The field of Republican presidential candidates is finally starting to sort itself out — thankfully.
Last weekend, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann came away the winner of the Iowa Straw Poll, an event that, while officially meaningless, nonetheless provides an opportunity for campaigns to demonstrate their organizational abilities and grassroots support. If nothing else, it does offer at least the start of a preliminary winnowing-out process.
In this case, the straw poll triggered the first official casualty of the primary competition – former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. His performances in debates and speeches tended to put all but close family friends and relatives asleep.
Bachmann, who campaigned tirelessly in the Hawkeye State, gained bragging rights as the winner of the straw poll. Retiring Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has largely been dismissed by the media because of his anti-establishment views and libertarian leanings, finished just behind Bachmann. Some observers attribute Paul’s strong showing to his organization’s ability and willingness to simply bus in and pay for large numbers of supporters to attend and then cast votes for their candidate as event such as the Iowa event last week. Even so, his views are resonating with many voters.
The big headline for the week, however, was not Bachmann’s win, Pawlenty’s exit, or Paul’s strong showing, but three-term Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s official declaration that he is a candidate – made not in Iowa, but over the weekend in South Carolina, another early-primary state.
Perry’s record as a pro-business governor whose state has produced more than a third of all jobs in the nation during the so-called “economic recovery,” would pose a formidable threat to President Barack Obama. He would be the one Republican challenger to the President who legitimately can claim to have practiced what all GOP candidates preach — actually to have governed successfully by, in the words of Dallas Federal Reserve Chairman Richard Fisher, “reject[ing] the economic model that now prevails in Washington.”
Just a few days after he entered the race, a Rasmussen poll showed Perry leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by double digits.
Romney had long been viewed as the “frontrunner,” especially among establishment Republicans; although his support has never appeared deep or enthusiastic. Grassroots conservatives and Tea Party activists are skeptical of Romney, largely because of his embrace of government-mandated health insurance, including the health insurance reform bill he pushed through in 2006 while serving as Governor.
Romney’s style on the national campaign trail — honed during the past three years he has been unofficially running for the nomination — works against him. His overly cautious (some might say, boring) delivery on the stump, is in stark contrast to the charismatic deliveries of Bachmann and especially Perry.
Perry has a long way to go to prove himself a fully capable national candidate; as witnessed by his use of the hot-button and unnecessary term “treasonous” in referring to the possibility that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might direct the printing of more Federal Reserve Notes in the middle of the campaign).
However, if the Top Texan shows strong fund-raising ability in his early federal campaign filings this Fall – from small as well as major Republican donors – and if he does not make a major gaffe in the next few months, he will be in the driver’s seat to emerge next summer as the GOP’s standard bearer; with the distinct possibility of becoming the next President of the Unite States.
By Bob Barr — The Barr Code