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The Secret Truth About the GOP Primary Field: There are Only Two Real Candidates

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I have been saying this for a while now, so I might as well put it down in writing: Of the announced Republican candidates for president, there are only two who can credibly win both the Republican party’s nomination and the general election: Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.

I take a historical view regarding these things. History teaches us much, if we are willing to learn from it. And here is what history teaches us: Members of the House of Representatives do not win presidential nominations, or if they somehow manage to do so, they do not win the general election. I believe there is exactly one exception to this rule, Abraham Lincoln, in our nation’s history. And that was roughly a century and a half ago. (Note: John Quincy Adams was elected the House after his presidency, but he had been a senator prior to that.) Based on this, Rep. Michele Bachmann will not be the nominee. Maybe the VP nominee, but not the presidential nominee.

Likewise, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will not be the nominee. Nor will Rep. Ron Paul be the nominee. Nor will former representative Newt Gingrich. (Although Gingrich was more than just a congressman, he was speaker of the House. Still, his campaign is in tatters, so we can safely disregard him anyway.)

The presidential nominee is almost always a former or current governor, a former or current senator, a former or current vice president, or a war hero general. As in, very close to 100% of the time. David Petraeus and Norman Schwarzkopf are not running, so we can rule out the war hero general possibility. Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle and George H. W. Bush are not running, so we can rule out the former VP possibility. So we are down to former/current governors and senators.

Therefore, the possibilities are:

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, current Texas Governor Rick Perry, current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Those are, unless some complete dark horse unexpectedly enters the race, the only possibilities.

So. Huntsman can’t win the nomination because he’s basically a RINO who happily worked in the Obama administration, so he’s out. Johnson is a bit of a kooky libertarian who is polling at about 1 percent, so he’s out. Most people don’t even realize that Roemer is running, so he’s out. Rick Santorum is polling at about 2 percent, and was thrashed as an incumbent senator in a purple state by nearly 20 points in his last election bid, so he’s out. Palin and Perry and Christie haven’t announced they are running, so we can ignore them unless or until they do.

So our realistic options, and the field stands today, are: Pawlenty or Romney. (If Perry, Palin, and/or Christie enter at some point, then include them as well.)

But that’s it. Those are the choices. Mitt or Tim. Deal with it.

(Note: Republican candidate Herman Cain is a successful businessman. But he’s never held elective office. The last time the GOP went that route was in 1940, with a fellow named Wendell Willkie. Never heard of him? That’s understandable, because he lost.)

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About RJ

  • sgt

    Um, you obviously have never heard Tim Pawlenty give a speech… it’s embarrassing.

    I think Jon Huntsman, if he ever gets more name recognition, has a chance.

  • zingzing

    “He’s a one term wonder.”

    one would think one would become wiser about making political predictions after a while. 16 months is a long time from now. if things stand as they do today, and bachmann leads the field, good luck. actually not. bad luck! that devil woman has no place in that office. i read an article about her husband’s work today. seems he gets state and federal funding to turn gay people straight. yay! go gop! you’re doing such fucking good work.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ratman –

    Bachmann’s smarter than Palin (which admittedly isn’t saying much), but her extremist remarks of the past are going to come back to haunt her. The Republican base may well nominate her for President – but there ARE more Dems than Republicans (which is why the Republicans work so hard to disenfranchise voters), and the fact that she’s on the ticket would (hopefully) work towards a great turnout among the Dems. Thanks to the Republican War on Hispanic Immigrants, we might even win Texas this time, even with their perennial gerrymandering.

    No, I’m not too worried about the next election if it’s anywhere close to fair. What keeps me up at night are the Republican efforts to change votes, disenfranchise voters, and change vote totals, evidence for which can be found at the link I gave above.

    Remember, the Republicans were SO worried about the voter registration fraud (a misdemeanor, btw) by a few of ACORN’s foot soldiers, even though not one fraudulent vote was ever found that could be connected with ACORN’s workers’ misdeeds –

    – but they get REAL quiet when we start pointing out their election fraud – a major felony – that they’ve been committing over the years.

    They believe in the Tea Party darling Allen West’s maxim – “If you find yourself in a fair fight, then your tactics suck.” That’s why they do NOT want a fair election, and that it is their patriotic duty to swing the vote by any means whatsoever to their side.

