Those who seem to know more about this kind of thing than I do are predicting that April 1 will be D-Day—Decision Day for those who may be planning to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012. Given their reasoning that April 1 is the first day of the second quarter fundraising period, I would have to agree.
Here in Iowa, we will have a front-row seat. Contacts have been made. Staffs are starting to be hired. Alliances are starting to gel. Endorsements are being sought. All in anticipation of what will be the political equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. April 1 is a significant day for one reason: MONEY. Staffs, alliances, media buys, and even endorsements are available only if you have been successful in fund-raising. While volunteers are essential in the early states, paid staff is also necessary to shepherd those volunteers into an organization that turns out the caucus goers in Iowa and voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Media has to reach those that volunteers can not. And while most electeds do not want to talk about it, a contribution or attendance at a fund-raiser for a legislative or state candidate can go a long way to get into that person’s political Rolodex and campaign organization for more volunteers and contacts.
Money, it has been said is the Mother’s milk of politics. FEC filings are fodder for the ‘analysts’ and opponents as to the health and sustainability of a campaign at any level. April 1- June 30 is the time frame of the 2nd quarter, and those reports which will be released in mid-July will give an early indication of organization and fundraising strength of any candidate.
The GOP candidate will not be chosen in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina this time. I truly believe that it will be early spring—April or May before the front-runner is decided. And that is a good thing. To have a candidate who can have a strong showing in the primaries in the battleground states of Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina and Colorado will serve to make that candidate that much stronger going into what will undoubtedly be a brutal Presidential campaign in the fall.
So as this April 1 date approaches, let’s take a quick look at the possible candidates:
Newt Gingrich: Name recognition, incredibly articulate, no one is better on any issue. But as I ‘tweeted’ this morning, if it were only 20 years and 2 wives ago. This is a problem for Newt. Whether the stories are urban legend or actually true about how he treated his ex-wives, these reports are difficult for many to accept. Now that being said, with everything that was known or not known about Barack Obama, if it is more about Newt the candidate and not Newt the husband, it could work out for him. He was back in Iowa recently—at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City meeting with doctors and nurses on the staff there. Iowa City and the University of Iowa typically not friendly territory for conservative candidates–which speaks volumes about Newt and his political acumen.
Mitt Romney: Mr. Romney has much support among the Republican Party ‘establishment’ players in Iowa. He has kept in touch with staff and volunteers and those who supported him in 2008 will not be blindsided by an under the radar campaign as that which was waged by the Huckabee people to win the Iowa caucus then. He has money, name recognition, a political pedigree, looks Presidential, great family. But he has one major flaw: RomneyCare—the health care initiative that he put forth while Governor of Massachusetts. He continues to avoid addressing the issue and until he can and give a reasonable explanation and set the record straight he may still find himself coming up short. There is talk that he may put more effort into New Hampshire and South Carolina than Iowa, but he has the boots on the ground here and would be a strategic error to dismiss the first in the nation caucus.
Tim Pawlenty: as the former Governor of a neighboring state, he has name recognition and an instant geographical connection in Iowa. He has garnered the support of some major players in Iowa Republican politics and has made many trips and has covered all the major media markets in the state to get the saturation that he needs. But then again, the trip from St. Paul to Sioux City, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Ottumwa, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines can be done by automobile in an easy drive. So, that is an advantage especially when funds are not being spent for air travel. But outside of Iowa, I do not see Pawlenty as a contender. He is pleasant, well-spoken, on the ‘right’ side of the issues, but lacks the “wow” factor that is needed to carry him past the initial contests in IA, NH, and SC.
Michele Bachmann: another Minnesotan with Iowa ties. At every stop in Iowa, she makes sure that she reminds everyone that she is an Iowan by birth. That help makes the connection, but Iowans who are involved in this process are much more politically savvy to allow a birth certificate to sway their decision. On the other hand, at least she has one…but I digress. There is nothing else to say about Michele Bachmann except this: She is running for Vice-President.
