While my wife does not like to miss The Biggest Loser, I am a sucker for political stories. So on Tuesday nights as she watches very large people get shouted at and lose weight, I do my due diligence on the Republican hopefuls for the 2012 Presidential election. It’s the same kind of process – a large number of people get shouted at by trainers (also known as interviewers, pundits and former candidates) and many fall off the wagon, leaving a few standing to run in the primaries. Once the primaries start, there are regular weigh ins (known as polls) and some are voted off the show. Eventually there is one left standing and he or she becomes the Biggest Loser, losing to President Obama in the actual Presidential race in November 2012.
One difference between the two shows is that the Biggest Looser weight loss show makes money and the Biggest Loser Republican show costs money. Its estimated that Obama will raise close to $1 billion to fight his campaign and that the Republicans, between them will outspend him 2:1 in the run up to November. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are buying weight loss products, too tight fitting spandex and signing up for gym membership and boosting the weight loss industry profits.
Part of the problem we have with the Republican party is that it has lost its way. Any party that can have George W Bush as its front runner has lost its way. So the traditional conservatives have formed the loose association we know as the Tea Party. This is an organization that rarely drinks tea and has made clear that it is not a Party in the sense of the Republican party, more like a network of like minded groups. They stand in favour of lower and fewer taxes, smaller government, less intrusive government and what they know as traditional conservative values – no to same sex marriage, abortion, gays in the military and immoral conduct. It is an organization Margaret Thatcher would have recognized as the conservative party she led in Britain – she drank tea and shared these values. The tea party have considerable influence over the candidates and the Republican party, as we can see.
It’s a Melee and a Muddle
At my current count there are some twelve potential candidates (some of whom have declared) and a further six who are “waiting in the wings”.
The key people, and the only serious candidates to look at, are Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. If you look at polling undertaken across the US over the last six months, these stand some chance of saving face and not losing too badly. In the most recent poll, Romney is close to Obama (he would lose by 4%) and Huckabee is next (he would lose by 6%). Both are relatively sane, articulate and moderate.
And that’s the problem. The tea party don’t like “moderate”. They want radical. They want a candidate who reflects true grit, conservative position and will cut budgets, taxes and restore American to its rightful place in the world. They get excited listening to and encouraging Sarah Palin – they think she’s not just sexy, but right. They think Donald Trump is the new Sarah Palin and is a real man, despite his hair. But they really think that Michelle Bachman, the Senator from Minnesota, combines the best of the Donald and the Sarah into one being. She is likely to be their candidate in the end, and Sarah and Donald will not find a place on the Republican ticket.
Newt Gingrich comes close to Michelle Bachman in the minds of the tea party, except for the hair. The former speaker is a thoughtful, well read and experienced politician but has the air of the night about him – like a lost ghoul searching for a victim who will willingly sit and listen to him talk for hours. The tea party people see him more as a grandfather than as an aspiring fiancé for the White House. He will not win the nomination.
Then there are at least six men who are smart, articulate but too centrist (or even left of centre) for the liking of the current party. These include John Huntsman (currently Ambassador to China, but about to return so as to run), Tim Pawlenty (former Governor of the State of Minnesota), Mitch Daniels (Governor Indiana), Hayley Barbour (Governor of Mississippi - who made clear after this was originally posted that he wouldnt run), Gary Johnson (former Governor of New Mexico) and Rick Santorum a former United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). All of these are possible contenders – Gary Johnson is already declared – but will require someone to make a major mistake before they make the ticket. One could really say that all are really running for the Vice Presidential place on the Republican ticket, though they will deny this.
If this list wasn’t enough (if you’re keeping count, we’re at twelve), there are another six possibilities that are deeper in the outfield than those listed here. They include Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of New York City), Congressman Ron Paul from Texas (again), gay rights activist and declared candidate Fred Karger, Buddy Roemer, Rudy Giuliani (yes, again) and former UN Ambassador, John Bolton. None of these will make the ticket, though I suspect some will enter the race.
So the list to date of possibilities is eighteen. Eighteen. The Biggest Looser starts with roughly this number of competitors. Their prize for the winner is health, weight loss and a $1 million in cash as well as world wide recognition. For the Republican nominee the prize is debt, losing and world wide recognition. Which do you think is the better deal?