South Carolina hosted the first official debate amongst GOP contenders for the 2012 nominee for President. As required by law, it was hosted by FOX News and broadcast exclusively on FOX, fittingly in the town that boasts the home of the Bob Jones University. The debate featured what are unflatteringly called second-tier candidates who have neither the name recognition nor the political chutzpah to be likely contenders when the rubber meets the road. In keeping with the mainstream media’s ranking of these candidates, Full Speed Ahead (the name of the blog you are reading) will not even dedicate an individual preview of each candidate, but will lump them together in one second-tier article.
Gary Johnson, triathelete and former New Mexico Governor, won’t get much attention in this preview since he was highlighted in my last one, but he did deliver one beautiful line that brought tears to the eyes of those who feel our Afghanistan nation building project is a money pit: “and [we’re] borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar to do that,” saying, “To me that is crazy.” Dr. Ron Paul made his appearance as the most conservative man on the stage, having never voted for a tax increase or a budget that was not balanced. He tends to do well in debates as he often makes a lot of sense, but he will scare the bejesus out of people with his talk of doing away with the Federal Reserve, the Department of Education, and the income tax while returning us all to the Gold Standard and legalizing heroin. You can learn a lot from the good doctor, but apart from his hardcore supporters, I don’t suspect he’ll do very well in the primaries. Then there is Rick Santorum, who lives in perpetual fear of man-on-dog sex. Mr. Santorum is a Republican of the social conservative stripe, who believes the right to privacy is not in the US Constitution. The Santorum’s have 7 children and are Knight and Dame of Magistral Grace of the Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic order of chivalry. Santorum’s political experience is as a Representative and Senator from PA who supports building a barrier on the US border, deporting immigrants if they commit crimes, teaching Intelligent Design in science class, and having elected officials, rather than the courts, decide issues of abortion and homosexuality. Rick will get some support from the social conservatives among the Republican voters, but I can’t imagine anyone putting up the money to back his campaign. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was the one name on the stage in SC that possibly had some expectations going in. As a two-term Governor and converted Evangelical Christian, Pawlenty has the conservative paper credentials to back him up as a serious contender, but he’s also got some issues he’ll have to overcome to stand up to the front-runners like Romney and Huckabee.
As Governor, Pawlenty was a fervent anti-tax leader, but he used some fiscal maneuverings equivalent to check kiting to bring down budget deficits. He was able to eliminate a $2.7 Billion dollar budget deficit during his second term by deferring payments, which has created a $4.4 Billion budget shortfall for the 2011-2012 budget year, after he’s left office of course. These types of financial shenanigans upstaged his hopeful introduction to the GOP audience during the debate, as he was forced to explain balancing the state budget by using $6 Billion from local school districts, which of course now leaves a gaping hole where there once was cash. To make matters worse, Pawlenty was in favor of so-called “cap and trade” regulation to control environmental pollution. Irrespective of the benefits or shortcomings of this type of environmental legislation, to a conservative voter, or more importantly a conservative financial backer, it’s poison. It also creates a problem for climate change deniers, as they will see Pawlenty as someone who sides with those scientific types. Even though he now calls his support a mistake, claiming that “nobody’s perfect” and there are bound to be clunkers in everyone’s political past, his first opportunity to impress fell decidedly short. Last but certainly not least is Herman Cain. Cain made the most of his talk-show host experience to articulate conservative principles in a very effective way. He even turned his lack of political governing experience into a positive by cashing in on the historically low approval of Congress and the general malaise the electorate feels toward the current political environment. Cain’s got an interesting background as a former Navy man, with a Master’s Degree and high-profile business experience as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Is he a serious candidate for the nomination? No, but as long as he keeps talking, the other candidates will have to stay on their toes.
So far, I’ve previewed 11 potential competitors for Barack Obama to face in November of 2012 and while it’s still very early, I don’t think the President has to worry about calling the moving company to come pack up his stuff yet.