John Thune: good looks, strong conservative, Midwestern, strong western Iowa ties-but it ends there. I watched his CPAC speech and it was a good speech to introduce himself to the gathered faithful. He appears to have been very hesitant to make any kind of move in Iowa or anywhere else for that matter. He does have $7 million in his campaign war chest as he had no primary or general election opponent in South Dakota re-election contest. Will he be willing to move that into a Presidential campaign committee remains to be seen. One major positive for Sen. Thune in Iowa is his closeness to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley. Sen. Grassley has indicated that unlike 2008, he will endorse a candidate for President in the Iowa caucus. Grassley and Thune are two peas in the political pod on many issues—ethanol being one of them. While that is a huge positive in Iowa, and not saying that he will win Grassley’s endorsement here, but how does that play in the rest of the country and could John Thune having his ticket punched out of Iowa get him the support he needs in subsequent contests. If he does not prevail in the Presidential field he will stay in the Senate…no VP run for him. He says he will make a decision by the end of February….stay tuned.
Haley Barbour: Governor of Mississippi, one of the few GOP survivors of Katrina, former RNC Chair, extensive contacts throughout the country, probably one of the few who can co-opt the Reagan thing given his work in the Reagan administration. He gave the best speech of any of the candidates at CPAC. I like him, I could support him. I think he could carry the day in November. He could also benefit greatly from a Grassley endorsement. Now, will he run? Again, he “will be making a decision” in the near future.
Mike Huckabee: Why in the world would he give up a lucrative gig at Fox News where he has a weekly platform to say and advocate for whatever he wants. Earlier this week it was announced that his Presidential campaign committee from 2008 was dissolved. Now whether that is so that he can set up a 2012 committee, who knows. Gov. Huckabee is a very pragmatic politician. He understands that the social issues that garnered him so much attention in 2008 will not have the same significance this year. He may make trips to Iowa to advocate for an agenda, but I will be very surprised if he enters the race here.
Sarah Palin: She and her daughter, Bristol trademarked their names recently. What is that about? A young conservative woman and Twitter friend, Jackie Seal recently wrote in her blog http://jackieseal.wordpress.com/2011/01/ about the Palin Factor. Again, as a Fox News contributor and with the success of her recent Learning Channel series, her platform is much broader with than any that she would have in a Presidential campaign. She has been much too coy about her plans—when she has known what they have been all along. She is a remarkable person and deserves much of the credit for waking the sleeping giant that President Nixon referred to in his day as the “Silent Majority”. The Tea Party movement would not have had the impact in 2010 without her. I am sure that she will be a great help to any candidate that she would support, but do not look for Sarah Palin’s name on a ballot again.
Rick Santorum: He has made numerous trips to Iowa and helped out several state and legislative candidates in 2010 not only with appearances but through financial contributions from his PAC. He is an impressive speaker. I had the pleasure of meeting him last spring at a campaign event and it was quite clear then that a Presidential run was definitely on his radar. His Achilles heel so to speak is his endorsement of Arlen Specter for the Pennsylvania Senate at the urging of President George W. Bush in 2004. Sen. Specter then turned (again) which resulted in the Democrats taking back control of Congress in 2006, and Sen. Santorum eventually lost his Senate seat. Some say that all has been forgiven with the win back of that seat by Pat Toomey last year, but then again, he was Specter’s primary opponent when Santorum gave his endorsement. Interestingly enough, Santorum told the story that even his wife, Karen told him at the time that the Specter endorsement was a mistake. Well, maybe if he runs, President Bush will come back and help in his campaign. (not!) Nice man. Strong conservative values. But can he carry the day? Iowa is the big test for him. If he falters here, he is on the short list of Vice Presidential candidates.
Donald Trump and Ron Paul: Well everyone needs to have their 15 minutes every so often. Is “The Apprentice” starting a new season anytime soon? That being said, Ron Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is certainly one to watch. His father should take great pride in the influence that he has had on one of the up and coming leaders of the Republican Party.
Other names that are frequently mentioned: Governors Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, former Governor Jeb Bush, and Congressman Mike Pence have all indicated that they do not intend to run and I take them at their word. Congressman Pence will undoubtedly run for Governor of Indiana. Governor Christie is focused on New Jersey. Jeb Bush will not run for public office while his mother is still alive—Barbara Bush is still a force to be reckoned with in the Bush family. Mitch Daniels very well could be a Cabinet Secretary in a Republican administration for any candidate that he may aid in a campaign to win the White House.
So there it is. My take (along with at least 50,000 others) on the landscape of the Presidential primary season which whether you like it or not is in full swing. The horses are all in the starting gate, and on April 1 I believe that we will hear the shot of the starter’s pistol as we watch the race begin. For the first time in many cycles, this will be a race that will be won with endurance, not speed. Watch those FEC reports for steady and consistent fundraising numbers to see who will have the staying power to last not only through the retail politics of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but the multi-state primary media contests in March and April. It is all about the money.