The Increasingly Thin GOP Field

By Nikki Broderick ’14, Staff Writer Even though the presidential election is a little over a year away, Republicans and Democrats alike have already been preoccupied with the question of who will get the Republican nomination. GOP nominees have been discussed, attacked, questioned and predicted to no end. There have already been eight debates since this May—18 months before the 2012 presidential elections, and we’ve already begun official debates between the candidates. So what have we learned from the field the GOP has given us so far?

First of all, we’re learning that all President Obama has to do to secure his reelection is sit back and watch his opponents destroy one another.

Remember when some Americans actually considered Donald Trump a serious candidate? After his embarrassing display, challenging whether or not President Obama was born in the United States and ultimately serving as catalyst for the public release of Obama’s birth certificate, other Republicans have started to dominate the field.

Though 2012, Republican-Candidates.org lists 16 Republican nominees, chances are you only recognize the major players: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, to name a few.

There are other Republicans trying to squeeze into the field, as well. There’s Ron Paul, for starters. But there’s also Rick Santorum (Google his name...on second thought, don’t Google that), Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman. Not one of them— with the exception of Ron Paul—has achieved significant poll numbers.

Trump was not the only presidential hopeful to embarrass himself in his bid for the GOP seat. All of the potential nominees have made a few mistakes, normally while attacking each other. Michele Bachmann condemned the HPV vaccine that Rick Perry, governor of Texas, mandated across the state. Herman Cain has made too many uninformed and embarrassing statements to count. (“If you aren’t succeeding in America, it’s your fault;” “When I’m President of the United States, I won’t know who the President of Uzibeki-beki-stan is”...need I say more?)

At first, Rick Perry looked like a good bet for Republicans: a conservative Governor from Texas who played to the Republican base. But after the racist former name of his ranch became public knowledge, and after his sub-par performances in debates (sometimes outright refusing to answer a moderator’s question), Perry’s popularity has dropped significantly.

Which leaves us with Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. Romney has been one of the forerunners since the beginning, but he rarely takes an actual lead in the polls. At debates, Romney has performed strongly, although this may be due to other candidates’ stealing the spotlight with mediocre showings and making him seem strong by comparison. So why hasn’t the Republican Party thrown much support behind Romney? His great success as governor may actually be his weakness.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney brought universal healthcare to Massachusetts, supported a woman’s right to choose and brought his state  out of debt through a series of fees on licensing and closing tax loopholes for corporations.

A few years after these strides in Massachusetts, Romney has condemned Obamacare (which shares the same public policy roots as Massachusetts’s Romneycare), has become staunchly pro-life and, shifting from the stance evidenced in his debt-saving taxation of corporations in Massachusetts, now voices the opinion that “corporations are people too.”

In his attempt to appeal more to the Republican base, Romney has undercut what made him appealing in the first place, alienating himself from the accomplishments that had been fundamental to his success as a governor of Massachusetts. Romney, like other GOP candidates, is attempting to play to the Republican conservative base, to the Tea Party and to anyone else with a Republican agenda that will listen. They’ve thrown moderation out the window.

Until the Republican nominee is chosen, these politicians will continue to turn against one another—and against themselves— to prove that they are the truest representations of the Republican Party. But what will all this Republican positioning produce in the general election?

It will produce (even more) inconsistencies in these politicians’ portrayals of themselves. The Republican nominee will have to backtrack over his or her conservative leanings and attempt to convince newscasters and America that of course moderation on some issues is necessary.

Unless someone steps it up, this next presidential election is going to be a landslide. It’ll almost be too easy for President Obama. But he’ll surely enjoy the view from the Oval Office for the next four years.