As the first debate to feature several first-tier GOP candidates takes place tonight in Manchester, NH, it is time to reject a false media narrative.
Every day someone repeats the libel that the current and likely field of Republican presidential candidates is “weak.” This insult is written and spoken with such frequency that the perception has taken hold as the charge has crept from the lips of the elite media into the minds of Republican primary voters.
But this inconvenient fact is actually untrue.
Consider that the current field includes:
* The “frontrunner,” who was a successful governor of deep blue Massachusetts, led Bain Capital, rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after a scandal, holds joint advanced degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School and finished third in the 2008 GOP presidential race.
* A former two-term governor of Democratic-controlled Minnesota who demonstrated fiscal conservatism, leadership and reform credentials during his tenure and who was a finalist for the vice presidential nomination in 2008.
* The former speaker of the House who holds a PhD in European history and, by designing the “Contract with America,” led Republicans to the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.
* A former two-term U.S. senator (elected at 36) and two-term congressman (elected at 32) from Pennsylvania. He was elected to the #3 leadership position in the U.S. Senate by his peers and has courageously led on conservative principles for over a decade.
* A consistently successful businessman from Atlanta who has achieved success at three Fortune 500 companies, led one of the nation’s largest pizza chains from bankruptcy to profitability, beat stage-four colon cancer, and electrifies audiences everywhere he goes.
Each of these five candidates meets the threshold for being president, unquestionably. They each have demonstrated greater capacity for leadership, knowledge and achievement than most people in elective politics. And these are just the major announced candidates.
Consider the other “likely” or “possible” candidates:
* One of the most impressive and selfless public servants of his generation, he was twice elected governor of Utah, served as deputy U.S. trade representative, was the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, served in the Reagan White House and at the U.S. Department of Commerce and, in a feat of patriotism and bipartisanship, accepted an assignment offered by a president of the opposing party to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
* A three-term U.S. congresswoman who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, has three degrees and, with her husband, co-owns two businesses, is a foster parent to 23 children and a parent to five children of her own. She represents the self-identified Tea Party voters with her own brand of conservatism, previously served in the Minnesota State Senate and is the first woman elected to Congress from her state.
* The longest-serving governor in the nation, he has never lost an election, has won statewide election five times, currently leads the Republican Governors Association and boasts a job-creation record that puts his state ahead of all 49 other states combined. He defeated his state’s popular senior U.S. senator in a primary challenge in 2008 by over 20 points.
* The former governor of Alaska and the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate in 2008, she served as mayor of a sprawling and growing suburb of Alaska’s largest city, led the State’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (appointed by the governor), successfully challenged an incumbent governor in her own party (the patriarch of one of the state’s two ruling political families) and defeated a former Democratic governor to become the state’s ninth governor in 2006.
* A successful mayor of the nation’s largest city who led it through the 9/11 tragedy with strength, grit and determination. He is a former prosecutor, former associate attorney general in the Reagan administration and a former U.S. attorney, is recognized as one of the world’s leading national security experts and is a highly sought-after speaker.
Are these 10 current, likely or possible candidates for president perfect? Of course not. Many have significant political liabilities that they will need to address and overcome.
But the media-driven narrative that the Republican field is “the weakest in anyone’s lifetime” is absurd. Former and current governors, a former senator, a very successful businessman and the former mayor of New York City make up this field. They each have expressed a willingness to run, to enter the arena, and to accept the personal attacks of our political system, not because they are weak, but because they are strong.
The long list of attractive potential GOP presidential candidates is a strength, not a weakness. It shows that the candidates who passed on running in 2012 believe that others are better suited to run this time.
It may be true that at one time President Obama was expected to be re-elected. But with persistently high unemployment and the economy on the edge of a double-dip recession, that can no longer be said.
My educated guess is that the next president of the United States is in the field of current and likely candidates. Tonight we will see them debate on live television. Their strengths, collectively and individually, will be on full display.
Matt Mackowiak is a Washington and Austin, TX-based Republican consultant and founder of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators, one governor and worked on two winning campaigns. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.