Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
And so does Steve Hayward:http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/268195/field-dreams-steven-f-hayward
My response.A) I think the Republican field leaders are certainly conceivable as serving as President. Romney, Pawlenty, and Huntsman are all clearly competent and would be decent- maybe even good or great- Presidents most likely. There’s recently been some right-of-center pushback on the characterizing of the Republican field as “weak,” but I think they’ve missed how many politicos are applying the label. It’s not that they are weak as potential Presidents. They are weak Presidential CANDIDATES.B) Hayward ended his article saying “Still, the scene looks much better for Republicans than it did in 1996 or 2008.” I don’t think the crop of candidates is necessarily better this time around; Obama is just weaker because of the economy- the factor which political science research tells us is overwhelmingly predictive of electoral outcomes. C) “Crossover Appeal.” Yes, the leading Republican candidates have moderate backgrounds. The potential problem is that they’ve all already moved significantly to the right of where they once were, and they will likely have to move further right in the Republican primary season because candidates/personalities like Bachmann, Paul (whichever one), Cain, and Palin interacting with the Tea Party energy, new media platforms and Fox News, Paul Ryan, and other newly concentrated or increasingly empowered groups like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform will dominate and shape the dialogue. The Republican candidate- whoever that ends up being- will have to hope the public has moved enough to the right to match the Republican Party’s shift to the right. In the primary season they will do the usual thing and tack back to the middle, but the question/potential concern is how much they get locked-in to outlandish positions in the primary season. Pawlenty is already dog-whistling to the fringe of the party by tip-toeing around talk like returning to the gold-standard (the subtext of his discussion of “fiat currency.”) On Huntsman, the most moderate of the three, I think he also has the worst electoral possibilities. See here for an example of an argument why: http://www.nationaljournal.com/columns/cook-report/for-gop-in-2012-room-for-one-more-20110526.
Obama doesn’t have the problem of having to move so sharply to the left. He will need to stir up the base by pushing the right buttons there, but a) some of those buttons actually correspond to populist working-class/middle-class issues so could be doubly helpful; and b) I don’t see how people’s established-views of Obama and how “left” he is are really going to change significantly. This election is going to be determined by a) the economy, b) the Republican candidate that emerges from the primaries, and c) random other unpredictable events in-between now and then. Things Obama does and perceptions of him tacking left aren’t likely to matter- at least in my opinion.d) “All three of these candidates earned a national reputation as governors…” Uhm, Romney- yes. Pawlenty has been campaigning for months and has limited name recognition among interested and active Republican primary voters- let alone general elections voters who barely know anything about politics. Huntsman also has virtually no name recognition at this point. I know it’s early and if they win the primary they will get name election, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t start out from a slightly weakened position here. e) “as governors, which will give them all an opportunity to point to their executive records in contrast to President Obama's.” Of all three, the record conservatives’ like the most is probably Pawlenty’s, but his is hardly stellar: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/the-pawlenty-record-examined/2011/05/19/AFL0EK7G_blog.html. Oddly, Romney is far more popular than Huntsman is in his own home state. If Huntsman didn’t impress his own home state (besides working for Obama, being supportive of civil-unions, etc.), how can he hope to point to convince the nation on his public record? He would have to sell that very hard- we’ll have to see if he makes it through the primary season. However, I strongly encourage Romney to talk about his executive record. His greatest accomplishment? Health care reform.f) The Republican Party is homogenous? Demographically- yes. White, older, etc. Philosophically- no. Social conservatives v. fiscal conservatives v. defense hawks v. libertarians etc. g) Finally, let’s be honest and admit Obama is a great campaigner. He’s a cut-above, like Clinton and Reagan. It doesn’t appear that Romney (stick-up-his butt businessman who doesn’t resonate with average voters, let alone the conservative wing of the party) or Pawlenty (Mr. my fireside chats put out the fire) or even Huntsman (solid, maybe some potential but is the weakest of the primary candidates so campaigning skills geared towards a general election most likely to not matter) have the same edge Obama does. h) It’s the economy, stupid. (Not privatizing Medicare).
In my first comment, I said "In the primary season they will do the usual thing and tack back to the middle." I meant general election cycle- whoops.
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