As the Republican Party gears up to step into the ring and take on the President in what should be a knock-down, drag-out election, they must first select their candidate. And, who might this champion be? Who is this bastion of conservative values? Who is this titan of the right wing?
Well, it’s impossible to say — it changes from month to month.
From the beginning of the year until around April, Republican presidential hopefuls were reluctant to throw their names into the hat in fear of the dirt their potential opponents would sling at them.
Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, was one of the first to declare his intention to run. He was considered one of the front-runners, along with Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. However, in these populist times it did not take long for the former speaker’s opponents to leak dirt to the media. It started in May 2011 with leaked information about a revolving $250,000 charge account at Tiffany’s. Then a month later, Gingrich upset the populists again by taking off on a two-week Mediterranean cruise with his wife. During the trip his senior staff resigned en masse, and it seemed then that his campaign was dead in the water.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) took the reins from Gingrich in July. A Tea Party candidate, Bachmann’s strong Christian values, fiscal conservatism and tough talk led her to an August victory in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa over Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). However, due to reports of her husband’s strong anti-gay rhetoric and Gov. Rick Perry’s entrance into the race, her stay at the top was short-lived.
Perry became the next front-runner around late August and has enjoyed the second-most amount of time as a front-runner. Perry brought a feisty, animated personality to the race. He does not back down and he is always on the attack, that is, if you can get him to focus. Perry’s fall from grace was primarily caused by his poor performances at the debates; his recent performance in a debate on economics is the stuff of debate legend — quite possibly the worst gaffe since Nixon drowned in his own sweat. These poor debates have allowed yet another candidate in as a front-runner. Oops.
Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather Pizza, started out as another fringe candidate akin to Paul or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He was promoted to front-runner status when he won the Presidential 5 straw poll in Florida on Sept. 24. A charismatic speaker and “the business candidate,” Cain seemed like he had a ton of momentum going forward; it seemed like he was going to be the candidate to beat come primary season. Then two things happened that have taken nearly all of the steam out of the Cain campaign: the critical rejection of his 9-9-9 flat tax proposal and his sexual harassment allegations. Cain quickly went from being the favorite in the race to having to share the spotlight with Romney and another guy.
That guy happens to be Gingrich — the same Gingrich whose campaign was pronounced dead at the scene months ago has seen a strong push. This is due to Gingrich’s solid performances at recent debates and the total ineptitude of the candidates who have taken his spot.
Gingrich has risen to third in the most recent Gallup polls while Cain finds himself deadlocked with Romney.
Throughout the campaign season Romney has remained in the top 3 of the polls, despite his religion being called a cult and his health care reform in Massachusetts being compared to Obamacare.
The electorate has developed the candidates into almost seasonal flavors while giving plenty of cannon fodder to the Democrats and the Obama Campaign.
The Democrats did the same thing in the last election; however, the difference being that field had three very strong candidates in the debates, and they remained consistent until primary season, when it was whittled down to two.
That is not likely to happen in the Republican race, which could have as many as six candidates with a realistic shot to gain the nomination at the start of primary season.
If this keeps up, Obama may be holding up a newspaper around this time next year with the headline, “Obama beats Paul.”
Aaron Manuel is a broadcast journalism senior and may be reached at email@example.com.