Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Friday Line: Ten Republicans To Watch
The great thing about elections is that as soon as the last one ends, the next one begins.
Everywhere the Fix goes these days -- and by everywhere we mean the office, Starbucks and the gym to play basketball -- people want to know: Who's next?
Who are the faces that will emerge to rebuild the Republican party following its decimation at the ballot box in 2006 and 2008? (The ugly totals: 54 seats lost in House, 13 seats -- at least -- in the Senate and a little thing called the White House.)
So, to slake the thirst of Fixistas across the country (heck, around the world) we are going to start ranking the 10 Republicans to keep an eye on over the coming months and years.
To be clear, this is not -- and should not be taken as -- a list of potential contenders to take on Barack Obama in 2012. Some of the people on this list will certainly be in the Republican field in four years time but others almost certainly won't.
The most notable omission is that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. While we expect the former vice presidential nominee will be on this Line in the coming months, she doesn't make it this time around because it is not yet clear how she will find a way to remain in the national dialogue from her far-away outpost in the Last Frontier. Palin is also VERY lightly regarded by many of the opinion leaders and establishment types within the GOP, making it tougher for her to command a leading role.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is also not on the Line -- not because we don't think he is considering a 2012 bid (he is) but because as of today it's not clear what his niche is within the party. His fresh-faced appeal and shtick (and don't get us wrong, we love shtick) may not wear so well a second time around.
The common thread for membership on this list, which was compiled based on a series of conversations with Republican operatives and the Fix's own analysis, is that each of these individuals will have a role to play in the conversation about where the party heads between now and 2010.
Agree or disagree with our picks? Feel free to offer suggestions of your own in the comments section below.
To the Line!
10. Steve Poizner: Poizner, the Insurance Commissioner of California, has an early head-start on being the Republican nominee for governor in 2010. And, if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) decides not to run, Poizner's ability to self-fund a campaign coupled with his relatively short time in elected office and his outsider message could make him viable in the general election. As California goes, so goes the country.
9. Haley Barbour: There are those who mention Barbour's name for the 2012 GOP nomination. We are decidedly skeptical about that -- will the country be ready for a man who had a hand in inventing modern-day lobbying in Washington? -- but Barbour is clearly someone to watch. Remember that before he became governor of Mississippi in 2003, Barbour was one of the leading political operatives in the country and has tentacles (and acolytes) all over the country. That makes him a force to be reckoned with.
8. Jon Huntsman Jr.: As The Fix was waiting to meet with Huntsman on Thursday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer was touting him as a rising star in Republican politics. Nice convergence. Huntsman won re-election earlier this month with 78 percent (granted it was in ruby red Utah) and has the looks and re&eaccute;sum&eaccute; -- fluent in Chinese, progressive on the environment -- that could make him appealing for a party looking desperately for a different profile. Huntsman is a Mormon, however, and, as Mitt Romney demonstrated earlier this year, that could be a major problem if he decides to run for president.
Cantor's rapid rise make him one to watch in the GOP. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
7. Eric Cantor: The Virginia Republican's unfettered rise through the ranks of House leadership continued earlier this week when he was elected Minority Whip -- the second ranking position within the GOP. Cantor was among those vetted in John McCain's vice presidential search and his personal background -- a Jewish Republican -- will be intriguing for many within the party looking for something new. Cantor's problem: Is the House too small a perch from which to become a national figure?
6. Mark Sanford: South Carolina's Sanford is the newly elected chair of the Republican Governors Association, a useful job through which to raise one's national profile. Since McCain's loss earlier this month, Sanford has been a leading voice for the party to return to the principles of former President Ronald Reagan; "Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty," wrote Sanford in an op-ed piece for CNN.com. "But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles." Sanford's reform credentials are impeccable but he has, throughout his career, rubbed the party establishment wrong, which could hurt him as he seeks a broader role.
5. Bob McDonnell: McDonnell, Virginia's attorney general, will be the Republican standard-bearer in the Commonwealth's gubernatorial race in 2009. Off-year statewide elections are always looked to by the two parties as litmus tests for how each side is doing, and the fact that this campaign will take place in the purple state of Virginia makes McDonnell all the more important. If he wins, it will be seen as a sign that the Republican party is alive and well and living in Virginia. If he loses, he'll join the Jerry Kilgore Hall of Fame.
4. Mitch Daniels: Even as Obama was pulling off a stunning win in the Hoosier State at the presidential level, Daniels was cruising to reelection by 18 points. At the end of the campaign, Daniels pledged in a television ad that he would never run for another office but even if he stays true to his word, his experience in 2008 makes him a valuable commodity for Republicans. While Daniels's ties to George W. Bush won't help him -- he served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2003 -- his electoral success in a critical Midwest battleground means Daniels has a seat at the table.
