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Republican Battle Royale


The battle for the Republican presidential nomination has taken a path never before traveled by presidential contenders in recent history.  Not only did they violate Reagan’s 11th Commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” – they’re hurting and making fools of themselves each single day.  They’re like a circular firing squad and whoever survives the bloodbath to face President Barack Obama in the presidential election in November would be so bloodied that all Obama has to do is deliver the coup d’grace!

The battle royale among the presidential wannabes began in the Iowa caucuses with former Speaker Newt Gingrich declaring war against Mitt Romney – he called him a “liar” – vowing to zero in on Romney’s flip-flopping on issues.  Romney won the Iowa caucuses by a mere eight votes over Rick Santorum. This did not bode well for Romney who spent $150 per vote compared to Santorum who only spent 73 cents per vote.

Santorum, who was a bottom-dweller – 1% in the polls — from the very start of the Republican primary season, surged to 25% in Iowa even surpassing Ron Paul’s 22% who was ahead of everybody including Romney just a week ago.  And Newt who was ahead just a few weeks ago in national polls took a bloody beating.   Now, sensing that he’s going down in defeat, he’s pulling down Mitt, whose barrage of negative TV ads brought down Newt in the days prior to the caucuses.

Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, met her Waterloo at the caucuses, which forced her to quit the race.  Another loser was Rick Perry. The day after the caucuses he went home to Texas to assess his candidacy.  After a day mulling it over, he decided to stay in the race.  However, after performing abysmally during the Republican debates, he’s a long shot at getting the Republican nomination.

*“Anybody but Mitt”

But what is interesting to note is that there appears to be a concerted effort by GOP leaders and big donors to back anybody but Mitt whom they perceived as a “moderate” and not a “true blue Republican.”  And if you look at the six remaining contenders, only three – Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry – can claim “true blue conservative” credentials.

But the question is: Why would the Republican kingmakers disown Romney — who arguably has the best chance of beating Obama – and go for any of the three “true blue conservatives” who would most likely lose to Obama?

The answer is simple: The “true blue conservatives” are fighting for the soul of the Republican Party.  If Romney –who was pro-choice when he was governor — becomes the GOP standard bearer and wins the presidency, it could lead to the dilution of the core conservative values of the Republican Party, a prospect that gives nightmare to the powerful right-wing Christian evangelicals of the party.  In essence, the right-wing would rather field a weak but “true blue conservative” against Obama and hand him a second term, and let him struggle in solving the economic problems of the country while the GOP rebuilds its electoral base and prepares a winnable “true blue conservative” for the 2016 elections.  But wouldn’t that be an oxymoron? Could a “true blue conservative” win the presidency?

However, in the event that Romney wins in the primaries giving him a majority to lock in the nomination at the GOP presidential convention in September, he needs to convince the power brokers in the party that he could be depended upon to pursue their neo-conservative agenda when he occupies the White House.  Without their support and with no financial backing from right-wing super PACs, he has a Chinaman’s chance of beating Obama.

And as what had happened in previous presidential elections, the power brokers would pick – behind closed doors — the vice presidential running of the “moderate” or “centrist” presidential nominee with proven “true blue conservative” credentials.

*Picking a running mate

When George H.W. Bush won the presidential nomination in 1988, he picked an obscure senator, Dan Quayle, a “true blue conservative,” for his running mate.  It didn’t matter that he couldn’t spell “potato,” his right-wing credentials were the ones that matter.

When Bob Dole won the nomination in 1996, he picked Jack Kemp, the tax-cut champion and a disciple of Reagan’s supply-side economic gospel, as his running mate.  They lost the election to Democratic re-electionist Bill Clinton.

When “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush became the GOP presidential nominee in 2000, he picked Dick Cheney, a neo-conservative of the highest degree.  During the Bush presidency, Cheney influenced Bush’s policy decisions including the invasion of Iraq.

And when “moderate” – “liberal” to many Republicans – John McCain became the presidential nominee in 2008, he picked right-winger Sarah Palin whom he met only once before and spoke to her briefly on the phone before selecting her as his running mate.

So, if Romney has to pick a running mate who would be acceptable to the GOP kingmakers and super PACS, who would be that person?  I doubt if it would be Santorum or Perry and definitely not Gingrich.  They’d all be so bloodied during the primaries that they would bring Romney down with them.

How about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie?  Although he’s a Tea Party favorite, I’m not sure if the GOP power brokers would endorse him.  Some people think that he’s a diamond in the rough.  However, his abrasive and condescending language turns off a lot of people.

More than likely that person would be an unknown quantity in the political landscape just like Quayle and Palin but with strong and proven “true blue conservative” qualities who could be an effective conduit between a Romney presidency and the GOP power brokers.

*Charge of the right brigade

But who knows?  With the first Republican primary coming up in New Hampshire on January 10 followed by South Carolina and then Florida, Romney might sew up the nomination with big victories in those three states.

With Obama solidly entrenched in the political center with strong support from the liberal left, Romney would end up charging from the conservative right, a tough position when Americans are still hurting economically from the failure of the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush that triggered the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

At the end of the day, an Obama-Romney battle would be more of a clash of personalities and less of ideology simply because Romney – as Gingrich said over and over – is a “Massachusetts moderate,” which in Republican circles is a code word for a “liberal” in a liberal state.

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