    I can find no other explanation for their nationwide efforts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    He might be – if the Republicans are able to keep our economy from getting any better. How many jobs bills has the Republican House entered since they took over? Zero. They do not care about jobs. All they care about is regaining the White House. It’s as Mitch McConnell said yesterday – the defeat of Obama in the next election is the first priority. Not jobs, not an improvement in the economy, not our national security – just defeat Obama. All else is secondary to the Republican party. That’s what it’s been since he took the oath of office (remember the ‘honeymoon’ that all other first-term presidents got? Obama sure didn’t get one!)

    My neo-con friend told me several years ago – it’s all about power. He was half right – to the Republicans, it IS all about power. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t have cheered when Obama wasn’t able to bring the Olympics to America.

    It’s the Republican Party Uber Alles…and they seem to think that tyranny can’t be tyranny if it’s wearing a flag and bearing a cross.

  • Ratman

    William Jennings Bryan was nominated three times by the Democrats, and lost three times. John Davis was nominated by the Democrats to run against an incumbent Coolidge, and also lost.

    Nobody said Bachmann can win against Obama, but she’s looking likely to win Iowa and South Carolina, and then the nomination. She’ll make Goldwater look like a winner.

  • Clavos

    …unless there’s a real economic catastrophe…

    It’s already underway. We’re living it.

    He’s a one term wonder.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joe –

    As I said above:

    But as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m no longer bullish on America even if Obama wins. Call it what you will, but corporate greed has America by the short-and-curlies, and our politicians (including Obama, for all his good intentions) are not strong enough to resist them.

  • Mauro

    There is no real reason other than luck for why Representatives don’t become presidential nominees. Maybe it hasn’t happened much in the past, but it is extremely silly to discount the possibility of a nominee on that basis. Superstition has no place here, sorry.

  • zingzing

    “Seriously, is Obama not just continuing the whole new world order thing?”


  • Joe Mama

    Glenn I think you need to acknowledge that proving Cannon wrong about the Republican party (or at least the one’s in control) being diverse in thought and action does not automatically prove him wrong in stating the the Democrats vote like drones.

    I certainly appreciate his sentiment. I dream of a day where the Republican party is controlled by people who actually believe in the stuff the party was supposed to stand for.

    But anyhow, the important point is that we need to realize that there is no difference between the two parties. One is Coke and one is Pepsi. They each know which buttons to press to appeal to their target audience, but at the end of the day you get cola. Now that I think of it, cola is a decent analogy. Tastes real sweet up front, but ultimately full of empty calories. Also plenty of carbonation. 🙂

    Seriously, is Obama not just continuing the whole new world order thing? Bush Sr. must be so proud!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Good call on Petraeus, though – I hadn’t thought of that. A ticket with Petraeus as Prez or VP would be hard to beat.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    You’re right – I do not predict a Paul win. I think the mainstream GOP will still be able to resist the Tea Party and the libertarians who support Paul. I think it will be Romney/Bachmann and – unless there’s a real economic catastrophe in the meantime (like defaulting on our debt (ahem!)) – Obama will win reelection.

    But as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m no longer bullish on America even if Obama wins. Call it what you will, but corporate greed has America by the short-and-curlies, and our politicians (including Obama, for all his good intentions) are not strong enough to resist them.

  • RJ


    Oh, this shit again?

  • RJ


    Eh, it’s a stretch to say that a military general is “part” of an administration. But now that he’s becoming CIA head, you’re right.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop’s #3 is priceless. it’s almost as mythical as that time the gop fought the dem’s wretchedly successful attempts (in 2002 and 2006) to pass the patriot act above gop howls of “liberty” and “freedom.” almost.

    it truly is like he’s got the whole world reversed. if there’s any party with solidarity when it comes to voting, it’s certainly the gop. breaking from orthodox is a dangerous game on the right.

  • Baronius

    Thaddeus and Captain –

    I notice that neither of you predict a Paul win. Thaddeus says only that Paul would be the best candidate. Captain cites Paul’s success in debate polls, but then points out that it didn’t help him last time. So, do either of you think that he could win the nomination?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc #14 –

    You called it – I couldn’t let this one get by without swinging for the fences….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    “Captain Obvious” –

    You really think Ron Paul’s the only real GOP candidate? You might be right – but not for the reason you think.

