The State of American Democracy

Research-based Analysis and Commentary by the Department of Politics at the John-F.-Kennedy Institute

Monatsarchiv für Juni 2011

The GOP Field Shaping Up for 2012 But Social Conservatives Still Without A Favorite Candidate

The GOP field of contenders to challenge President Obama is taking shape as we are heading for the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election. This might look as a surprise since the election is still far ahead and will take place 17 months from now, so still a long way to go. But especially since Bill Clinton, the phenomenon of “permanent campaigning” has taken hold in the American political system, which essentially means that after a presidential or congressional election, the next cycle of campaigning already begins and incumbents and potential candidates for office start to position themselves for the next election. The same phenomenon can be currently observed in the U.S. when it comes to the 2012 presidential election. As Obama is not likely going to be challenged from within the Democratic Party, it is interesting to look at the GOP field as it is shaping up and to illustrate which candidates have already declared their ambitions to become U.S. president and which ones will still enter the race for the White House. Furthermore, an assessment of the current field will be provided and strength and weaknesses of already declared candidates and potential ones will be worked out.

Several GOP hopefuls have already declared that they have the aspiration to become the next U.S. president. Among them are former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, former governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ambassador to China under the Obama administration Jon Huntsman, Congressman and Libertarian Ron Paul, and several other less known candidates such as former Senator Rick Santorum, businessman Herbert Cain or former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. Some of these candidates such as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman are considered to be more mainstream candidates that have good connection to the GOP establishment and potential appeal to independent voters in a general election and thus are preferred by it. In contrast, others represent a certain wing of the GOP such as Ron Paul who is the figurehead of the libertarian wing or Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum who like to position themselves more in the social conservative corner – two wings that can be found in the energized Tea Party movement that has significantly influenced the GOP since its founding in late 2008. Other potential and formidable candidates that would appeal to the establishment of the party and the general electorate have already declared that they are not seeking the nomination such as Haley Barbour or Mitch Daniels due to personal reasons, but also due to the fact that Obama will be hard to beat as an incumbent and a formidable fundraiser. Even on the social conservative wing (which can be to a certain extent also considered to be the Tea Party wing) of the party, GOP hopefuls are shying away from running such as the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee who has a huge following among social conservatives and the Christian Right. Huckabee is said to have dropped out of personal reasons (he just has built a house in Florida is is earning a lot of money as a Fox News commentator), but also due to the fact that pundits predict that it will be quite difficult to beat Obama as an incumbent and Huckabee – at least in 2008 – had some difficulties in raising sufficient amounts of money to run a nation-wide credible campaign…

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