I’m not in the prediction business—people who predict tend to be wrong. Instead, I prefer to lay out possible scenarios and place odds. That said, I’m not making the claim that the above-mentioned 5-way presidential race is the most likely scenario for next year’s presidential election; Obama v. Romney probably fits that bill. Nonetheless, our nation’s political climate is toxic at the moment, and consequently this election cycle may turn out to be as volatile as the stock market.
At no time in my life has support for third parties been stronger, at least as an abstraction. While I’m not “predicting” a three or even four-way battle, I am placing the odds at greater than 50%.
What would possess me to assemble the particular five-way race in the title? To spark debate and discussion, of course—what else is there for politics-watchers to do right now?
(Before getting into the analysis, let me observe that most pundits incorrectly conflate the terms “moderate” and “independent.” I know many independents who are far from moderate and are independent because they have given up on our collusive two-party big government system. It is a mistake to think that nominating a “safe” candidate will get them to the polls.)
Yes, I know that Hillary says she’s out, but if there’s anything we should have learned over the years, it’s never believe anything a Clinton says… (The rumblings for her to run are growing.)
I knew that Obama would do a terrible job as president (he has not disappointed), and I anticipated that his poor performance would open the door to the nearly-unthinkable possibility of a challenge to a sitting president. I predicted that Clinton would unseat Obama when he nominated her for Secretary of State (I still made predictions in 2009). His political decision to ship a political opponent (with no qualifications for the job she was given) overseas to keep her out of the limelight, however, carried a risk. As Secretary of State she is acquiring the foreign policy experience that was utterly lacking from either of their resumes during the 2008 cycle.
If she makes a run, consider some of her potential talking points: I believe in a strong America, and Obama is a hand-wringing foreign policy wimp. Right message, wrong messenger. Lines like that.
And don’t forget that she prevailed in the primaries in working-class states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—precisely the states where Obama’s support is fading the fastest.
The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton presents a bigger threat to the GOP in 2012 than Barack Obama. If the Democratic party leadership concludes the same (the unemployment picture over the next few months will be critical), don’t be surprised if the 2012 Democratic primaries turn into a game of bye-bye Barack. (Note: I drew this conclusion last year when I still made predictions; Rush Limbaugh is just slow to catch up to The Country Thinker!)
Romney is pretty much a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, and consistently leads in the polls. He has a lot of money. The media loves him because he is a handsome, vacuous windbag. He has a lot of money. He has executive experience. He has a lot of money. Sleeping moderates seem to like him. He has a lot of money. Oh, and did I mention he has a lot of money?
If Romney is unable to spend his opponents into oblivion, the GOP establishment will crank up the smear machine and eat their own.
But though Romney’s nomination may be virtually certain, I place the odds of his actually winning the presidency quite low. Because he is just another left-of-center big government spender ala George W. Bush, his nomination will create the highest odds of at least one major independent or third party candidate appearing on the scene. Romney’s nomination at best will get a lukewarm reception from the Tea Party, and will probably lead to their defection. If there is any candidate who I view as “unelectable,” it is Romney.
Assuming Romney gets the GOP nomination, the odds are high that at least one of the other Republican candidates will entertain an independent run. I place Cain near the top of the list for the simple reason that he’s not a politician. He could have run for Congress or a Governorship, but instead he chose to run for the presidency. I’m obviously not in the man’s head, but I don’t think he’s in the race just to make a statement, or to position himself for 2016. He may well be in it to the bitter end, and when the GOP establishment hands Romney the victory (especially if the party leaders send their attack dogs after Cain), don’t be surprised if Cain presses on.
We know with virtual certainty that Ron Paul will not get the GOP nomination. The Republican establishment would rather see Democrats retain the White House than allow Paul to win the nomination, because no individual in America today presents a bigger threat to their big government money laundering operation than the Congressman from Texas.
The Democratic establishment, too, despises Paul, because no Republican candidate digs into their turf as far as Ron Paul. His civil libertarian views have a strong appeal with many liberals, especially younger, college-age voters (some Republicans call him a Democrat). That creates one of the ironies of this election cycle; Romney is the most likely to get the GOP nomination, but may be the least likely to win the general because the Tea Party will probably defect. Ron Paul, however, has essentially no chance of winning the primary, but might have the best chance in the general because he would hold the Tea Party as well as take a chunk out of the Democratic base.
I began thinking about the possibility of Ron Paul running as an independent when he decided not to run for reelection to Congress so he could focus on the presidential campaign. Realistically, he will know by late spring that he won’t be the GOP candidate, and he would easily have had enough time to retain his seat. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t try his luck as an independent or Libertarian. (He hasn’t closed the door entirely, but has acknowledged the difficulties due to ballot access restrictions put in place by the two major parties, such as here in Ohio.)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the possibility of a Libertarian Party candidate other than Ron Paul if he changes allegiances next spring. So far no candidate I would support has emerged, but that may change.
Or perhaps an independent candidate will emerge who hasn’t thrown his or her hat in the ring yet. I’m thinking it would be someone aligned with the Tea Party movement who has given up Republicrat one-party rule.
With the economy stalled, unemployment high, our credit rating downgraded, and our national debt on a terminal trajectory, the American electorate is full of anger and passion right now. Most voters who aren’t partisans realize that we are worse off now than ten years ago, and both Republicans and Democrats are to blame. Meanwhile, the Tea Party has emerged as a potent political force, but no one knows what their impact will be during the primary and general election seasons.
From my vantage point, the 2012 presidential race is shaping up to be a wild ride. Don’t be surprised if the major party primary process fails to set the slate. I’m not predicting anything with certainty, but the odds of a three or even four-person race looks unusually high.
(End Note: People who like the “up-or-down vote” functionality of a two party system will be distressed to see the image at the top. There would be no “up or down” in an Obama-Romney matchup, however, it would be “down or down.”)
This article is also posted at The Country Thinker.