The USA is in the early stage of its primary elections to narrow down the number of Republican presidential hopefuls to just one. Michelle Bachmann, the congresswoman from the state of Minnesota, suffered a hard blow with a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Wisely, she has ended her campaign, but has not yet endorsed any of her former rivals.
It is good to see that the Republicans in Iowa had dumped Bachmann, a highly polarizing politician since becoming a congresswoman in 2006. Her biting condemnations of Democrats - and of tax increases, big government, the health care law and government spending - and hawkish and pro-Israeli remarks on international affairs show that she would have been a very poor choice for the White House, let alone a dangerous one, if she was ever elected to the highest office in the country.
The field of Republican candidates now includes only six candidates. They are Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. In spite of spending millions in ad campaigns, Romney barely won over Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, thus once again showing that many Republicans are not comfortable with his Mormon religious faith. His moderate stances on gay rights and abortion also concern conservatives. He remains, however, a Republican Party establishment favorite and has lately been endorsed by Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate who had lost his bid against Obama in 2008. It is believed that he will do a better job in New Hampshire, next to the state of Massachusetts where he once was a governor. With his right-leaning conservative talks, pro-Israeli and warmongering remarks on world affairs, he has been courting support within the grass-root Republicans who make up the majority of voters in these primaries.
After a close second finish in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania (PA), is immensely energized in his campaign. Before losing to Bob Casey, Jr. in the PA senate race, he was the third-ranking Senate Republican, one of his party's fastest-rising stars and a brash favorite among social conservative. He had a staunchly conservative voting record in the Senate, and is a hawk on foreign affairs. He is loathed by liberals and independents and has little chance of winning against Obama, if he was to win the Republican ticket. The best he can hope for is a second spot in the Republican ticket, and that seems to be his strategy.
Rick Perry, the longest serving Governor of the state of Texas, once a favorite amongst both social conservatives and the Tea Party movement, especially the Christian evangelicals, had a very poor performance in the Iowa caucuses. He finished fifth. His awful mumblings in the debates have shown that he is not a presidential material. Although initially rumored to quit the race soon after Iowa results, he has decided to continue his bid. With elections coming into the more conservative southern states (the so-called Bible Belt), e.g., in places like South Carolina, he, with strong southern roots, is hoping for a better result that would catapult him to a frontrunner position once again. If he fails to come in the top in the first couple of southern states, it is widely believed that he would drop out of the race.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia, had a dismal fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. He claimed to be "Romney-voted" (much like how the Democratic candidate John Kerry was 'Swift-voted' by Bush Jr. supporters in the 2004 presidential election), with a barrage of negative ads against him from Mitt Romney. Before the Iowa results, he was riding high with a front-runner status. He vowed to continue on to New Hampshire. As I noted elsewhere, he has serious character flaws, and is one of his party's best-known and most polarizing figures. He is a hypocrite, and acknowledged having an extramarital affair with Callista Bisek, then a House staff member and now his wife, while leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying about his own sexual transgressions. As we have seen in Iowa, his lack of a well-established association with religious conservatives, and questions about his two divorces, could make him a less favorable candidate amongst some conservative Republicans. With his warmongering mentality, while a chicken-hawk himself, much like Bush Jr., he is a dangerous person to end up in the White House. Even if were to ever succeed in winning his party's nomination, he has little chance of ever winning the presidential election.
Jon Huntsman, Jr., the former two-term governor from the state of Utah, did not campaign in Iowa and has instead been campaigning strongly in New Hampshire. He has significant foreign policy experience. He speaks Mandarin fluently from his time as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. He served in diplomatic positions in the two Bush administrations and as ambassador to China under President Obama. On a personal level, he is a moderate on social issues, and immensely popular with many Democrats and independents. With an impressive record overall he could be a formidable contender for a one-to-one race against Obama. However, he is a moderate (and a Mormon), which can hurt his chances winning the Republican ticket in this era of polarization. If he decides later to run as an independent, there is little doubt that he would hurt Obama's chances of getting reelected badly.
This leaves us with Ron Paul, the senior Congressman from the state of Texas, who has rightly been dubbed as the "intellectual godfather of the Tea Party." He is a very wise man, a first-rate intellectual, and a good Christian. During his 20 years in Congress, Paul has established himself as an outspoken critic of American foreign and monetary policy, and rightly so. He is widely known for his libertarian positions on a host of political and social issues. He is most popular amongst young voters, especially among college-age voters. Although the Tea Party movement echoes Paul on fiscal issues, some of its Palin-Bachmann like shallow and obtuse folks are very uncomfortable with his so-called isolationist stance on international affairs. Many of these Tea Party conservatives are not on board with his beliefs about scaling back the United States military worldwide. However, outside (probably) Jon Huntsman, Jr., Ron Paul remains the last, best hope for renouncing America's worst and reclaiming her greatness.
When a patient requires surgery to save it, nothing short of it will do any good. Thanks to the pyrrhic wars started by Bush Jr. and continued by Obama, the USA is now dying! She requires surgery and not a band-aid to save itself. A drastic change is required in the top with fresh new ideas and thinking, and not Obamesque mesmerizing and hypocritical sound-bytes. As I see it, outside Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, Jr., none of the candidates has what it would take to conduct that necessary life-saving surgery in the heart of the USA. Come November while I don't see myself voting for President Obama, one thing for sure, as an independent, I won't vote for any of the Republican candidates unless it is either Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman, Jr.
It is simply unlikely that either party can hope to win the next election without massive support from the independents. Thus, if the Republican voters are serious about a change in the White House, they better wise up by nominating a candidate that the independent voters won't mind voting for. Since the next election should also be about the direction the Americans would like their nation to follow in the coming years so as not to hastily embrace the fate of the falling Roman Empire, any urge to go back to the pyrrhic, gung-ho days of Bush would be not only insane, it would be utterly suicidal.
Will the Republican voters take heed as they weed out undesirables like Bachmann?
Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored 10 books. His latest book - Devotional Stories - is now available from A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.