The Republicans – who wants to be a President (Part 1)
The new season kicks off with more than intriguing political competition in the USA. Tomorrow, January 3rd, the Republican Party holds the first caucus. It opens the quest for obtaining the nomination of the GOP in this year’s presidential elections. Obama is not unbeatable, but have the republicans finished their soul-searching after the Bush era? I do not think so, and this is exactly why the republican caucuses will be so interesting. With Ron Paul running as a strong mainstream candidate and Mitt Romney holding his ground (with far from reassuring 20%) it is all very promising.
So far, the republican race presented ample opportunities for important topics to be brought in the media focus. Some of these, like the military operations overseas and the health care system have been on top of the agenda throughout the whole mandate of President Obama. Others however strike the public with their braveness and sincerity.
Changing the US monetary system is by far the bravest of all ideas put forward by the candidates. It is of course not new. Its champion, the Texas congressman Ron Paul has been vigorously advocating for it back in 2008. Then he did not get many electors, but brought his educational campaign to the forefront of attention, despite attempts to be silenced as too radical and non-electable.
This time around Mr Paul’s attack on the policies of the Federal Reserve gains significant support among citizens and grass roots. His immense popularity among the ordinary Americans is evident from the remarkable success of his fundraising campaign (unlike Europe, in the US this is a major factor) – after all 61% of his donations came in as less than 25 dollar bits. For comparison, 60% of Mitt Roomeny’s donations came from individuals giving 2500 USD. That tells you enough about the mobilizing power of ideas and the importance of status quo challengers in this campaign. Just think Occupy Wall Street.
Throughout the last year there were a number of republicans who created an outburst of excitement and surged in the pools. Most of them however either flopped big time during the debates (Rick Perry) or had to stop their campaign because of various allegations (Herman Cain).
Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts (2003-07) and a candidate for the republican nomination in 2008, entered the race early and maintained his leading position throughout the year. His support averaged 20% – far from enough to be called convincing, but enough to keep his name at the top of the list of potential republican nominees. His moderate tone and excellent background as a successful businessman and calculating politician has maintained his attractiveness among republican supporters. Perhaps this has been the most stable trend outlined in the last months especially after Newt Gingrich entered the campaign, but failed to change the existing dynamics in the polls.
However, it is exactly the carefulness of Romney and his “flexibility” on the core republican topics that may prevent him from gaining more support and eventually losing ground against his more consistent and firm- and sometimes aggressive opponents. Romney’s biggest advantage so far has been the positioning as a opponent of Obama, rather than a competitor for the republican nomination. However, it is likely that he has to take stronger and more affirmative positions later in the race.
The Iowa caucus
Tough stance may have to be taken sooner than expected, regardless of ads and attacks on opponents. Tomorrow’s Iowa caucus will set the tone for the republican nomination and the following states’ caucuses. Usually, the first weeks of the polls create a stable trend. This is why it is important who will the Iowans position as a leading republican candidate. So far the contest is tight with Ron Paul and Romney’s support around 21%.
A big part of Mr. Paul’s (at first surprising) support comes as much as from his policies, as from his integrity and firm principles. When the other candidates entangle themselves in difficult knots and flexible policy proposals , The Texas Congressman sticks to his libertarian principles. Paul campaigned on libertarian platform as a third-party candidate in 1988. Twenty years later he went for the republican nomination but was often cut off from TV debates because of his radical ideas. He is still campaigning on the same principles and even though they may seem radical, they have an appeal far beyond the core republican supporters.