This Week’s Fallen Candidates

Let’s take a look at the two candidates who withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination battle this week—Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. These candidates were on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum, with Jon Huntsman being a moderate establishment Republican and Rick Perry touting himself as a true conservative. Despite the ideological divide, what both men have in common is that they are great candidates on paper but failed to connect to the Republican base. Rick Perry was given the advantage of frontrunner status just by declaring his candidacy. He may have had the advantage of being a conservative Republican and former governor, but that wasn’t enough to save him from poor debate performance and jumbled responses. Huntsman never got the luxury of being a frontrunner. Even with a presence in most of the debates, he just couldn’t climb above 5% on the national level despite his tenure as a successful Republican governor with the most significant foreign policy experience of the field.

John McCain and Mitt Romney have shown us that even if you’re moderate in some of your views, you have to at least pretend to be a true conservative to score some wins in the Republican primaries. Jon Huntsman didn’t run away from serving under President Obama or his desire to unite the American people and end the trust deficit in Washington, and that didn’t earn him many Republican fans. Watching the debates proves that the most partisan attacks against Obama earn the most applause. What’s strange is that Huntsman actually had some solid conservative views, such as pushing for a flat tax, but his uniting rhetoric made him appear less conservative when compared to the other candidates. I think that a large part of Huntsman’s problem was in how he marketed himself—I’d tell him to focus solely on his conservative credentials for the primary and to wait for the general election to bring out the unifying rhetoric. And I believe that much of the Republican thought was that if they’re going to nominate a more-moderate Mormon, they would go with the familiar Romney who also ran last time. There’s no way that Huntsman could mount an anti-Romney campaign because of the similarities people felt between the two men.

In the case of Rick Perry, I’m actually surprised just how quickly the conservative base abandoned him. As soon as Perry announced his candidacy, his poll numbers skyrocketed and the general feeling was a two-man race between Romney and Perry. Here’s a man who was not up to the task of participating in a tough national campaign, and I’m not sure if he was just unprepared or actually incapable of effectively communicating with the American people. Whenever he spoke, whether in a debate or during an interview, he would almost always find a way to mess up his wording and not catch it. As a viewer you knew what he meant, but you were less confident about his abilities. He has a strong likeability factor, but where a candidate like Romney succeeds in his ability to confidently answer questions because as a voter, you get the feeling that he knows what he’s talking about. Perry did a good job making a joke of his infamous “oops” moment in the more-recent debates, but he had already become a national joke at that point. People unfamiliar with Rick Perry probably got to know him on YouTube or late-night TV from that clip, and that’s one way to permanently damage your credibility.

So despite the impressive resumes of both Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, both men had different yet fundamental messaging problems. I really liked Huntsman’s message but I’m not surprised that he didn’t appeal to the Republican base. I was never a fan of Perry’s ultra-conservatism or his insistence of mixing religion and politics, so I didn’t lose any sleep over his decline in the race. I’m actually surprised that he endorsed Newt Gingrich over Rick Santorum given that both Perry and Santorum emphasize more on religion and social issues than Newt does. Who do you think will be the next to go?

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  • hartwe60  On January 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Santorum I believe will be the next to go. He is sitting in fourth place according to the polls in South Carolina in a state he had high expectation for and is losing even though he isn’t having to split the evangelical vote with Perry.

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