    1 – In the late ’80s and early 90’s Ron Paul wrote plainly racist opinions in HIS name, in HIS byline in HIS magazine. He says he didn’t write them, but even if he didn’t, he certainly allowed them to be written and is responsible for them.

    2 – Ron Paul has stated that the Civil Rights Act was NOT about civil rights, but about property, and that he believes that business owners should be allowed to discriminate on basis of race. Oh, he deplores racism (of course), but, he says, discrimination on the basis of race should be the right of a business owner. Seeing as how as late as 2005 Tyson Foods was still discriminating on the basis of race (whites-only bathrooms), there’s quite a few people who would support his belief.

    3 – Earlier this year, a poll showed that in Mississippi, a majority of Republican voters believe that interracial marriage should be banned. Having grown up there, I’m not real surprised at this one.

    Now add those three facts – and they are FACTS – to the fact that the vast majority of Republican and Tea Party rallies and conventions are almost completely lily-white, and what do you have?

    You have in Ron Paul the IDEAL Republican candidate for president.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Read Joe’s #10:

    Moderates have been forced out as RINOs.

    That’s precisely what the link shows that I provided for you!

    But you know what? That won’t change your mind. It doesn’t matter that the facts do not support what you believe – you will not change your mind. You do not care what the evidence shows because anything that shows different from what you believe MUST be (in your eyes) a lie.

    Here’s a wonderful example – do you personally think taxes are too high? Probably – because that’s what most Republicans think. But the EVIDENCE is that our total tax burden under Obama is LOWER now than at any time in the past fifty years, including under ANY of the Republican presidents therein!

    But will that change your mind? Will that cause you to question Republican dogma that Tax Cuts Are The Cure For All That Ails You?

    No. You will not question what you have been told to believe, even though the evidence STRONGLY shows that what you believe is very, very wrong.

  • James Garfield was the last president elected from the House of Representatives.

    And look what happened to him.

    Impressive beard though.

  • ‘…doesn’t stand a chance’, ‘Fringe’, Kooky’… all the ad hominem propaganda by the elites in the media and upper echelons of the party can’t take away from the fact that Ron Paul is the ONE candidate that…

    Oh, crikey, here we go…

  • Baronius

    RJ – Petraeus was/is/will be (I forget) part of the administration, but he could have the GOP VP nomination with just a smile and a flutter of eyelashes.

  • RJ


    You’re right! Thanks for pointing that out. My mistake.

  • RJ


    Thanks. I just cannot imagine the GOP primary electorate nominating someone who was a part of the Obama administration. That just seems like a deal-killer, right there.

  • Joe

    Cannonshop demonstrates very well the right wing tactic of “projection.” That is, projecting your weakness onto your opponent. The Republican Party is ASTOUNDINGLY good at message control and lockstep voting. Look at all the overtures and compromises that were done during the health care reform debate to get one or two republican senate votes. Look at how nothing short of a 60 seat supermajority allows anything substantive to get done in the Senate. Look at how the house republicans are holding the nation hostage over the debt ceiling. Look at how the 1993 omnibus budget act was passed without a single republican vote. There’s a reason the republicans get basically everything they want when they’re in power – they don’t have to herd the cats like the democrats do – they don’t have to bring together any sort of disparate ideology. They have the right and the far-right, and that’s it. Moderates have been forced out as RINOs.

  • Peter O

    James Garfield was the last president elected from the House of Representatives.

  • Cannonshop

    Glenn, it doesn’t matter what they are individually-when it comes to election day, Democrats do what the party tells them to.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    For anyone who is puzzled at the way the Republican mindset thinks, Cannonshop provides a WONDERFUL example:

    Republicans are too diverse a bunch for that to work, unlike Democrats who basically think and vote with one mind, in lockstep, a trait that is endemic to a belief in the unchallenged virtue of Central Planning, the power of “experts” and the importance of “consensus”.

    This is from a Republican who KNOWS how the GOP has voted IN LOCKSTEP for much of the past two years, who KNOWS that the Republicans in Congress essentially had to pledge to never consider raising taxes or be effectively expelled from the fold.

