They won: Now what?
By John D. Turner
6 Jan 2011

The 2010 midterm elections are over. Republicans won big. Real big.

Now the 112th Congress has been sworn in. A mere two years since the Democrats publicly declared the Republican Party dead, and Democrat control continuing out as far as the eye could see, the Republicans came roaring back, handing the Democrats a crushing blow of historical proportion.

The new congress, just seated, will have a Senate, with 51 Democrats (five fewer than the last congress, seven fewer than at the start of the last congress), 47 Republicans (seven total more than the start of the last congress), and two Independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. The Democrats retain control of the Senate, albeit with a much slimmer majority.

In the House, the swing was dramatic. At the end of the previous congress, the Democrats held 255 seats. They will begin this congress with only 193. The Republicans, who had 179 seats at the end of the last congress, will start this one with 242; a gain of 63 seats, sweeping Nancy Pelosi out as Speaker, and putting John Boehner firmly in control with a strong Republican majority.

But, as the Democrats can tell you. There is no such thing as a sure thing. In two years, things can change radically, and those that were swept in can be swept out just as quickly.

So now what?

That’s a real good question. One thing is for sure, this time around, Republicans had best remember why they are there, and who put them there. Otherwise they won’t be there for very long.

Republicans didn’t sweep into office because in two short years, the American public suddenly decided that they love Republicans. Republicans were thrown out in the first place because of too much spending, not listening to their constituents, and the appearance of a charismatic African American promising hope and change, and presenting an opportunity to do something of historic proportion; prove that in the 21st century, and African American can be elected president in the United States of America.

Republicans were swept out because they got caught up in the hustle and bustle of D.C.; the wining and dining by lobbyists, the special interests, all the perks of being the ruling party. They forgot their core principles; smaller government, less spending, strong national defense. Instead they became “Democrat lite.” And why settle for the “lite” brand when you can have the real deal?

What the Democrats failed to understand in 2008 was that one of the reasons why they won big was because many Republicans, and particularly Independents were upset with Bush. It wasn’t because Americans suddenly wanted to embrace leftist policies and become Socialists. Hopefully, what Republicans will understand in 2010 is that part of the reason they won big is because many Democrats, and particularly Independents were upset with Obama. It wasn’t because Americans suddenly decided they like Republicans and want to go back to the days of Democrat lite. Americans don’t want Socialism, either by the fast path or the slow. If Republicans don’t get this, then by golly, we will vote in yet another new crew in 2012, and keep doing so until someone gets it.

But then again, if the Republicans don’t grasp why they lost in 2008, the Dems are equally clueless about why they were defeated so resoundingly in 2010. Some Progressives are even insisting that they won! Nancy Pelosi certainly believes that she has done everything right; it’s not her fault that her numbers are in the toilet nationally – it’s the Republican’s fault! You know, the ones that won the election?

And perhaps the Progressives are correct. Maybe they did win. A case can certainly be made for it. Looking at the Democrats overall, the Progressive caucus suffered almost no losses at all. The biggest casualties on the Democrat side were the “conservative” Democrats; the so-called “Blue Dogs” who were swept into office on the heels of the Republican defeat in 2008. What has actually happened here is that the Progressives in the House have purged the Democrat party, leaving a hard core of Progressives with a shell of other liberals and a thin veneer of remaining “conservatives.” Nancy Pelosi has not been defeated; she is simply like Napoleon, exiled to Elbe, and awaiting her triumphant return in 2012.

A lot depends on what the Republicans do, or don’t do in the next two years; how it is reported in the media, and what the public believes when the polls open in 2012. A lot also depends on who the Republicans select for their presidential and vice presidential candidates.

I know it is early to start talking about Republican candidates in 2012, however everyone else seems to be talking about it, so why not?

The Progressives are betting that things will not get better with Republicans in control of the House. They are betting that they will win the upcoming media war; that they will be able to say, using President Obama’s metaphor, “see, you gave them the keys back and just look. Things are not better, they are worse! Get rid of these do-nothings and let us finish what we started.”

This will set the stage for President Obama to run again on the basis of continuing his agenda that the Republicans so rudely and ineffectively interrupted. The Democrats will run a full slate of candidates that this time are more Progressive and less Conservative, and the Progressives will cement their hold on the party.

And who will the Republicans run against him? Hopefully, it will be someone not currently among the leading candidates. While all of them think they could beat Obama if the election were held today, and polling data seems to back that up, the election is not today, but in two years. Back in February, polling data said that a yellow dog could beat Harry Reid in Nevada in November too, but you will notice that in January, when the new Congress is seated, Harry Reid will still be there as the Senate Majority Leader.

Here is what I see as wrong with the potential Republican front-runners.

Sarah Palin. Personally, I like her. She seems real and down to earth. I voted for McCain in 2008 based on her being the running mate; something that I have always said was a stupid reason to vote for a candidate (you are after all electing the President to run the country, not the Vice President). On the other hand, she is probably the most polarizing candidate the Republicans could field. She is to the left, what Hillary Clinton is to the right. And she has the added disadvantage that the media is going to weigh in against her as well. I like Sarah, but she isn’t ready to be president. She has a place in the debate, and I can see her running if only so her voice is heard. But I think that selecting her as the candidate would be a disaster.

Mitt Romney. Mitt is well qualified to be President. Unfortunately, he brings too many negatives to the table. Romney-care is a big issue; arguably the 900 pound gorilla in the room. Then there is his apparent flip-flop on the abortion/fetal tissue research issue. And finally, of course, no matter how you slice it, Mitt is Mormon. That one will never go away. It’s funny, the left doesn’t really care. For the most part, they can’t stand any conservative religious views, or are completely disdainful of religion in any form (Judeo-Christian religion anyway; anything else seems to be fine as far as they are concerned). On the right, you still have that 30% or so who won’t vote for a Mormon under any circumstances. Selecting Mitt as the candidate pretty much ensures an Obama victory.

