Democrats and many journalists continue to argue that the 2012 GOP presidential field is flawed and weak. There are two reasons why that view is wrong.
First, perfection in politics is a myth: There really is no such thing as a perfect presidential candidate. Candidates are human, and humans are inherently flawed.
Second, in an election where the economy is the top issue, how can a field that boasts former CEOs, several candidates with executive experience and a current governor who possesses the best jobs record in the nation over the last several years be considered weak? It can’t, particularly when these candidates are looking to unseat a president whose job approval rating is hovering in the high 30s.
Obviously, there is more at play than candidates’ records. As Shelby Steele notes, Obama’s “presidency flatters America to a degree that no white Republican can hope to compete with. He literally validates the American democratic experiment.” Nowhere is this more evident than in Gallup’s most recent presidential polling (released Aug. 22), which shows that, despite all that has gone wrong under his watch, Obama is still running even with the GOP frontrunners. Hope does spring eternal, even if patience wears thin.
As long as President Obama and congressional Democrats continue to cling to their problematic economic policies of tax, borrow and spend, America is unlikely to see strong domestic job growth in the near future, and it is certainly not going to see a dramatic improvement in the economy over the next 14 months. Given our country’s dismal economic outlook, we agree with political prognosticator Alan Abramowitz, who posits that the 2012 battle for the White House will likely be an extremely close election that could be decided by a handful of battleground states.
So how does the GOP unseat a president who has strong appeal among a broad swath of the American electorate despite the weak economy? By selecting a presidential nominee with executive experience who will keep the debate focused on jobs and the economy.
Unfortunately, selecting such a candidate will not by itself lead to Obama’s defeat in 2012. According to Republican strategist Mike Murphy, “The 2012 election is shaping up as a battle between economics and demographics,” and “The demographics of a changing America might just re-elect [Obama].” Three groups seem to be keeping President Obama’s second-term hopes afloat: Hispanics, women and independents.
If the eventual GOP nominee is going to unseat Obama, he or she will need a running mate who can make inroads with these groups, particularly in the battleground states of Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. There are several potentially strong VP candidates who could do this, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
But what looks good on paper could quickly crumble under Team Obama’s extensive opposition research arm, so the GOP nominee must choose wisely. Otherwise, Obama will likely get four more years.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.