Political Promise

US Election ’12: Hopeful Republican Contenders Emerge

In Zachary Barker on April 22, 2011 at 5:59 am

The manoeuvrings for entering the race to be President of the United State seem to be occurring earlier than ever before,  writes Zachary Barker. Two potential Republican candidates have already stepped in the ring to challenge incumbent President Barack Obama next year:Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney.

Immediately we see some similarities between Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.  Both are former State Governors, Romney of Massachusetts and Pawlenty of Minnesota.  Many of the previous Presidents of the post-war period have been former Governors including George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.  The post-war period has seldom had former Senators winning the Presidency, Barack Obama being a notable exception following in John Kennedy’s footsteps.

It is likely that the issue of the state of the US economy will likely be high on the agenda next year.  Historically US voters have rewarded the President’s attention on the state of the economy, if not constructive action through loyal support.  On the flipside voters also punish Presidents on being inconsistent about how they handle it.  George Bush Senior was defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 election after u-turning on his “no new taxes” pledge to the US public.  If the US economy’s recovery continues at the same rate as it is presently in the run up to election time, it may drag Obama’s poll rating down.  The opposite is also true.  Obama is likely to get the credit if a convincing recovery takes effect.

Given the central place that government’s handling of the economy is going to take it is perhaps unsurprising that both candidates advertise themselves as staunch fiscal conservatives.  Consequently it is likely that their respective records in the Governor office will be closely analysed by the media and the public to corroborate these claims.  Indeed The Economist commented on the week of his Exploratory Committee’s unveiling that Minnesota under his leadership has noticeably unbalanced books.  The US public may be more convinced about Mitt Romney’s claim to “fiscal discipline”, which he mentioned in his notably dressed down and informal announcement of his possible candidacy.  Mitt Romney is a self-made millionaire, from a successful career in the Private equity sector.  It could be argued that this in itself could make a powerful argument to Americans concerned about the country’s growing national debt, that he is more than competent at balancing a cheque book.

However playing the governing record card may potentially open a can of worms that Romney may want to avoid, since in his own record we see a State-wide scheme for universal health care that was pioneered under his premiership.  If party divisions remain as wide as they are it is likely that Romney may struggle to avoid charges of supporting the embattled so-called “Obama-Care” plan, which could prove in electoral terms fatal.

The powers of the State Governor vary between the various states of the union.  The US public tend to view the position as a good parallel to presidential decision-making, especially since Conservative governors in particular value streamlined state governments and balanced books.  The competition may yet heat up if newly elected Republicans from the east coast such as Chris Christie the governor of New Jersey throw their hat in the ring.  Republican east coast moderates like Christie may change the goalposts of the competition, to one about beating Democrats to dealing with them.  To the voter, a non-tribal candidate may be the antidote they desire to bitter partisan warfare.


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