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The 2012 Election: Clinton vs. Romney vs. Cain vs. Paul vs. Candidate X?

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.

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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%.

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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?

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(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.)

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Hillary Clinton

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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Mitt Romney

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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.

Herman Cain

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.

Ron Paul

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.)

“Candidate X”

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

About Ted Lacksonen

Ted Lacksonen has written 97 posts in this blog.

I am a proud mem­ber of the Coun­try Class — the roughly 75% of Amer­i­cans who have been effec­tively dis­en­fran­chised by the minor­ity Rul­ing Class. As a law stu­dent and lawyer, I trav­eled (uncom­fort­ably) in Rul­ing Class cir­cles. As an HVAC installer, sheet metal fab­ri­ca­tor, and ship designer, I trav­eled (com­fort­ably) in Coun­try Class cir­cles. My expe­ri­ences in these two widely diver­gent uni­verses have given me a dual per­spec­tive that is uncom­mon among writ­ers and thinkers.

  • I’m a little bit shocked by the odds you place of “greater than 50%” of a serious third party competing for the presidency (the perennial odd-balls that get 1-2% of the nutty vote do not count).

    Instead of giving my opinion, I would make the point by informing everyone of what the real “Intrade” prediction market of London – where there is actually money is bet on the odds, not opinions – is placing on the probability that a third party wins the 2012 election: 1.3%.

    I suggest that the discrepancy is so wide that this is the opportunity of making lots, and lots, of money. Instead of having to put down $50 in order to make $50, one can place just $1.30 dollar bet and make $100.00 in return. Almost 100 to one. Go break your piggy bank.

    • I didn’t spefcify third party – I also said independent. I also didn’t say win, I said run. That said, I’m surprised the Intrade is as high as 1.3%. All I’m saying is that Herman Cain going Ross Perot, Ron Paul going Indy/Libertarian, or someone else stepping in outside of the twoparty system capable of getting well above 1-2% is a strong possibility. You can disagree with my odds of that happening, and that’s fine. This is just meant to be a fun political discussion while we wait for the next Washington-led crisis to grab the headlines.

      (If the Intrade had the odds of an independent or 3rd party candidate getting 5% or more of the vote at 1.3% I’d be tempted to take it – and I don’t gamble!)

  • Romney or Perry with Bachmann possibly as the VP. I don’t see an Independent doing very well though if there is one it may siphon enough votes to let Obama squeak by.

    If Perry runs, Romney is toast I think so that leaves us with Perry/Bachmann. I do not think she would make a good VP but she might pull in enough Tea Party voters to help Perry out.

    • I keep hearing about Perry, but he hasn’t thrown the hat in. I’ll be interested in watching the response on many fronts if he does.

      • He’ll be throwing in his hat very soon I think.

  • Perry is making a speech this Saturday where he is suppose to be announcing that he is running for President or strongly hinting that he is running for President.

    My top choice for President is way down in the polls – Rick Santorum. A Perry/Bachmann ticket does sound good.

    Cain hinted to Neil Cavuto (I think that’s who it was) that if he didn’t do well in the Iowa poll than he would seriously consider dropping out of the race.

    • If you’re correct regarding Cain, then my theory of an independent run is obviously wrong. If your interpretation of his comments with Cavuto are correct, he has less fighting spirit than I thought, and he’s welcome to drop out.

      My main problem with Santorum is he’s a lawyer. As a recovering attorney that’s a problem with me. I’m one of the few who react in that way, though, so don’t let my reaction in any way reflect on his overall chances.

  • I’m not a fan of Perry, but when he enters the race(note that I didn’t say if) and if Palin throws her support behind him, as is ruomored, he will be the Republican candidate.

    • I didn’t discuss Perry because he hasn’t entered the race, although if I was doing true odds-making that shouldn’t have stopped me. We’ll have to see how the GOP establishment reacts and how well he can fundraise.

  • Interesting post, Ted, as well as the comments. I’ll just come out and say it, my candidate of choice has stated he will not be running and is retaining his show on Fox. I really, really wanted to see Mike Huckabee enter the race, but he stated rather clearly that he is not.

    The only other of the declared candidates I have much of an interest in is Ron Paul. He chances of winning the Republican nomination are probably worse than mine. 🙂 Honestly, I think he would be a good candidate and a good president, but the Republican establishment would revolt with arms if that were to happen.

