03 February 2011

Listening Electively

Maybe the elephants remember the perils of the long campaign in 2008, but the Iowa Caucuses will take place in almost a year but there are no declared candidates yet for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.

Sure, there are some signals, such as Herman Cain  suspending his Atlanta radio gig and opening an exploratory committee.  Then there is former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT), who indicated that he would soon be resigning his post as Obama Administration Ambassador to China.

The  expected Presidential front-runners have been out of the media hustings hawking their latest book (and campaign framing), such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) et ali. The Lamestream Media is also focusing stories and spin on potential Presidential candidates, like former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) who also are Fox News correspondents.  And there are press availabilities for other expected Presidential wanna-bes, like Senator John Thune (R-SD), former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). That’s a lot of phantom names and there are more.  Yet no one has thrown their hat in the ring yet.

Of course, no one wants to be labeled a front runner too early. After the initial positive buzz, it seems that Republican Presidential front-runners in the early Primary process receive crushing media scrutiny. Moreover, other candidates will gang up on a perceived front-runner during debates and the front-runners serve as a foil on the campaign trail.

A political junkie feels compelled to listen to myriad media opportunities of these potential Presidential candidates, it is too early to peg politicians on policy positions.  Inspired by Vorlon sagacity, now is the time to listen to the melodies and not the lyrics.  Some might deride this strategy as "Short, to the point and utterly useless".  But if one pays attention to the pols leitmotifs and compare it to their credentials, it can point to potential Presidential strategies.

For instance, Gingrich's book is an intellectual Molotov cocktail against Obamacare.  The former Speaker relishes in policy fights.  As a former Congressman (despite his prominence), he did not have strong state campaign frameworks to be a "Favorite Son".  Gingrich's 527 group American Solutions, is a third way good governance group which should appeal to Tea Party types.  Gingrich not only converted to Roman Catholicism, but become prominently involved with raising funds for a film on Pope John Paul II.  Cynics would decry some of these moves as having an electoral calculus, but let us presume that he was acting in good faith.

It is reasonable to presume that if Gingrich runs, it will be a campaign that relies on his national prominence, rather than regional affiliation or by surprising people in Iowa or New Hampshire.  Based on his background and positioning, Gingrich will hope that his third way policies will be accepted by the Tea Party activists as anti-incumbent animus rather than Gingrich being identified with the Old Guard.  Expect Newt's technocratic attacks against Obama policies as being his battle cry.  Privately, Gingrich backers would hope that affinity with conservative Catholic culture will insulate him from inevitable exposes of his messy prior personal life.

Listening to a long form radio interview with Tim Pawlenty on Hugh Hewitt's radio program, Pawlenty is marketing himself much more as a biographical candidate who is banking on being a favorite son candidate during the Iowa Caucuses.  His pitch is hardscrapple, Main Street Republicanism.  Pawlenty's allusion to the Talledega Nights prayer shows that he has a vibrant sense of humor and that he still identifies with the trope "We are the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club." Pawlenty's faith filled revelations in Courage to Stand is a paean to Evangelicals, but his radio interview politically tried to also pander to his Catholic roots. If Pawlenty runs, expect him to work Iowa very hard to mobilize Evangelicals and home that big Mo along with his "Sam's Club" persona to carry him to New Hampshire.

In the next twelve months, there will be much more campaign to listen to, and it should be more substantive than ethereal slogans of "Hope and Change".  Until then, I'll be listening electively.

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