No GOP Candidate Stands Out
We’ve barely peeked into 2011, but it is not too early to consider the 2012 elections. Let the campaigns begin.
Of course, Barack Obama started campaigning long ago — some say on the day of his inauguration. A lot of us are convinced that everything he says or does is a pitch for re-election. Some things are admittedly baffling. His praise for the Eagles hiring the dog torturer Michael Vick is an example. Some agree with Obama that Vick deserves a second chance, and thus Obama’s remarks might be a good ploy for the campaign. There are, however, millions of us who are totally disgusted with Vick and transfer those feelings toward Obama.
Still, don’t rule Obama out — especially since his speech at the Tucson memorial resonated with both sides of the political mainstream. The president rose to the challenge superbly as he endeavored to bring us together in the face of a terrible tragedy. He must be commended by all for that. So he can never be ruled out.
Besides, the Republicans have a long history of nominating the wrong people for president. Witness John McCain and Bob Dole — stalwart war heroes, but neither is the stuff of which presidents are made. I can name at least a dozen Republicans who are considering and being considered to head the ticket. Each one has some strengths and some weaknesses.
Who then? It is not an easy answer, which is why early 2011 is not too early to start vetting and analyzing.
Some names, of course, pop into your head instantly: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich. But somehow I worry that each of them has had a spot in center stage and failed to get the standing ovation needed to propel them into the Oval Office. I like Newt Gingrich but, when I mentioned his name to a friend, the response was, “Too much baggage.” Could be, although that never stopped Bill Clinton.
Appearance, which should have nothing to do with qualification, hurts some potential candidates. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a pragmatic get-it-done guy, but he is overweight. As is Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor, who has a good track record in leading his party to victory. The cartoonists and bloggers could have a field day with Christie and Barbour. Sure, President Taft was grossly overweight. But nowadays, we Americans (who are more than plump, ourselves) want our president to look slim and healthy. Like Barack Obama.
One potential candidate worth a second glance is Mike Pence, an Indiana congressman who is a true conservative. He is not too well known by the rank-and-file but comes across as a real communicator (he has a broadcasting background). However, he will need some strong public relations to become a household word.
This brings up the weakest link in the Republican campaigns: public relations. I have known and worked with the finest PR people there are and have learned just how powerful they are. Some dismiss them as simply press agents, flacks that hover around media stars in the hope of getting a client’s name mentioned.
In truth, they are media’s best contacts — men and women who protect their clients’ privacy and steer them away from gaffes more often than they publicize them. To be sure, most of them, like most of the media, are liberals and thus inclined to promote Democrats. But they are also pros and will be equally loyal to conservatives who use them. Most important, they know what they are doing and should be listened to by Republicans who want to win.
The right can sneer at Madison Avenue tactics, but they work. Barack Obama knows that and must thus be recognized as a potent opponent. And then, there is Hillary Clinton.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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