Staying in Greenville over the weekend, I had a chance to watch some of the GOP Presidential debate and came away with a conclusion; that many on the so-call second tier would make a better President than the present occupant in the White House. There are three candidates that intrigue if only because they have a chance to play significant role in the Republican Party over the next year and beyond.
Gary Johnson won’t win or for that matter, he will be the second most popular libertarian Republican candidate; running far behind Ron Paul. His significance lies less in the number of votes he receives but the ability to project that Libertarians can actually govern effectively. Unlike Ron Paul, who has spent his political career in Congress after running for President as a Libertarian, Governor Johnson actually served two full terms as Governor in New Mexico, a tenure that included many vetoes and budget cutting. Johnson biggest claim to fame is that he supports legalization of drugs but he has shown that he can manage a state; important portion of his resume in an era in which many voters will be looking at executive experience. Johnson doesn’t just appeal on Libertarian principles but point outs that there is a cost-benefit ratio favoring small government principles.
Herman Cain is the anti-Trump, a non-politician businessman who brags about the fact he is not a politician. As the anti-Trump, Herman Cain is not a celebrity; at least among most Americans. What Cain offers is knowledge on the issues. For many years, beginning when he was an executive at Godfather Pizza, he has been involved in national politics. His first brush with national politics came when he challenged Bill Clinton during the Hillary care debate. When President Clinton told him, “Don’t worry, you will get subsidies” for the proposed employers mandate, Cain responded back, “Quite honestly, your calculations is inaccurate. In the competitive marketplace, it simply doesn’t work that way.” From that point, he became the chairman of National Restaurant Association and had a stint as a member of the Federal Reserve
Cain has spent the decade as a writer and a talk show host, which has allowed him to debate and discuss the issues. In some ways, his career path is similar to Ronald Reagan, who spent some three decades as a speaker and writer and this allowed Reagan to work out a coherent worldview before entering the White House. Cain is still in the process of working a coherent plan but certainly contrasted to Trump, Cain is more knowledgeable on the issues. In an interview with Bill O’ Reilly, Trump came off short on specifics or for that matter, understanding the issues. Trump major claim is his straight talk but his big issues were Obama’s birth certificate and slapping a tariff on China. As for Cain, he can claim business expertise for his executive experience (and no bankruptcy) and inside knowledge of how the Federal Reserve works since he served on its board; at a time when King Dollar was King Dollar!
If Cain demonstrated any weakness in the recent debate, it was in foreign affairs when he stated that he would need to talk with experts before deciding on a correct future path in Afghanistan. Cain supporters like Stacy McCain defended his answers but voters will love more details on foreign affairs as the campaign progresses. Cain advantage over Trump is two fold, he is more knowledgeable on the issues and he is likable. The latter is point that can’t be underestimated and certainly, the man showed character when he survived cancer that nearly killed him and now he is running for the President. As one pundit described noted, “He is Steve Forbes with charisma.”
Tim Pawlenty is the anti-Romney, a smooth successful governor with an easy going personality. Romney has run the campaign as he is the preempt favorite, so he has avoided any hint of combat and there is a thought that he might even avoid Iowa; just go straight to New Hampshire. Pawlenty, who was on McCain short list in 2008, is still not a household name but is putting together an organization with hope of a breakthrough in the early caucus and primary state. Iowa is his best chance to jumpstart his campaign but it won’t be easy as he seems to be everyone second choice and in a crowded field, this hurts.
While Cain helped himself with his performance in Greenville, Pawlenty did not hurt himself. Pawlenty easy going personality hides a hard edge politician who is not afraid to mix it up as he shown in fighting the left in Minnesota. His executive ranking by the Cato Institute was an A, showing that he kept his state budget in line. Maybe the best line that he used in Greenville is when he stated that he made a mistake in supporting cap and trade earlier in his career contrasting to Romney, who has yet to admit he made a mistake with Romney Care, which has led to higher cost for health care and broken the Massachusetts budget.
Pawlenty support for climate change policies in the past was his Achilles heel but he has defused by simply say, “Opps, I am wrong.” Contrast this with Romney who has to defend his own healthcare record as governor and so far has floundered in doing so. Beyond that, Pawlenty’s record will not disappoint social conservatives and his fiscal record will not disappoint Tea Partiers. George Will once wrote of Mitch Daniels, he had the “charisma of competency,” but the same can easily be said of Pawlenty.
In the case of Cain, we have a successful businessman without the celebrity status but then we already failed with our present celebrity President. In the case of Pawlenty, we have competency in a time in which just a little competency needed. As Pawlenty noted in Greenville, one correct decision does not make a foreign policy but then one decision doesn’t create sudden competency in an administration short of competency.