Rudy: Fresh Candidate or Romney Clone?

Some are convinced that Rudy is ready to step into the 2012 primary.  But is Rudy going to bring something fresh to this race?  Or will he simply join the race as one more fiscal conservative who will turn off social conservatives and join McCain as one more perfect GOP candidate who goes down to the Left?

Rudy is focusing on New Hampshire and recently used an opportunity in that state to rip Romney for Romneycare as the “inspiration” for Obama’s own unconstitutional healthcare mandate.  The idea for the Rudy camp seems to be that he lost last time because he bet the farm on Florida and was crowded out by Romney and McCain.  Will things be different this time around?

This time, Rudy is betting the farm on New Hampshire and perhaps a game changing late entry.  Even if Rudy Guiliani pulls off an upset in New Hampshire, will that mean he represents the GOP?  Hardly. Rudy will need to contend with the Southern/Midwest social branch of conservatism, and if 2010 is any clue, he may very well lose Florida again.  Both Rick Scott and Marco Rubio captured the swing state on a complete social and fiscal conservative platform.

More likely, Rudy will capture the fiscal conservatives who can’t abide Romney’s weak explanation of his healthcare plan, and Romney will capture fiscal conservatives who are not as socially liberal on issues like abortion as Rudy Guiliani.  Could this provide an opening for a strong social conservative even in New Hampshire?

If a Bush were to ever get back into politics…

On November 3rd, 2008 the idea of a Bush ever running for political office again seemed pretty silly. We had a bad taste in our mouth from George H.W. Bush promising not to raise taxes, and then raising them. We had an even worse taste in our mouth from George W. Bush with his wars and deficits in the couple hundred billions. The name had become synonymous with bad politics and even most Republicans knew that the words “Bush” and “good president” in the same sentence was political suicide.

With all that, very little attention was paid to the Bush in Florida who retired five years ago after reaching the state’s term limit on the governor’s office. Jeb Bush left Florida in a far better position than he found it and still enjoys incredible popularity today in the state.

Jeb Bush is still very popular in Florida

I remember going to a McCain rally in NE Florida during the 2008 campaign. When Jeb was announced to introduce John McCain, I wasn’t the only Floridian on my feet enthusiastically cheering. In fact, we cheered harder for our former governor than we did for McCain.

Jeb still maintains great popularity in the state. A few months ago, Public Policy Polling reported that Bush was the only Florida potential candidate who would defeat Bill Nelson for the Senate seat in 2012, if he ran. This was before Nelson walked away from his seat on the Armed Forces Committee which may seal his 2012 doom no matter who he runs against.

George Bush won Florida in 2000 and 2008. In both elections, those 27 electoral votes would have been the difference between a Gore or Kerry Presidency. In 2008, Obama won Florida, but he could have afforded to lose it. I have little doubt that Florida would go the Republican’s way in a Jeb Bush presidential run.

But what about the rest of the country? For the other 49 states, Jeb is not even on the radar and the name Bush still scares a lot of people. On the other hand, as we face a third year with deficits in excess of a trillion dollars and war under Barack Obama, the name Bush isn’t quite as scary as it used to be.

Bush is fluent in Spanish and has a very good relationship with the Hispanic community. He has been quick to advocate for them and to point out how Democrats use that issue as nothing more than a political advantage. He also has been able to maintain a reputation as a moderate and a conservative; a tricky balancing act that voters can easily see through if not done right.

Bush does have some strikes against him with far right conservatives. He opposed the Arizona immigration law and supports state bankruptcy. This puts him in company with others like Pawlenty and Gingrich, but would certainly raise eyebrows in a 2012 primary that is certain to still be riding the TEA party sentiments of 2010.

Bush has sofar elected to stay out of the 2012 race, but has hinted that he may seek the nomination in the future. Given the political landscape going into this race, this may be a wise decision. While Bush is a solid conservative choice and a proven leader, the current issues and divisions on the right do not favor him. So far he has also opted out of the 2012 Senate race. But if a Bush could ever go back to DC in our lifetimes, it would be Jeb.

Romney’s best hope: a wide field

After winning the New Hampshire straw poll and coming in first in current polling of 2012 primary hopefuls, someone might think that Mitt Romney is on his way to represent the Republican party in 2012. They could be wrong.

Mitt was a top contender in 2008. His message of fiscal conservatism and business smarts made many Republicans wish the primary had turned out differently towards the later half of 2008 when the economy was in the tank, gas prices were at $4 a gallon, and every other campaign ad had video of John McCain announcing that the economy was not his strong suit.

Now, with the economy in nearly the same condition two years later, Romney’s poll numbers shouldn’t be a shock. In fact, he has led the Republican field for much of 2010 and would beat Obama in 2012 according to more than one 2010 poll.

 

New Hampshire shows Romney has found his niche

So why would I think that Romney might not be the Republican contender in 2012? 24% of Republican support will not win in a narrow primary field. Consider Romney’s closest competition in the recent Rasmussen poll: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich. Even his 35% in New Hampshire is ominous with other placing contenders being libertarian right winger Ron Paul, TEA Partiers Pawlenty and Palin, old school conservative Rick Santorum, TEA Party conservative constitutionalists DeMint, Bachmann, and occasional right wing radio host Herman Cain.

Although the entire field in the New Hampshire straw poll is very promising, the candidate who is perhaps closest to Romney’s brand and image would be The Donald, who got 1% of the vote.

If Family Values conservatives and the TEA Party faithful are able to coalesce around one specific candidate, it will not be Romney. In fact, in the Family Research Council straw poll earlier this year, Mike Pence won with Huckabee coming in second. Romney may have easily won in the northeast, but out in Iowa he is polling just behind Huckabee.

As the former governor of Massachusetts, fair or not, Romney has a history. He wasn’t always pro-life. He had his own version of universal healthcare that passed in Massachusetts. Romney has not helped his conservative credentials by avoiding identification with the TEA Party and keeping a low profile in the 2010 wave of conservative electoral victories.

Romney had a strong showing in New Hampshire. But what will happen in the rest of the country when the field narrows? what about when Mike Huckabee drops out of the race, or Sarah Palin? What about Ron Paul, Jim DeMint, or Mike Pence? Will Romney be the fallback choice of their supporters? Or will it be Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour or some other conservative who has inserted themselves into the current popular right wing movement in this country? 35% will only get him so far.

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