    But what does he do? Falsely accuse the Democrats of doing what his own party excels in doing! That, people, is how they can believe that taxes are SO high…when they’re they lowest they’ve been in half a century!

    Hey Cannonshop – GET A CLUE! A plurality of the Democratic voters are moderates! Twelve percent of Democratic voters are CONSERVATIVES (which is how we get “blue-dog Democrats in Congress).

    Can the same thing be said for the Republican party? As the article makes clear, no.

    Cannonshop, before you make sweeping assumptions, at least try to verify what you believe against the hard, cold facts rather than assuming that the people you don’t like are as bad as you are assuming they are.

  • Baronius

    RJ, good article. I think you’re wrong to write off Huntsman the way you did, though. There are people who perceive Huntsman as a RINO, but the same is true for Romney and Pawlenty (and Perry and Christie, and for all I know, Palin).

  • Captain Obvious

    Pawlenty and Romney are a joke. The only REAL candidate is Ron Paul. That’s why he keeps winning every realtime republican debate poll, in both this AND the last election. Then leave it to the mainstream schills to then change the numbers and pretend it didn’t happen.

    That alone should be the wake-up call to how the world is and has been run. Stalin said it best: “It’s not the vote that counts, it who counts the votes.”

    The global elite fear a man like Ron Paul getting in becuase the philosophy he endorses puts the powers that be out in the streets, and puts the evereyday man back in power of his own life.

    I’m tired of all these fools supporting this military industrial complex, either out of ignorance, or out of greed. That’s why you all scoff at Ron Paul. You either know his agenda exactly and fear it for your own power loss, or you’re just a sheep that has brainwashed that the global elite Bush/Obama types will keep you safe.

  • ‘…doesn’t stand a chance’, ‘Fringe’, Kooky’… all the ad hominem propaganda by the elites in the media and upper echelons of the party can’t take away from the fact that Ron Paul is the ONE candidate that actually makes SENSE on Economic issues. He is also the ONLY candidate with the intellectual capability and cojones to take a comprehensive view of America, tying foreign, domestic, social and economic policies into a coherent model, and proposing specific and meaningful policies to correct and strengthen America in ALL of those areas.

    When talking about the economy and economics in general, most of the so-called ‘Conservatives’ seem to only be able to spew talking points- most of which seem cribbed from speeches Ron Paul has been giving (and writing books about) for the last 30 or so years! Why is it that when Ron Paul speaks extemporaneously on economic, foreign policy and social issues, that he can actually MAKE SENSE and explain the reasons for his views? Conversely, why is it that most of the other candidates speak only in ‘bumper sticker’ sound bites, or seemingly regurgitate the talking points that their ‘handlers’ have rehearsed with them?

    ‘Serious’ Candidates? Romney would give us a third term of Bush/Obama corporatism. Pawlenty is a recycled neo-con throwback that is trying to court the ‘Religious Right’ as if it is still 1994. Ron Paul is the only ‘SERIOUS’ candidate when it comes to intellect, character and working ideas to advance and restore America.

  • Cannonshop

    It’s early, and the circus hasn’t yet begun, much less progressed to the point where anyone can say with certainty that ANY of the candidates stand a chance in hell of being anything other than a sacrifice play in the Dole/McCain tradition.

    What I might suggest, however, is that anyone whom was unable to score the nomination in the last three election cycles (and tried it) probably isn’t going to have a chance in hell of winning the General election even if they somehow manage to escape the other end of the primaries intact-that aces out Romney as anything but a sacrifice play used mainly to assure the loyalists that the party’s really “trying” and “relevant”.

    Which is total hogwash. Republicans are too diverse a bunch for that to work, unlike Democrats who basically think and vote with one mind, in lockstep, a trait that is endemic to a belief in the unchallenged virtue of Central Planning, the power of “experts” and the importance of “consensus”. This gives them a distinct advantage in electoral politics, as they truly WILL vote for the Party Leadership’s choice, regardless of any other considerations.

    Republicans can’t even agree on what their leadership should BE, much less fall into lockstep as the Party of Government does.

  • zingzing

    and mitt signed universal health care into law in ma and tim tanked mn.

  • Paul