The silly season is upon us--time to pick a candidate to run for president against Barack Obama. It's amusing to watch all the pundits bloviating about who does and does not have a chance. I might as well do my own bloviating. At least by putting these predictions out here early, I earn the right to say "told you so" in the off-chance that I am right. In the far more likely case that I am dead wrong, at least I'll be in good company.
For starters, Huckabee, Trump, and Daniels are out. Trump was a clown from the beginning. I'm happy to see Huck go; his personal charisma and evangelical bona fides would have made him too much of a spoiler, and almost certainly would have resulted in what I would consider one of the worst scenarios coming to pass. I wasn't a huge Daniels fan, but I have to admit that a guy who chooses not to run because he's unwilling to put his wife through the hassle is probably more qualified, character wise, than some of these folks who have wanted to be president since middle school.
Technically, Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman are not in yet, but most folks expect them to be. The Jury is still out on Sarah Palin. If I'm Palin, I don't run. I've blogged previously on my feelings about Palin, but from a pure math perspective, she occupies the same electoral space as Bachman and Herman Cain. Even if she comes out on top in that semi-final bracket, it cripples her chances against the more "mainstream" or "establishment" side. If I were her, I'd get behind Cain and try to play kingmaker. (More on him later.)
Bachman is basically the "poor man's Palin," but I don't give her much chance. She's already been pilloried as stupid in the media (despite her multiple law degrees), and doesn't have a big enough megaphone (like a Palin or a Cain) to fight back against that. She's also widely known as a "tea party candidate," but most tea partiers like Cain a lot better.
So what about Cain? I like him. A lot. The knock on him is that he is the novelty candidate who cannot win, largely due to his lack of prior elected office. This disregards the fact that he has MUCH more genuine executive experience than either of the nominees last time, and also that just one cycle ago we elected a novelty candidate who had been a senator for about 14 minutes, 8 of which were spent campaigning for president. All the "smart" people saying he has no chance also act like Huntsman is a serious candidate, which says more about their own so-called smarts than it does about Cain's qualifications. If he can get the "tea party" populist side of the ticket to unite behind him, especially if he gets a Palin endorsement, he becomes a really interesting factor. At the very least, he could wind up VP.
That leaves the more mainstream folks. Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, and Huntsman. Let's start with Gingrich: not a chance. Done. Toast. Even before his most recent gaffe-fest, the whole embrassing soap opera personal life made him toxic. He will be interesting in the debates, though.
Huntsman keeps popping up as the flavor of the month for "sophisticated" folks. I don't get it. If you want a RINO with good hair, there's Romney. I think the only reason anybody is talking about Huntsman is that nobody knows enough about him yet. Once we know him as well as the others, we'll dislike him, too.
Romney is the heir-apparent in the sense that he lost the last time. He's also got good looks, crossover appeal, business sense, a history of good management, and a ton of money to spend. Unfortunately, he's also got Romneycare as an albatross around his neck. If not for that, he could overcome the "Ken doll" vibe and the overall sense of RINO squishiness. And perhaps if that were his only weakness, he could finesse it somehow. But the combination is fatal. I think all those who have annointed him the front-runner completely fail to understand the tea party phenomenon. Indeed, if he emerges as the nominee, unless he somehow manages to get a Cain or a Palin as a running mate (darned unlikely), he may be the last Republican nominee--the populist wing would likely split.
That leaves Pawlenty. He's boring. But boring can be good! We've had a celebrity/demigod president, and how's that working out? We have our own drama queen (Palin), and I think most folks can do without that. Indeed, if you go back all the way to the Clinton years, we're coming up on 20 straight years of the president being flatly hated by near half of the US population. I think a boring, wonky, "Minnesota Nice" candidate could be a welcome change from that. He's got solid executive experience, has demonstrated that he can do budget math, and has a solid conservative record without being a firebrand. He's evangelical without giving off the Huckabee televangelist vibe (and yet also hasn't run away from social issues like Daniels did with the "truce" idea). I think on the "establishment" side of the bracket, he probably emerges as the un-Romney, and unlike Romney, can plausibly reach out to the tea party side.
At the end, I'll bet we get Pawlenty, preferably with Cain at the bottom of the ticket. But the other direction would suit me fine, too.