, and his lack of political experience will begin to tell at some point. He can expect to get fairly far in the process, but achieving the goal of Republican candidate is probably beyond him this time.

Jon Huntsman is quietly but effectively working his way into the field. A reluctant campaigner at first, his strategy of a simple campaign and an honest approach make him a serious worry for Mitt Romney.

Huntsman will struggle with the fact that he is seen by many as a more liberal Republican but, as with Romney, that may work in his favour in the long run. His time spent as Ambassador to China for Barack Obama may count against him, but it seems unlikely that it would be enough to block his run, and in fact may appeal to disheartened Democrats.

Huntsman is a serious contender whom many people seem to be ignoring at the moment. When your campaign team doesn’t know you well enough to spell your own name correctly, you know you’re in a spot of bother. Huntsman’s relative anonymity may well become more of a help than a hindrance as time goes on – tabula rasa is not an unwelcome position to begin with for a Presidential candidate.

Rick Santorum says that he’s ‘in it to win it’, but it doesn’t look as if others see it that way. To have any chance, the former Pennsylvania senator needs to make a name for himself. At the moment he is lurking in the murky shadows, floating around in the background. The longer he stays there, the harder it will be for him to craft a coherent and unique message.

Ron Paul is a polarizing figure; popular with the traditional GOP base but not so with more moderate voters. He is a classic Republican in many ways, but the party is aware that a classic candidate may well fail to beat Obama. Paul could go far, but he will ultimately fail to reach the finish line, as has happened before.

As it stands at the moment, the logical choice for the Republicans would be between Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and - perhaps - Michelle Bachmann. There is still plenty of campaigning to be done however, and the campaign for president is rigorous and unforgiving. There will be more skeletons in the closet to be revealed, more cross questioning and more doubts about the validity of the candidates. Worthy of mention are of course Rick Perry and Gary Johnson, but that’ll have to be for another time, I’m afraid.

James Dwyer works for PoliticsHome on the news team. He writes for The Commentator in a personal capacity.

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