The Bigger Picture
Published on February 1st 2012 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
And then there were four. First Herman Cain was driven from the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination by a litany of adultery and sexual harassment allegations before the first votes were even cast in Iowa. Then Michelle Bachman followed suit after her dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses. But after the results from the second primary contest in New Hampshire were announced, Bachman and Cain were soon joined on the political campaign sidelines by Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman was the first to go even though he finished a respectable third with almost 17% of the votes in the New Hampshire primary. But with less than 1% of the vote a week earlier in Iowa, Huntsman had been counting on a second place finish in New Hampshire to breathe some life back into his presidential campaign. So given his poor prospects with the much more conservative voters in South Carolina’s third Republican contest, Huntsman decided to call it quits rather than continue a futile campaign for the Republican nomination.
As I have noted in my previous columns, Huntsman never really had a chance of winning the Republican nomination in 2012 largely because he was also the only Republican candidate who resonated with moderate Republican and independent voters like me. But the Republican Party of today is dominated by anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-government and anti-tax social conservatives and Tea Party extremists. As a result, any Republican candidate who demonstrates willingness to compromise with Democrats or President Obama is vilified by right wing activists who also condemn the very idea of political compromise.
When he announced his withdrawal from the 2012 Republican Presidential contest, Huntsman also noted the chilling effect that the extremely negative political views of these Republican activists were having, not only on the Republican Party but also on the American people. Huntsman’s withdrawal announcement says, “At its core the Republican Party is a party of ideas, but the current toxic form of our political discourse does not help our cause and is just one of the many reasons the American people has lost trust in their leaders.”
The other big loser in New Hampshire was Texas Governor Rick Perry, who followed up his 10% of the vote and fifth place showing in Iowa with an abysmal sixth place finish and less than 1% of New Hampshire Republicans’ votes. But even though Perry’s withdrawal just two days before the South Carolina primary wasn’t a surprise, his subsequent endorsement of Newt Gingrich for President did help Gingrich win the South Carolina primary by a much larger margin over second place Mitt Romney than most political observers expected.
Gingrich has been surging in recent Republican polls so his resounding 40% to 28% victory over Mitt Romney in South Carolina now sets up what will essentially be a two horse race for the Republican Presidential nomination. The other two candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, don’t have a chance of winning the nomination because they don’t have the campaign financing or a broad enough base of support beyond their core constituencies.
But even though it only took a few weeks and the results from the first two Republican Presidential primaries to cut the Republican field of presidential candidates in half, since Mitt Romney is sinking in the polls I expect it to take at least another couple of months before we see any of the four remaining contenders withdraw from the race. Rick Santorum narrowly won the Iowa caucuses thanks to his support from social conservatives and has no compelling reason to drop out of the race so long as they continue to support him. Ron Paul has an equally supportive base of libertarian voters who have thus far shown no inclination to vote for the other candidates so there is no reason he should quit the race either.
So I will discuss why the pre-election favourite, Mitt Romney, is now in trouble, the other reasons why both Santorum and Paul are likely to remain in the race, and the results of the Florida primary as well as the Nevada and Maine caucuses in my next column.