Mike Huckabee. About as exciting as last week’s dishwater. I will give Mike this; he makes a decent talk-show host on Fox. As a second career, I think he has found his niche. I don’t really expect to see a Huckabee run – unless Mitt drops his hat in the ring. In that case, you will see Mike making the circuit, if for no other reason than to ensure that we don’t inadvertently get a Mormon as the candidate. I can’t see Huckabee beating Obama.

Newt Gingrich. Please. Don’t. This one is your father’s Oldsmobile. Running Newt would be about as bad as when the Republicans ran Mr. Viagra, simply because it was “his turn at bat.” The results would be as dismal. Don’t get me wrong, Newt’s a smart guy; but his time is past. Hopefully he is smart enough not to climb into the ring. Like Palin, he can help out more by cheering from the sidelines, raising money, and supporting candidates for the House, Senate, and governorships.

Bobby Jindal. Ok, I like Bobby. What I have seen so far is all positive. However, can’t we let him get a bit more experience before we make him the most powerful person in the world? I’m not sure where we started this idea that a president doesn’t really need all that much experience; you would think that the current office holder would put paid to that theory, but I hope we get over it and fast!

Now I will be the first to admit that just because someone has “qualifications” that doesn’t necessarily make them the best person for the job. This should not merely be a contest between resumes. George H.W. Bush is probably the most “qualified” president we have had, perhaps ever. And yet, he isn’t one of my favorites, and certainly cannot be called “great.”

On the other hand, a little seasoning is a good thing. Surely, one could argue that had we seen a bit more of Barack Obama than two years in the Senate (most of which was spent auditioning for his new job as president), we might not have been so quick to elect him. I just think that the good citizens of Louisiana should get to have a bit more time with a competent governor for a change (goodness knows they have had a dearth of such!) and we as Americans should get to take a longer look ourselves before we start talking about the presidency.

Jeb Bush. By all accounts, Jeb is a good man. He did a good job as governor of Florida, and would probably make a very good president. Unfortunately, he is a Bush. I just don’t think that dog is going to hunt, no matter how good he is and how much of a mess Obama makes of things. Other than selecting Palin as the candidate, I can’t think of anyone else the Democrats would most like to see run. This is probably going to be tough enough without piling on additional baggage.

Then there is the dark horse candidate whose name has been bandied about in various circles recently. John Huntsman, Jr. Honestly, I did not see this one coming. Mr. Huntsman is currently serving as Ambassador to China. He is a Republican; he served as Governor of Utah, from 2006 until his appointment as ambassador, resigning on 11 Aug 2009. However it is hard to imagine that he would drop everything to run against the person who named him as ambassador in the first place.

Huntsman is well qualified to run. He was first elected as governor of Utah in 2004, and then reelected in 2008 with 77.7% of the vote. During his governorship, Utah was named by the Pew Center on the States, as the best managed state in the Union. He has served in several administrations; as a White House staff assistant in the Reagan Administration, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Ambassador to Singapore in the George H.W. Bush administration, and as a Deputy United States Trade Representative in the G.W. Bush administration. He has also held leadership positions in various for profit and non-profit organizations. It has been said that one of the reasons Barack Obama selected him as Ambassador to China (other than his obvious qualifications; he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, Tiawanese Hokkien, and lived and worked in Taipei with his family from 1987 to 1988) was because he was perceived as the biggest Republican threat to a second Obama term as President.

Unfortunately, Mr. Huntsman suffers from the same disqualification that Mr. Romney suffers from; he’s Mormon. One of the main reasons Huntsman is fluent in Chinese is because he served there for two years as a Mormon missionary. His maternal grandfather, David B. Haight, was an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His father, billionaire John Huntsman, Sr, currently serves as an Area Seventy and as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy in the Church. His brother, Peter, married a daughter of M. Russell Ballard, a serving Church Apostle. A Huntsman candidacy is likely to bring Huckabee out of the woodwork, if he isn’t there already due to another Romney run at the ticket.

Additionally, he suffers to a certain extent from one of Sarah Palin’s failings; he quit his governorship. True, Sarah had extenuating circumstances. And true, Huntsman does as well. But Sarah’s detractors on the left push the “quitter” button at every opportunity and the extenuating circumstances never make it into the 15 second sound bite. In Huntsman’s case, those on the right are not likely to be impressed by his giving up the governorship of the reddest state in the Union to serve as an Ambassador to China for the Obama administration. They are likely to interpret that as an example of RINOhood.

As far as the others, Daniels, Pawlenty, Pence, and Thune are concerned, I don’t really know much about them. I have heard Rick Santorum’s name thrown around some. I know that Michael Medved doesn’t care too much for him. Medved’s rationale is that someone that lost his Senatorial re-election bid by double digits is hardly qualified to be the Republican nominee. While Medved is undeniably correct in all his well-reasoned opinions (if you don’t believe me, just ask him), and at the risk of being labeled a moron (as he calls pretty much everyone who disagrees with him), I don’t dislike Santorum for that reason. Frankly, I enjoy listening to him when he fills in for Bill Bennett on “Morning in America”, and agree with most of his views. But history shows a definite bias against electing Senators to the Presidency, and in my opinion, this current administration illustrates a good reason to continue with that trend.

That’s my two cents worth for now. Let’s see what this new Congress does out of the starting gate, how the economy goes, and perhaps we will revisit this six months down the road when the Jello starts to become a bit more solid.