It’s now a three-way race before voting begins for the Republican presidential nomination. as either Newt Gringrich, Mitt Romney, or Rick Perry will be the GOP standard-bearer to challenge President Obama.
The same pundits that have confidently miscalled the GOP race all along are now declaring it’s a two-way race between former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Governor Mitt Romney.
They’re wrong. Either man might be the nominee, but not necessarily.
Romney is the former frontrunner. He’s educated, polished, and has tremendous private-sector success and some high-level public experience. He even has a picturesque family.
But a majority of Republican primary voters do not support this consummate establishment candidate. He has a record of flip-flopping on issues that should be consistent because they should arise from a personal worldview and set of core principles that usually hold steady throughout a person’s adult life.
Newt is the current frontrunner. He’s brilliant, knowledgeable, articulate, and experienced across a wide spectrum of policy and political issues.
But he has serious weaknesses. There are matters of personal conduct that shock many core Republican primary voters, and policy issues such as previously believing the federal government can impose a healthcare individual mandate or pursue cap-and-trade to more recent issues involving immigration.
There’s also a bombastic tendency, seen in kicking a Middle-East hornet’s nest with the Palestinians, backhanding Paul Ryan’s reform plans, and attacking capitalism by vilifying Romney’s business success.
And Newt tops it off by proposing that instead of three coequal branches in our federal government, Congress and the president should destroy judicial independence by subjugating the federal courts. This would abolish the courts’ power to uphold the Constitution when the political branches violate it (such as with Obamacare).
But there’s no perfect candidate. So all that said, one of them might win the nomination and become the next president of the United States.
However, these flaws are sufficiently serious that there is room for a third candidate to emerge. Romney is stable but has not been able to rise above 25 percent. Gingrich has had a meteoric rise but could misstep and implode just as quickly.
Who could it be? Filing deadlines are past in many states and talk of a brokered convention is fanciful; it’s almost certainly someone currently on the stage.
Jon Huntsman is at low single digits because he’s shown contempt for the GOP base and he’s about as exciting as reading the Economist, so it won’t be him. And despite the thrill at rebelling against the machine that drives so many people—especially young people—to support Ron Paul, he might be the only literally unelectable Republican in the field.
That leaves three. Of them, Rick Santorum has tremendous policy expertise. Michele Bachmann is short on public experience, but has a great personal story and private-sector experience.
But they don’t have money or organization. Even a surprise win in Iowa—which won’t happen—wouldn’t bring money in fast enough to build a national team and saturate the media markets in the other January contests.
Which leaves Governor Perry. A long-serving governor of America’s second-largest state, Perry has executive experience and an almost-perfect record on economic, social, and national-security issues. Three of the best lines from the last debate were his—seeing the big picture on Newt’s Palestinian comments, knowing Obama should have recovered or destroyed our stealth drone, and declaring that securing the borders will change the national mood enough to discuss long-term immigration reform.
Moreover, he has tons of campaign cash and a large organization. And coupled with pushing for a flat tax and Balanced Budget Amendment, his support for guns, marriage, and faith will help in Iowa and South Carolina.
If Romney or Gingrich falter, Perry might take it all.
Examiner legal contributor Ken Klukowski is coauthor of “Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America.”