Part of the fun of American primaries and elections for the politically aware on this side of the pond is engaging as if it were a spectator sport. We like to make predictions, think about who our vote would go to, and rate the candidates on our own sort of mental party list.
One month away from the Iowa Caucus, it seems as if the big fight between those to the right of the usual front runner, Mitt Romney, may be coming to an end. Iowa is the big chance for a party’s conservative candidate to shine in front of their base – Huckabee’s victory over Romney in 2008 was certainly seen as a game changer, but it also provided some early insight into the tactical mistakes of Rudy Giuliani, who had decided to ignore the smaller early polls to concentrate on Florida. John McCain’s 13% compared to Giuliani’s 3% set him on the road as the leading moderate candidate.
We thought this might be a good chance to have a go at nailing our masts to the colours of our preferred candidates, and encourage the readers of our website to join in with us below and on our Twitter account.
Dane Barnett, CPS Intern
Newt Gingrich has become an increasingly attractive option for conservatives. Apart from his extensive political experience speaking for itself, his campaign has benefited from the Republican debates. Having watched the debates, he has conducted himself very well when being addressed on issues of national security and the state of the American economy. He’s tested, versed in policy, an excellent debater, and has managed to present his views in a clear and succinct manner. He has also been clever, avoiding being drawn into attacking other candidates and instead reservedly witnessing the others squabble amongst each other -Rick Perry’s attack on the flip-flopping Romney comes to mind. Most importantly these debates have allowed his relatively low funded campaign (when compared with the larger war chest of Romney’s) to get a message out and show the public what he’s all about. Not taking anything away from his performances, the decline of the other candidates has clearly benefited him, most recently from the decline of Hermann Cain.
For him to gain the Republican presidential nomination, it is vital for him to improve his campaign finances to match the heavyweight Romney. Perhaps his recent pilgrimage to ‘The Apprentice’ star Donald Trump will not only secure his endorsement but will also ensure Newt walks away with a hefty donation cheque. Money alone cannot ensure victory but it sure can help in this long and gruesome battle for nomination.
Nick Jaques, CPS Intern
I focus on foreign policy – after all, we are dealing here with the prospective Commander-in-Chief of the world’s military and economic superpower. It's a particularly difficult area to call. Campaigns are focused on domestic policy and, given the volatility of the international arena, any pledges at this stage are likely to be redundant by inauguration in 2013. Further, pronouncements on foreign policy are often characterised by empty rhetoric and a failure to grasp the key issues. Typically Republicans favour a realist approach to foreign policy and many are neoconservatives to boot, however to make a call, and to judge whether they can take Obama on in what the electorate thinks is his strongest area, we must tease out precisely what kind of world leader they will be.
Fortunately, foreign policy came up in several debates in November. To my mind, and despite his experience, Newt Gingrich’s inconsistencies over Libya – one minute supporting the intervention, the next criticizing it – were revealing, though his proposals for covert action in Iran seemed sensible. Rick Perry foolishly suggested that America should eliminate foreign aid to Pakistan; he was promptly upstaged by Rick Santorum, who made the electorally less populist but more salient point that Pakistan must, at all costs, be kept as a friend. Appallingly, Michele Bachmann announced her support for waterboarding, as did Herman Cain, who then proved even more clueless on Libya. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, came across as reassuringly well informed (if distinctly militaristic), advocating pre-emptive military strikes in Iran, if needed, and that military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan should take the lead on deciding when troops are withdrawn. Lastly, Jon Huntsman – who, as an ex-ambassador to China, should have the strongest foreign policy credentials – was surprisingly quiet.
Thus, though a candidate has yet to truly distinguish themself on foreign policy, Mitt Romney does seem very slightly ahead (even though this is somewhat by default).
I think it’s clear that the nominee from a distinctly uninspiring field will be Mitt Romney. More than the opposition splitting the ‘heartland’ vote, he has emerged as the common sense candidate amongst the madness of those to his right. Although I liked many of Cain’s proposals, his lack of political nous and outsider stance has seen him damage himself when he is not being opposed by the political elite. For this reason it appears as if he has folded before the river card. He is being encouraged to throw his support behind Newt Gingrich, now the leader in many polls including in Iowa. Gingrich’s problems are threefold: fund raising; his past leadership in congress; and persistent questions about his past.
Romney has also received a political contribution from WWE owner Vince McMahon – more than just a trivial fact, this is of note. McMahon is a right-wing businessman but by no means a conservative; he is the kind of base Romney has been quietly concentrating on appealing to – those more concerned with conditions for business rather than Anti-Obama rhetoric, 'ideologically-driven' economics or those with primarily social concerns. Romney sees himself as the candidate of the real businessmen. McMahon’s wife, Linda, is also the Connecticut Republican candidate for the Senate and he clearly feels an association with Romney is in her interests in the usually Democratic state.
If I were casting my own vote, I think I would have to consider one of two lesser covered candidates – Jon Huntsman or Gary Johnson. Johnson is a libertarian candidate and having served as Governor of New Mexico seems much stronger Presidential material than their perennial standard bearer Ron Paul. It’s Huntsman though who seems a strong choice, but has received disappointing press exposure. Having served as White House Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan and Ambassador to China under President Obama (as well as working in both Bush administrations), Huntsman certainly has the experience. He also has a record to be proud of as Governor of Utah where he took the state to the top of the country for job creation and saw it named best managed state, cut tax by approximately $407m, balanced the budget and cut regulation. A man for the times.
Let us now where your vote would go below.