Former Speaker of the House and current GOP frontrunner for President, Newt Gingrich speaks at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in October. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
A recent Rasmussen Poll shows that 42 percent will vote for Obama in 2012 compared to 48 percent of those who will vote for the GOP candidate. As the January 3rd Iowa primary draws nearer, Newt Gingrich (at 38 percent) and Mitt Romney (17 percent) top the short list of most popular Republicans vying for the job at the moment. The question is, does forty days leave enough time for any another candidate to jump into the drivers seat for a quick spin around the track?
According to a NY Times report, the Obama reelection strategy will base itself around the notion that his first term helped save the country from disaster and that a return to a Republican White House will lead the country further down the dire hole it is currently trying to dig itself out of.
Before David Axelrod, David Plouffe and the rest of those who brought us the convincing “Change We Can Believe In” mantra begin to focus their attack on their opponent, the GOP has to choose one. One of the remaining questions is whether low polling candidates who have yet to rise and fall have enough time on the clock to take charge.
Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain (who it seems had his hands on more than pizza in the late ’90s) have all faded into the sun due to gaffes and personal dramas. For Bachman, it has been one silly thought after another. Perry on the other hand, has simply struggled to appear in control of himself during recent prime time debates. At the November 9th CNBC Republican Debate, his inability to recall three federal agencies he would get rid of only punctuated the sinking slope he has been sliding down since his initial entry into the race excited the base, rocketing him to the top of the polls by the end of the Summer.
Cain? Well, his downfall has been well documented and continues to write itself. Few could have foreseen that relations with women other than his wife would become his 2012 epitaph, while the catchy “9-9-9 plan” floats off into historical fine print.
So after Gingrich, is there anyone left to challenge Mitt “don’t call me Willard” Romney? It’s hard to anoint Romney ‘the one’ since the party can’t seem to do it for themselves. He’s not republican enough in the eyes of those who still seek an alternative. Then there are, of course, the soon to be attacks on Gingrich himself. Some have already started. Romney called Gingrich everything but a career politician on Tuesday. The light jab followed reports last week regarding Gingrich being on the take from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage lenders that Gingrich has railed against.
The big one is on the way though for Newt “Don’t call me Neutered” Gingrich. America loves cozying up inside of the bedroom of its politicians. It’s only natural then to speculate not if but when the spotlight turns to the three marriages he’s been a part of– infidelity being part of those stories as well. When Newt’s D-Day comes, his ability to stay cool and mistake-free will determine whether his campaign will continue to sink the GOP’s titanic hopes of beating Obama as Perry, Bachman, and Cain have, or continue to sail on through the primary season.
Should Gingrich falter, there becomes a new potential for someone else to fill the void. A player who hasn’t risen and crashed yet.
Ron Paul is still a sleeping giant to some analysts. His unwavering libertarian views may be too cemented and extreme to allow him the chance to pick up independents, disenchanted Democrats, and Republicans still searching. Though tracking at 8 percent without having shot himself in the foot yet, Paul’s middle-of-the-pack position still leaves room for a lift off.
If Paul can’t fill the void, that leaves two current pieces left on the chessboard: Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator whose 2 percent of support in the polls matches that of Huntsman’s (according to a Quinnipiac poll), has nonetheless successfully pulled a page out of the Truman “Whistle Stop” strategy by visiting every county in Iowa. The magic of this approach is that it’s hand-to-hand combat only proves itself on primary day. If Santorum’s message is getting to the people, we’ll know about it after January 3rd. If he doesn’t see a climb after all of that work put forth in Iowa, his days will become numbered.
Santorum is one “anti-moderate Romney” alternative. His support for racial profiling of Muslims during the CNN Foreign Policy debate last week only helped to define what a socially far-right Santorum presidency would look like. His anti-gay marriage and wish to overturn Roe v Wade are further examples of his stance of social issues.
Huntsman, however, is cut from a different cloth. As the former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China under President Obama, Huntsman (to borrow a phrase from The Washington Post) “has tried to sell reasonableness” to voters. He wants to attack banks that are too big too fail, and drawdown in Afghanistan — a less than hawkish position for a guy currently on the outside looking in, yet one that to many fits within the budget and needs of the country at this point in time.
Santorum and Huntsman can help themselves by continuing to strike a chord with voters based on positions they take. They can also benefit from one more player falling from the top — Gingrich, for instance. Ron Paul has his own issues, mainly his overall take on the issues. A field with Romney in first, followed by a weakened Gingrich, Cain, Perry, and Bachman, gives Paul and Co. an opening.
Romney has now fended off three challengers as he works against Gingrich now, with hopes of slowing down a fourth. With weeks still left on the calendar before Iowa and seeing how fast Cain dropped from the top, there is still time for a few more to get in Romney’s way.
Written by: Lauren Hawker