The 2012 presidential contest took an interesting twist this weekend. One lackluster candidate, a former governor of a mid-west state, dropped out after being unable to upgrade his image to “presidential class” and, more importantly, after not finishing first or second in the Iowa straw poll.
And another candidate, after months of great anticipation, jumped into the race with high praise and huge expectations.
You know what this reminds me of? The summer of 2007, and the Tale of Two Thompsons.
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson was an early Republican candidate in the 2008 race. I guess he though his gubernatorial experience (elected four times), his experience a Bush cabinet member (Sec. of Health and Social Services), and his small town “charisma” would make him a natural in the eyes of Iowans.
After practically living in the state for months, poor Tommy placed sixth in the August Iowa straw poll. The next day, he dropped out of the race.
This is eerily similar to the Tim Pawlenty story. Pawlenty is 18 years younger, and has far less political experienced than Tommy Thompson. What they both lacked was presidential charisma. Nobody had any idea why either one of them was running for President.
The other Thompson that ran in the 2008 campaign was former Senator and actor Fred Thompson. Good ol’ Fred, teased for months and months. He eschewed the Iowa Straw poll, and didn’t officially declare until the first week of September, 2007. He was immediately placed among the front-runners. It seemed the Republicans had found their next Ronald Reagan….
Ol’ Fred was briefly the darling of the Republicans—at least, the ones paying attention to the primary. But it quickly became apparent that Fred just wasn’t up to the task. He came off as a tired old dog that just needed a front porch. He withdrew toward the end of January, 2008. (Parodies of his withdraw—here, here, and here—were among my favorites of the 2008 campaign.)
This is the problem with finding a “savior” that nobody knows anything about.
And that seems analogous to the lateish entrance of Texas Governor Rick
Parry Perry. Everyone knows he prays and he is a fundamentalist. A few folks may remember his hint of a Texas secession, which sounds too extreme to be real. Republicans would likely attribute it to an attention-getting, teabagger upgrade to Ronald Reagan’s “…the government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”
Ahhh, yes, the Republicans have found their new Ronald Reagan. The don’t really know him, but the love him anyway.
And here is where the analogy with Ol’ Fred ends. Because Gov. Perry isn’t a tired old dog. Rather, he is a fucking extremist! I am talking an order of magnitude more extremist than Rep. Michele Bachmann (a.k.a. Ol’ Crazy Eyes).
Ezra Klein has an excellent, and quite positive, review of Perry’s book, “Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington.” Klein highly recommends the book. In it, Perry lays out his extreme “State’s right” position that would remove the federal government from civil rights protections, labor laws, creation of a minimum wage, environmental regulation, gun regulation, Medicare, Medicaid, and education.
This is a level of extremism that is not acceptable to the majority of Republicans, and is likely threatening to the Republican establishment. Hell…it’s pretty much too extreme for FAUX News. Perry has about the same chance of winning the nomination as fellow Texan Rep. Ron Paul does.
If Obama is lucky, it will take many months until Republicans figure out who Perry really is.
To some extent, each major Republican candidates has “issues” that make him or her unacceptable to big chunks of the Republican base. In 2008, McCain was chosen because he was the least unacceptable candidate, and he performed better than any other candidate in most head-to-head polls against Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.
Acceptable choices for the Republicans seem even more limited this cycle.