By Bryan Fischer
I wrote yesterday about the Big Four in the GOP field for 2012 - Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee - and suggested that all are carrying enough weight that they just aren’t going to be able to run in 2012. In every case but Sarah Palin’s, the damage is either partially or largely self-inflicted. She is a living testimony to the carnage that a vicious and mean-spirited left-winger media can inflict on a decent human being.
That leaves us with a second tier - second tier in polling, not worth - of potential candidates from which to pick. On this list are names such as Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, John Bolton, Mike Pence, and a possible “dark horse” (his term, not mine), Herman Cain.
Tim Pawlenty is an attractive candidate in many ways. A sincere evangelical and a committed family man, his personal credentials are impeccable. But he has vigorously supported subsidies for the boondoggle of ethanol production, which is a problem for Daniels and Thune as well. A second problem for Pawlenty is that he may be just too nice. His niceness and decency comes across to many as blandness, and that could be fatal for his electoral chances. The grassroots are going to need somebody who can light a fire and generate intense enthusiasm for the candidate, and questions remain about Pawlenty’s ability to bring a torch to the party.
Mitch Daniels is dead on arrival because he has repeatedly called for a “truce” in the culture wars. The other side, notably the relentless, determined and vicious gay lobby, isn’t about to lay down arms for anybody for any reason at any time. If only one side calls a timeout, that’s not a truce, it’s a surrender. The conservative movement cannot afford a general who has already run up the white flag on all the important cultural issues. He’s toast.
Haley Barbour, by all accounts, has done an excellent job as governor of Mississippi. His response to Katrina lacked all the theatrics and hysteria of Louisiana’s then-governor, and his response to the Gulf oil spill likewise was businesslike and effective. He’s built up enormous street cred nationwide by the job he’s done as head of the Republican Governor’s Association.
The out-of-the-mainstream media did a hatchet job on him recently with regard to his comments about his childhood in Yazoo City, MS, making him out to be someone who is either obtuse or a closet racist. Neither are true, but as Sarah Palin has discovered, when the ranters on the left target someone, they can eviscerate them before the truth has pulled its pants on.
Haley is a good ol’ boy from the South, and his accent will probably do him in if the media doesn’t finish him off first. In order to govern, you first of all must be elected, and his accent likely will make him appear to be a little too provincial for too many parts of the country.
Sen. Thune likewise has strong evangelical roots, and appears to be a man of unimpeachable integrity. However, it’s hard to point to any issue on which he has clearly staked out a position and gone on point to promote it. He’s a cipher to most of America, at a time when America needs someone who is without question a decisive leader. And his record on the ethanol boondoggle is abysmal. Ethanol is a scam, too expensive to compete with fossil fuels without massive subsidies, hard on equipment, and responsible for more carbon emissions than gasoline (if those things matter to you). Thune’s only realistic chance is to be the last man standing.
John Bolton belongs in the next conservative administration, but not as president. He will be needed in the areas of national security and intelligence, and is a pretty smart fella when it comes to all that. But most of the American people have no idea who he is, and nobody knows where he stands on almost the entire range of domestic issues.
The narrows the field down considerably, essentially to Rep. Mike Pence and Herman Cain.
Cain will need to establish clear public positions on gays in the military (would he be in favor of reinstating the ban on homosexual service?), special rights for homosexuals (does he oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act?), and natural marriage (will he vigorously defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and roll back President Obama’s executive decisions to give spousal benefits to gay federal employees?).
(Full disclosure: Herman Cain has a weekly radio show on the American Family Radio Talk network, the network on which my daily radio show airs.)
My prediction is that Herman will declare his candidacy at the upcoming CPAC, and hit the ground running.
Herman can energize a room full of genuine conservatives better than anyone, perhaps even better than Sarah Palin. He has an unusual capacity to energize grassroots conservatives, I mean to energize them passionately and enthusiastically. Although he is largely unknown at this point, outside of the Tea Party movement, where he is an icon, once people start finding out about him and listening to him they will love him and will work as hard for him as President Obama’s acolytes worked for him in 2008. Herman won a March Madness-type presidential bracket face-off, sponsored by Red State, beating Sarah Palin handily in the finals. Believe me, attentive conservatives know who he is and love what they see.
As a businessman (he had a long and successful business career, including a stint leading the Godfather’s Pizza chain to new heights of profitability) he knows how disastrous progressive economic policies are to job creation and entrepreneurship, and will bring a fierce dedication to dismantling the clumsy and wrongheaded policies of this administration that are crippling American business and prolonging the recession. You want to see a fix for unemployment, Herman’s your man.
Plus, it would be delicious to see two African-Americans duke it out for the Oval Office. Left-wingers will feebly attempt to play the race card, labeling Herman a traitorous Uncle Tom, but a withering stare from Herman will make short work of that.
Mike Pence has three salient things going for him. He has virtually impeccable conservative credentials, is well-liked by everybody, and looks presidential. He is wildly popular with grassroots conservatives. I was impressed with how enthusiastically he was greeted at the Values Voter Summit last fall, where he handily won the presidential straw poll.
He has gotten his mind right on ethanol subsidies, voting against the pork-laden farm bill in 2007 and 2008, and against the 2007 energy bill that increased the Renewable Fuel Standard to 36 billion gallons by 2022, a bill which will cripple the economy, raise energy prices for every American family, and put thousands more out of work.
He’s demonstrated his conservative independence from big government Republicans consistently, standing on principle even when the winds were blowing the other way. Pence voted against the dismal Ted Kennedy-authored No Child Left Behind act, and bucked President Bush and party poobahs again by voting against the Medicare expansion of 2003, which was the largest expansion of an entitlement program in the history of the United States.
He is working vigorously to defund Planned Parenthood, which is the leading baby butcherer in America and is currently scamming American taxpayers for more than $300 million a year.
Critics will point out that no one has made the leap from the House of Representatives to the Oval Office since 1880. Fine. All that proves is that it can be done.
And Pence’s personality is such that nobody has any visceral dislike for him, a rarity for a conservative leader in American politics. That, of course, will change dramatically when and if he becomes the conservative standard-bearer, but the American people will see on the stump a good and decent man who cares deeply about the things that matter to them. He’ll be able to cut through the fog generated by the rabid wingers in the left-wing media, talk right over their heads, and connect directly with ordinary Americans, who to the distress of our cultural elites, will actually choose our next president.
So bottom line, when the dust has cleared, Mike Pence is probably the man for 2012. If Pence decides to run for governor of Indiana instead, as rumored, then it’s Herman in 2012 and Pence in either 2016 or 2020. Then it’s Bobby Jindal in 2020 or 2024. Take heart, conservatives - we’ve got champion horses in the stable, ready to run for the roses.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)