The NFL draft has been completed and we now know for sure who the team players are. No more walk-ons and no more trades. The only decision left pending is a classic quarterback controversy.
With Sarah Palin and Chris Christie announcing that they really, really, really will not be running for President in 2012, we can settle into focused consideration of the nine Republican candidates who are still in the game.
Here is my take on each player, in order of least to most likely winning the Republican Party nomination.
9. Jon Huntsman. This very capable former governor of Utah and former ambassador to China does not bring the charisma necessary to differentiate himself above Mitt Romney. And Governor Romney is exactly who blocks viability for Jon Huntsman. By sharing the similarities of religion and governor credentials, Huntsman unfortunately falls into the category of “also ran.”
8. Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico governor brings one of the most intriguing curriculum vitae of the crowd. He holds the record for the most vetoes (over 750) and the most times completing an Iron Man Triathlon (three). He may have the uniqueness and credentials, but his libertarian positions on old arguments such as drug legalization will keep him from catching a populist wave.
7. Rick Santorum. Comic Andy Samberg accurately portrayed Senator Santorum’s nomination challenge in the hilarious opening act on Saturday Night Live (http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/gop-debate-cold-opening/1358180
). While Santorum’s positions are exactly what the delegates are looking for, his bellyaching facial expressions prevent him from conveying statesmanship.
6. Michele Bachmann. Representative Bachmann’s fall from the lead position came quickly after the nationally televised debates began. Rick Perry’s late entrance took Republicans‘ eyes off of Bachmann and she did not give the people enough substance to regain their attention. Michele Bachmann will not become the nominee.
5. Ron Paul. Representative Paul’s uniqueness brings him both good and bad news. The good news is that he is a rock star to the libertarian-leaning Republicans whose views he best represents. The bad news is that this devotion comes from a limited audience that will never grow large enough to take the nomination.
4. Rick Perry. If ever there was an opening night that did not live up to the hype, Governor Perry’s late-entry debate was it. This triple-non-threat is only still in the running thanks to significant cash on hand and on his being the governor of the second largest state. Governor Perry’s poor debate performances went beyond faux pas. They revealed a disconnect with the 360° conservative mood of the 2011 Republican Party that Perry will not be able to reconcile.
3. Mitt Romney. Governor Romney suffers from a challenge similar to Ron Paul’s, that of a limited audience. Romney’s no-matter-what dedicated following are those Republicans who make the religious connection with him. That subset is only about 2% of Republicans; not enough to overcome the doubts that Mitt Romney has provided to conservatives during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts. While effectively presenting a conservative platform today, the historical Mitt Romney can be seen on YouTube arguing for the liberal position on abortion and health care. Three attributes of the man keep him within striking distance of the nomination; excellent stage presence, organizational skills, and money.
2. Newt Gingrich. Where Mitt Romney is strong, Newt Gingrich is weak; stage presence, organizational skills, and money. However, Gingrich owns strengths in more important areas for a reasoning electorate. No one in the field comes close to having the institutional knowledge, the wisdom, and lessons learned that this former Speaker of the House has matured. His mistakes have been public and humbling. But Gingrich’s love of America, appreciation for the nation’s founding principles, and practical execution plans are being noticed by everyone. Newt Gingrich is smartly running a marathon.
1. Herman Cain. We are witnessing that rare and promising phenomenon between the American people and the person of Herman Cain. This ultimate of campaigns reveals every detail about a candidate, like it or not. And with every new revelation, the nation seems to grow fonder of Mr. Cain. The emotional-intellectual elimination process has slowly and steadily brought Herman Cain to the position of preferred outcome for delegates across the states. The corporeal attributes of character and vision are outweighing the temporal attributes of experience and name recognition. As his staying power remains, the left will try to find ways to bring Cain’s virtue into question. But his biggest challenge will be money. Running the race in all 50 states requires a return on investments that Herman Cain has not made. Still, I give Cain the most likely win next year for both primary and general elections.