For Republicans, the First Step Is the Primary Within the Primary

Bookmark and Share    As we finally begin to understand what the likely field of Republican presidential candidates will look like, it is becoming clear that the same dynamics which influenced the 2010 Republican primaries and general election, are likely to play a significant role in the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest. In 2010, the influence of a strong TEA movement, shaped the platform that incumbents ran on, and determined the outcomes of many primary contests. The now former Congressman from Delaware, Mike Castle, is one of the most notable people who can attest to that.

In Delaware’s Republican U.S. Senate primary, Castle, a former Governor of the state, was an establishment candidate. He was defeated by Christine O’Donnell who, for better or worse, was the anti-establishment candidate. In Nevada, Sharron Angle, another anti-establishment candidate, defeated a number of other establishment Republicans in her attempt to win the G.O.P. nomination. In both cases, those ladies may have lost their general election races, but many other anti-establishment candidates, won both the Party nomination and their general elections. There was Marco Rubio,  Rick Scott, Daniel Webster, and Allen West in Florida, Tim Johnson in Wisconsin, Niki Haley in South Carolina, New Mexico’s Susana Martinez and many more, including hundreds more on the county and local levels. Ultimately, the TEA movement brewed a potent formula that is still infusing itself in to the electoral and legislative process and it will continue to do so in the nomination process of the next Republican presidential candidate.

The same anti-establishment sentiment that propelled statewide and local candidates to victory in 2010 is going to again play itself out in presidential primaries and pit the anti-establishment against the establishment. In fact, in many ways, the race to nominate a Republican presidential candidate is likely to come down to two people……..the establishment candidate and the anti-establishment candidate. Consider it a primary within the primary.

On the establishment side, you have frontrunner Mitt Romney, followed by Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and possibly other major players like Texas Governor Rick Perry, along with minor candidates like former Governors Buddy Roemer, George Pataki, Bob Riley and possibly even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the end though, the establishment primary will really be only between Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Pawlenty and if he runs, Rick Perry.

As for the anti-establishment primary, who will be competing in this field is still a bit unsettled. With names like Bachmann and Palin not yet in the race but seriously considering it, this inner-primary has yet to take shape. At the moment, Herman Cain is the anti-establishmentarian frontrunner. Competing against Cain is former two term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.  Both Paul and Johnson have a very low ceilings of support, but we have yet to see how high the roof on Herman Cain’s popularity is.

While Cain has a definite ability to outperform both Johnson and Paul, the entry of Bachmann and/or Palin in to the race, will give Cain a good run for whatever money he can raise.

On the establishment side, while Romney has the inside track, he can easily be thrown off pace and with the specter of RomneyCare hanging around his neck, he could be quickly overcome by Pawlenty, Gingrich, Santorum, Huntsman or Perry.

But in the final analysis, the nomination will most likely come down to the candidate which the establishment gravitates towards and the candidate that the anti-establishment coalesces around. It is hard to say which two will win their primaries within the primaries. I tend to believe that unless Texas Governor Rick Perry enters the race, Mitt Romney will be the system backed candidate.

Despite fears of Romney being a Benedict Arnold to the conservative cause and having a government-centric mindset, Romney will be a strong candidate. Say what you want, but Romney has a good record. Especially when it comes to management and economics, two things critical to the immediate needs of our nation. He will strike all the right chords and do so in a way that could earn him not just the Republican presidential nomination, but the confidence of Republican voters as well. And in the general election, as the nominee, Mitt Romney has the ability to craft a campaign that can beat President Obama. But Mitt can easily be derailed from his seemingly likely road to the nomination and even the White House, if a during the primaries and caucuses, a certain former Governor winds up becoming the candidate that the ant-establishment forces gravitate toward.

That person is Sarah Palin.

In 2010, she was the needle that the TEA movement used to inject its brew into the G.O.P. with. In 2010, she was the TEA Party’s Cheerleader-in-Chief and the quintessential anti-establishmentarian. And right now, it looks like Palin has the staying power to still be that Cheerleader-in-Chief in 2012.

While people like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann could prove to be quite formidable, Palin is really the only anti-establishment candidate who has the ability to maintain the enthusiastic support of a majority of TEA movement Republicans while also being able to attract a significant portion of support away from the establishment candidate ……..especially if that ends up being Mitt Romney. In fact, if the primaries within the primaries pit Palin against Romney, I believe Palin wins the nomination.

That  is obviously conjecture. For it to even be possible, Sarah Palin will have to first decide to become a candidate for President in 2012. Additionally, the opportunity for any number of game changing events to take place is endless, and I still contend that the logistics of a well run campaign can make a candidate who looks weak now, seem quite strong later. But what is not conjecture is the fact that the G.O.P. will be encountering a primary within the primary. The anti-establishment forces are firmly ensconced within the G.O.P. and they are ready to do battle again in 2012. For these people, trust does not come with “political experience”. In truth, political experience is a minus to them. For these people, being a “good Republican” is not enough. They want a different type of Republican, the type who is willing to push the G.O.P. establishment and who can demonstrate that they are not willing to play the political games that have gotten us to where we are today. These sentiments are going to certainly produce a divide that will lead not to the usual competition between liberal Republicans and conservative Republicans but rather one between Republican insiders and Republican outsiders.

The final outcome will depend upon on which Republican outsider runs against which Republican insider.

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2 Responses

  1. obama will be re-elected thanks to the inferior gop prospects. it really pains me to say this , he is the only politician ive seen that is blessed with d.a. for opponents. gop please get your act together like right now.

    • Actually, I believe many ike yourself, will be quite surprised by how much the Republicans have and will get their act together. The field as it currently is, is already superior to many past Democrat or Republican fields of candidates, and with the magic of a well run campaign, one of them is going to surprise you and make you an enthusiastic supporter oif them. Trust me!

      That is unless of course you are looking for the perfect candidate. Such a person does not exiist and so in that case, some will never be pleased with any nominee.

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