3. Mitt Romney: Discount the former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate at your own peril. Romney has three big things going for him: he is, by almost anyone's account, an expert on the American economy; he is incredibly ambitious and will work harder than almost anyone to make sure his voice is heard; and he has immense personal wealth and a willingness to spend it. Do his flip-flops on social issues (and his Mormonism) still make social conservatives queasy? You bet. But Romney is in the mix and will aim to stay there.
John Thune could be the face and voice of the GOP opposition. (AP Photo/Doug Dreyer)
2. John Thune: The South Dakota Senator is incredibly well positioned to emerge as the telegenic voice of the Obama opposition. Thune is part of a group of young and aggressive Republican senators who will look to take the fight to Obama and Senate Democrats over the next two years. It doesn't hurt Thune that he is already a revered figure among conservatives after ousting former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Thune's problem is that conventional wisdom within the party already seems to be settling on the idea that the GOP governors need to lead Republicans out of the wilderness in which they currently find themselves.
1. Bobby Jindal: There is NO hotter commodity in the Republican party these days than Jindal. Jindal is the rare candidate who both reformers and establishment types find appealing, and as a 37-year-old Indian American he is -- literally and figuratively -- the sort of new face the party is pining for. While Jindal is hot right now, it's important to remember that he is the governor of a state with a complex political scene -- meaning there will be myriad opportunities for Jindal to falter over the next few months and years
Friday, November 7, 2008
Election Analysis: America Can Take Pride In This Historic, Inspirational Disaster
Although I have not always been the most outspoken advocate of President-Elect Barack Obama, today I would like to congratulate him and add my voice to the millions of fellow citizens who are celebrating his historic and frightening election victory. I don't care whether you are a conservative or a liberal -- when you saw this inspiring young African-American rise to our nation's highest office I hope you felt the same sense of patriotic pride that I experienced, no matter how hard you were hyperventilating with deep existential dread.
Yes, I know there are probably other African-Americans much better qualified and prepared for the presidency. Much, much better qualified. Hundreds, easily, if not thousands, and without any troubling ties to radical lunatics and Chicago mobsters. Gary Coleman comes to mind. But let's not let that distract us from the fact that Mr. Obama's election represents a profound, positive milestone in our country's struggle to overcome its long legacy of racial divisions and bigotry. It reminds us of how far we've come, and it's something everyone in our nation should celebrate in whatever little time we now have left.
Less than fifty years ago, African-Americans were barred from public universities, restaurants, and even drinking fountains in many parts of the country. On Tuesday we came together and transcended that shameful legacy, electing an African-American to the country's top job -- which, in fact, appears to be his first actual job. Certainly, it doesn't mean that racism has disappeared in America, but it is an undeniable mark of progress that a majority of voters no longer consider skin color nor a dangerously gullible naivete as a barrier to the presidency.
It's also heartening to realize that as president Mr. Obama will soon be working hand-in-hand with a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard like Senator Robert Byrd to craft the incoherent and destructive programs that will plunge the American economy into a nightmare of full-blown sustained depression. As Vice President-Elect Joe Biden has repeatedly warned, there will be difficult times ahead and the programs will not always be popular, or even sane. But as we look out over the wreckage of bankrupt coal companies, nationalized banks, and hyperinflation, we can always look back with sustained pride on the great National Reconciliation of 2008. Call me an optimist, but I like to think when America's breadlines erupt into riots it will be because of our shared starvation, not the differences in our color.
It's obvious that this newfound pride is not confined to Americans alone. All across the world, Mr. Obama's election has helped mend America's tattered image as a racist, violent cowboy, willing to retaliate with bombs at the slightest provocation. The huge outpouring of international support following the election shows that America can still win new friendships while rebuilding its old ones, and provides Mr. Obama with unprecedented diplomatic leverage over our remaining enemies. When Russian tanks start pouring into eastern Europe and Iranian missiles begin raining down on Jerusalem, their leaders will know they will be facing a man who not only conquered America's racial divide but the hearts of the entire Cannes film community. And those Al Qaeda terrorists plotting a dirty nuke or chemical attack on San Francisco face a stark new reality: while they may no longer need to worry about US Marines, they are looking down the barrel of a strongly worded diplomatic condemnation by a Europe fully united in their deep sympathy for surviving Americans.
So for now, let's put politics aside and celebrate this historic milestone. In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago, Dr. King said "I have a dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Let us now take pride that Tuesday we Americans proved that neither thing matters anymore.