The Bigger Picture
Published on November 15th 2011 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
In my last column I discussed the extraordinary influence that right wing evangelical Christians and the anti-tax Tea Party movement currently exert on the Republican Party and its political leaders. Today I will begin discussing the impact these ideologically doctrinaire groups have had and will continue to have on the field of Republican Presidential candidates.
I will begin by first discussing several Republican presidential candidates who either withdrew from the race or decided not to run. The first casualty was Tim Pawlenty, who actually began his campaign for the GOP nomination well before the end of his second term as governor of Minnesota in 2010. Pawlenty had been on John McCain’s short list as a possible vice presidential running mate in 2008, and establishment Republicans had been talking about him as a possible presidential candidate in 2005, even before he even ran for a second term as governor in 2006. So it came as no surprise when Governor Pawlenty also started showing up to speak at Republican Party functions in the early Republican primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina during 2008 and 2009.
Pawlenty continued his meticulous preparations to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination by announcing in June 2009 that he would not run for a third term as governor and by creating a political action committee (PAC) to raise money for his campaign called Freedom First. He then hired respected Republican presidential campaigners such as Vin Weber, former Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant, and Sara Taylor, the former Director of the Office of Political Affairs for President George W. Bush.
So by the time Pawlenty formally announced he was running for President in May 2011, the only real surprise was that he had waited so long to make it official. But while Pawlenty had the necessary conservative Republican credentials, he could never become a Tea Party favorite because he wasn’t a fiery public speaker and he had a reputation for being able to strike compromises with Minnesota’s Democratic controlled state legislature.
As a result, another candidate from Minnesota was able to use her oratory skills and legislative track record of never compromising with Democrats to capture twice as many votes as Pawlenty from the Tea Party activists and evangelical Christians who dominated the voting in Iowa’s August 13th Republican caucus straw poll. Since Pawlenty had invested a great deal of his time and money in Iowa, he quickly realized that his dismal finish behind Minnesota’s Michelle Bachman also signaled the end of his Presidential campaign hopes.
Although Tim Pawlenty may have become the first formal casualty of the Republican Party’s antagonistic ideological extremists when he ended his presidential bid on August 14th, he is by no means the only one. Several other Republican governors with conservative credentials but a track record of compromising with Democrats or state legislatures controlled by the Democratic Party, wisely decided not to even bother to run for President in 2012.
Second term Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, who isn’t eligible to run for governor again in 2012, refused to yield to heavy pressure from establishment Republicans when he announced on May 22nd that he would not run for President. After Daniel’s opted not to run, his first term counterpart from New Jersey, Chris Christie, then came under heavy pressure from long time Republicans to jump into the 2012 presidential race. But with time running short, on October 4th Christie put an end to the speculation by saying “now is not my time.”
While both Daniels and Christie cited their families and duties as governor as reasons why they decided not to run in 2012, GOP insiders have also speculated that both men felt it would be difficult to win the Presidency in 2012 if they forced to stump on a GOP platform that reflected the views of Tea Party activists and Christian evangelicals. Both governors were also well aware that they owed their previous General election successes to their ability to attract more moderate independent voters, rather than just the support of the Tea Partiers and Christian conservatives that currently dominate Republican Party primary politics.
In my next column I will discuss several other Republican governors, as well as their reasons for deciding not to run for the GOP nomination for President in 2012.