By Ben Schreiner
We still have over a year till the 2012 presidential election. Yet, eager to whittle down the still long list of presidential candidates to a short list of contenders—making the campaign more viewer and rating friendly in the process—the US media establishment has gone ahead and painstakingly determined just who the “real” 2012 contenders really are. Hence, we learn that facing off against President Obama in November 2012 will be one of the following: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, or Texas Governor Rick Perry.
So, let us handicap this field of “legitimate” contenders, beginning with the Republican challengers and Congresswoman Bachmann.
The Minnesota congresswoman has vaulted to the lead of the Republican pack after capturing the coveted Iowa straw poll. The Iowa straw poll, the media is quick to tell, is evidence of one’s political clout. The strong second place finish of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, on the other hand, is a mere fluke we may attribute to Paul’s overly “enthusiastic base.” And a campaign in possession of exceedingly dedicated followers is assuredly is a fatal flaw. After all, presidential politics is more of a spectator sport. But I digress…
Given the media’s shunning of Paul, we see that the fixation on Bachmann is derived from more than the results of an August 2011 straw poll. In reality, the congresswoman’s rising prestige stems from her Tea Party credentials. (Once again, we shall dismiss Paul here due to his overly passionate supporters.) Bachmann, as she is no doubt quick to tell, is the founder of the House’s Tea Party caucus. And any establishment media figure worth his or her salt knows not to ignore the Tea Party. Hence, Bachmann’s rise as a media enshrined “serious” presidential contender.
Of course, the other reason Bachmann has remained in the media spotlight is due to her highly prized gaffe potential, which makes for some rather good journalistic copy. We have already learned from Bachmann, recall, that Lexington and Concord are in fact in New Hampshire. Ultimately, though, it will be this penchant to bend the limits of geography—let alone American history—that will lead Bachmann to lose her current level of deference from the establishment media, and thus her vaunted status as a “serious” contender. But I guess we should all just enjoy the ride until that day arrives.
Next up, there is the proverbial frontrunner Mitt Romney. The one candidate that seemingly frightens team Obama, if the attacks emanating out of the president’s web of media consultants is any indication. Romney’s frontrunner status derives from his impeccable economic credentials and his self-styling as the lone “grown-up” candidate. Both are strong cards to play at a time when over 25 million are either unemployed or underemployed and Washington remains mired in a parade of endless political squabbles.
Romney’s economic credentials, however, are hardly impeccable. In fact, they remain remarkably flimsy. While serving as its governor, Massachusetts ranked near the very bottom in job creation. Meanwhile, Romney’s claimed business experience arises from his tenure at Bain Capital, where he was responsible for firing thousands of employees. But then again, someone has to challenge Obama’s meager economic record, so why not make it Romney? What the hell?
Rounding out the Republican field of “serious” candidates, we have Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry appears as the Republican’s hybrid candidate: part Bachmann and part Romney. He’s Tea Party savvy, (he likes to shoot guns in public and ponder the possibility of an independent Texas Republic), yet he also garners establishment Republican support through his own claim of economic prowess.
While his Tea Party qualifications appear solid, his economic expertise—much like Romney—remains tenuous at best. Perry likes to tout the fact that no state has added more jobs during the recession than Texas. And who doesn’t want more jobs? Perry's acclaimed jobs, though, are overwhelmingly minimum wage and part-time jobs that Texas has siphoned away from other states where meddlesome business taxes—to pay for such antiquated social projects like public schooling—still remain in place. In this sense, Perry’s great economic feat has been to lead Texas to national frontrunner status in the race to the bottom. But hey, why not give a governor from Texas a shot at the White House? What’s the worst that can happen?
And so now we come to 2012’s principal player, the president himself. It is evident that Obama will face no primary challenge from within the Democratic Party. (Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the most likely Democratic challenger, has already declared he will not run.) The president’s stewardship of the floundering economy and his imperial foreign policy simply ruffles no feathers among the Democratic Party elite.
Meanwhile, the president can rest assured that any challenger from the independent Left (such as Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney) will once again be subject to a media blackout. As in the past, the only way for the average voter to detect the presence of any third party candidate in the race will be by checking their ballot on Election Day—if such a candidate is indeed permitted to appear on their ballot. But we really shouldn’t complain, for the presidential horse race only becomes muddled when a third party candidate enters the fray anyway.
So there we have it, the narrowed list of “serious” 2012 presidential contenders thoughtfully assembled for our discerning choice by the establishment media. What a choice we have!