December 28, 2007

The GOP’s Six-Ring Circus

By Scott Galindez

Perspective

The Actor, the Preacher, the Police Chief, the Doctor and the Venture Capitalist.

It should not surprise anyone that the Preacher is surging fast in the Republican race. It also would not surprise you if I said a Doctor from Texas is also on the rise.

It surprises me that the Actor from Tennessee who was supposed to rescue a lackluster field has created no excitement for his campaign, and that the Police Chief who was the first front-runner is running so poorly in the early states that he is claiming he is running a national campaign and not focusing on the early primaries.

The Venture Capitalist, who was the second to capture front-runner status, is now spending his time explaining why we shouldn’t be concerned that he is a Mormon. OK, I’m not, but if it’s not an issue why is he addressing the nation on it?

Well, I guess we will start with the main tent. A month ago the Police Chief and the Venture Capitalist were in the main tent, they are now struggling to keep from becoming sideshows, as the Preacher has stolen center stage. He’s witty, and he comes across as more compassionate than the rest of the GOP field. He is a Baptist minister, he’s from Arkansas, and his name is Huckabee - sounds like a political consultants nightmare, right? Not for Dick Morris, who regularly chats with his former client and is praising him in newspaper columns. Huckabee says Morris is not available for consulting, but perhaps that is because the Baptist minister doesn’t want to be seen as taking advice from someone who reportedly likes to suck on prostitutes’ toes.

Kidding aside, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is rising fast and has the kind of momentum that might be hard for the other candidates to stop. It still remains to be seen if his appeal will be sustainable outside the Bible Belt, he is not doing as well in New Hampshire as he is in Iowa and South Carolina. His wit has brought him to the top but, like Pat Robertson, his religion may scare people in the northeast and on the West Coast.

Perhaps the Police Chief, Rudy Giuliani, is onto something. While Huckabee and Romney (the Venture Capitalist) trade very small states early, he is increasing his lead in bigger states like New Jersey and California. Giuliani is not playing in the Bible Belt, but is in the northeast and on the West Coast, while Romney is fading everywhere but New England and the southwest. The Concord Monitor even spent an entire column telling us why not to vote for Romney, calling him “phony.” In New Hampshire, where he has had huge leads, polls now show him leading only in the single digits.

OK, we have talked about the Preacher, the Police Chief, and the Venture Capitalist. Due to his recent fundraising success, it’s time to talk about the Doctor. I took a lot of heat for saying Dennis Kucinich was in the race to influence the debate. Personally, I think that it is an honorable thing for candidates who have something to say but don’t have the packaging needed to win, to get in and influence the debate. I think Dennis Kucinich and Doctor Ron Paul are influencing the debate on the war, and deserve praise for doing so.

Ron Paul has been an outspoken critic of the war since the beginning, and may be the only Republican candidate who can change the direction this country has taken and restore our reputation around the world.

Progressives would love to be choosing between Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich next November, but would I be providing you with a service if I sold false hope? Doctor Paul has raised eyebrows with his recent fundraising strength, and there has even been some momentum in the polls. While his libertarian economic policies are acceptable to the GOP base, it’s the social policies that the Christian right will never embrace. While the Doctor doesn’t scare the Preacher or the other front-runners in the primary season, a third-party run by the Doctor would scare them the same way another Texan named Ross Perot did in 1992.

The Actor left us all anticipating his entrance into the race - he was going to breathe new life into the campaign and be the guy that could bring the party together, he would be the instant front-runner. Oh well, Fred Thompson hasn’t done well enough to warrant any more space in this column. Actually, what we are learning is that it is a six- person race. Nobody is running away with the lead. Some have had their moments, but they haven’t lasted.

The Police Chief still leads nationally, but can he sustain losing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina? The Preacher is facing new scrutiny but has the momentum, while the Venture Capitalist is fading. The Doctor has the right prescription, but this is the GOP primary: they won’t accept his medicine. The Actor has been dull. Wait, that’s only five rings, the title says six?

Over in the sixth ring is the experienced, steady, senator from Arizona, who can’t figure out why the other cast of characters seem to be stealing all the thunder. I just wonder, when the GOP voters actually go to the polls, will they settle on the one they know?

This is not an endorsement of John McCain; I disagree with him on most issues. I look at him and what most polls say Republicans believe in, and wonder why he isn’t their man. If I were a Republican I would want the Doctor’s medicine, but I think it’s too bitter a pill for them to swallow.

One thing is clear to me; the Republicans are trying to redefine themselves, which has been McCain’s downfall since he is not a fresh face. Huckabee seems to be the flavor of the month, and he may just have peaked at the right time.

Scott Galindez is Truthout’s (http://www.truthout.org) Washington, DC Bureau Chief.

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