Pataki 2016: A Tree Falls In The Forest

Scott Greer Contributor
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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Similarly, if George Pataki announces he’s running for president and it’s 2015, does it make a sound?

The former governor of New York announced Thursday he’s seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016, even though everyone and their mother knows he hasn’t gotten a chance in hell of entering the White House.

Pataki is currently polling at an impressive “–” and 69 percent of potential GOP voters have no clue who he is. Based on his announcement speech, they’re likely not going to be blown away by Pataki once they find out more about him.

Sweating more than an 11-year-old at a spelling bee contestant, Pataki gave a not-so-rousing speech declaring his candidacy. The most memorable part about the speech was when he awkwardly dropped some lines in Spanish, in what can only possibly be seen as some kind of attempt at outreach toward Hispanics.

But believe, it or not, Pataki en español is a part of what really eliminates the former governor as a serious contender in the GOP primary: He’s going to be running against his own party’s base when it comes to the issues.

For starters, the New York native supports a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants — a position considered wise by liberal columnists but hated by the conservative grassroots. For an issue that could very well decide who gets the Republican nomination, Pataki’s stance on it is likely not going to go over well with GOP voters. Even Marco Rubio, who was one of the “Gang of Eight” senators who crafted legislation that would have granted a pathway to citizenship is now backing away from it and running on a secure-the-border-first platform.

It’s foreseeable that Pataki will justify his position with the argument that amnesty needs to happen to win over Latino voters and he will tout winning more than a third of the Hispanic vote in the 2002 New York gubernatorial race as proof that he plays well with this demographic. But considering that Mitt Romney would have needed to win 73 percent of the Hispanic vote to tilt the scales in his favor in 2012, more than a third does not add up to victory.

Yet, Pataki wouldn’t be the only Republican running on this position, and Jeb Bush, one of the front-runners, has staked a firm stance in favor of an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But it’s not just immigration where Pataki is out of sync with the base.

On abortion, the former governor is pro-choice. More than two-thirds of Republican voters are pro-life, and 24 percent say they would not vote for a candidate that didn’t share their view on the matter.

Pro-life groups play an important role in Republican primaries, and while Republicans are moving away from social issues like gay marriage, they are fighting more and more on abortion at both the state and federal levels.

Pataki is focusing all of his attention on New Hampshire, one of the few states where the majority of Republicans are pro-choice and where his position won’t pose much of a problem. But the resurrected politico needs to win states where pro-lifers are the majority in order to win the nomination.

When it comes to gun rights, Pataki has previously supported gun control. In fact, he signed into law in 2000 what The New York Times called the “nation’s strictest gun controls.” But on this issue, the governor seems to have changed his tune on the position and recently said the country doesn’t need any more gun control than it already has. Still, the 2000 legislation doesn’t help him in the primary when other candidates have far more conservative records when it comes to gun rights.

The New York native has also wanted the federal government to take action on climate change, which is an idea 55 percent of Republicans oppose and only 32 percent support.

It’s clear that the three-term governor is going to run as a moderate, but as Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign shows, candidates who take this path against their base usually go nowhere.

Pataki has adopted “People over Politics” as his campaign slogan, and he hopes that message will win over primary voters.

But when people can’t remember who you are and your politics are out of touch with the base, you’re just another tree falling in the crowded forest of GOP candidates.