The 2008 presidential campaign started early and seemed to last forever. Part of that was probably due to the ineligibility of the incumbent to run for reelection and the disinterest of the incumbent Vice President in seeking a promotion. We currently find ourselves closing in on the 2010 mid-term elections, and there’s already considerable buzz about who will be battling for the Republican nomination in 2012. There’s even been some suggestion that President Obama could face a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination. I expect that the Battle of 2012 will start to heat up around January of 2011, if not sooner. Don’t the next two years sound like fun?
Unfortunately, I live in Ohio. We have a relatively late (May) primary, so by the time we get to vote, the candidates that I really liked have been eliminated. If I learned anything from the 2008 election results, it is this: Never judge a politician by what he or she says during a campaign. Rather, judge them by their votes on legislation and/or actions as an executive to measure their governing philosophy. It’s not what they say, but what they do that defines who they are.
My tentative support at this point is split between three governors: Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, and Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Mitt Romney says all the right things, but I have trouble reconciling what he says with what he did as Governor of Massachusetts. The one thing that Romney clearly seems capable of is surrounding himself with competent people and coordinating their actions. If, after four years of Obama governance, the country needs to be rescued, Romney may very well be the best man for the job. I like Sarah Palin, but I have a hard time getting past the way she abandoned her post as Governor of Alaska. Mike Huckabee turned me off with the way he teamed up with John McCain against Romney in 2008, and I never quite felt comfortable with his positions on taxation, crime, and foreign policy. That leaves a pair of legislators on my early list: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Gingrich was the architect of the 1994 Republican Congress, but he quickly become a lightning rod of negatives, with every Democratic candidate in 1998 morphing pictures of their opponents into a picture of Gingrich. As for Santorum, he seems nice enough and says the right things, but he endorsed Arlen Specter over Pat Twomey, and I am loathe to turn the reins of government over to another Senator.
So there you have my very early assessment. We’ll see whether any of my top three is still around by the time that May 2012 rolls ‘round.