    Rick Perry is almost certainly going to enter the race, but my jury is still out on him. It’s hard for me to get past the fact that he ran Al Gore’s campaign in Texas. I need to do more research on him.

  • It befuddles me and throws my scarce logic into a windmill when I try to make sense of advocating and rooting for a third conservative party to enter the race while at the same time acknowledging that their chances to win the election is 1.3% or less. I need to get an explanation for that piece of syllogistic rationale before I go mad.

    I would be happy if “any” of the present or known forthcoming republican-conservative-Tea Party-Libertarian candidates can win the Presidency and get Obama out. Therefore, at this early stage I refuse to throw stones to any member representing this group.

    • John: I know that we usually agree, and indeed, I am very grateful for the many posts of mine that you have published at your site. There are, I believe, two separate issues at work:

      1) This piece is one of prognostication and odds-making. I am saying that I believe – correctly or incorrectly – that the odds of a three-horse race are high. I am active with Tea Party groups at many levels, and i can tell you that Romney is as loathed as Obama. Again, you are free to agree or disagree with the stance, but it is what it is. It may lead to a stronger grassroots push for a Bachmann or a Santorum, but here in Ohio, anyhow, we have open primaries. I have already heard on the street that Ohio Democrats are pushing for Romney, just as in 2008 when Ohio Republicans pushed for Hillary. Romney is the putative nominee at the moment, and Tea Partiers are not going to accept him. This article acknowledges that reality.

      2) Now, moving on to the next point, this is the area of our real disagreement (a rarity, but a big one). You have called me an idealist in the past, and I have made the same observation about you. Who is correct depends on our objective observations of the world. I use the phrase “objective” specifically and intentionally, knowing something of your philosophical perspective.

      i personally believe you are being idealistically partisan here. I know it is rooted in a sense of “practicality,” but being “practical” and “safe”has gotten us into this mess. Assuming that Romney gets the GOP nomination – which is a central assumption to this entire piece – what does that mean, and what should we do?

      I have zero, zip, nada faith in Mitt Romney. He may slow the fiscal bleeding, but I do not have confidence that he will support measures sufficient to stave off a fiscal meltdown. I have no confidence in him scaling back Obama’s regulatory avalanche in any significant manner. You may disagree with my assessment, but it is based on rational, objective observations of the man’s career (as well as his platitude-laden campaign website).

      So, if you are in my position – believing that Romney wold result in a slower but still inevitable collapse – why would I support that? Why wouldn’t I support a candidate who I believed could actually save the country, even if the odds of victory are low? Imagine if you will, that my son and I are in a room with two executioners, one who wants to shoot him in the head, and one who wants to use lethal injection. I’m sorry, but I’m making a run for it, even if the odds of escape are low.

      As far as i can see, your objective is to replace Obama with an “R.” (That is not to suggest that you don’t have strong preferences as to who that R might be.) My objective is to replace a statist with an individualist. If that is an accurate representation of our respective objectives, your voting for Romney would make sense. My support of an alternative would be entirely rational and justified.

      • CT, let me see if I can put it another way.

        I don’t disagree with you at all about your preferences of who should replace our present President. If they were to give me the choice by an omnipotent force between making you the decider of whom should be our next president or going through an open election, without a doubt I would choose you as our savior, instead of the masses.

        But in our real world, and the present political landscape, I find it necessary to keep all our forces together – Republicans, Tea Party, Libertarians, conservative-establishment, moderate-conservatives, fundamental-conservatives, all of them, in one big front, in order to save us from another four years of disaster.

        I am sure you can understand that and work wih it.

        • I think most of our disagreements in the political arena are on the strategy side. The strategy disagreements, in my humble opinion, flow from some different readings of the lay of the land. Both of us are rational, basing our positions on the evidence before us, applying reason as best we are able. Neither of us are ideologues, nor are we unprincipled. I think we are arriving at some different conclusions on the political front, but I don’t think either of us are doing so irrationally or blindly. We have assessed the risks differently, in my humble opinion.

          • I don’t call them disagreements; they are a healthy and necessary interchange of “strategic” options.

            I learn from your point of view.