An election with all the grace of a pub crawl...

Political analyst David S Kerr.
Political analyst David S Kerr.

American political commentator David S Kerr - who has had a 20-year love affair with Buxton - offers an insider’s view of the race for the White House.

“American Presidential politics is about people, personalities, their foibles, their passions, their philosophy and their views on the issues. It is, as I like to call it, an American soap opera, full of plot twists, intrigues and surprises. It also, sometimes, has all the finesse and grace of a pub brawl.”

Selecting a President…an American Soap Opera or a good old fashioned brawl

By David S. Kerr

My relationship with Buxton goes back a lot further than I am sometimes prepared to admit. My first visit, to help a friend from Edinburgh University, in his quest to become the Member for High Peak, was 20 years ago. But there was more going on than politics. That visit was the beginning of a bond with the Buxton and its surrounding communities, and most importantly, a growing number of friends, that’s become a part of my life. We Americans are known for being sappy, but as I once said, in some remarks offered after a local dinner I attended, I was convinced that Buxton, its natural beauty, and the inherent kindness and decency of its people, represented to me, the best that is Britain. Of course, fair warning I have a strong Scottish heritage and I think it’s possible that some of my second cousins in Kirkcaldy, being very nationalistic themselves, might take exception to those comments. But then again, maybe if they visited Buxton, they would understand how I feel.

Here in the States I have been a long time political observer and writer. I am one of those annoying people who, at the drop of a hat, can tell you what percent of the vote Harry Truman got in the 1948 Presidential election or who the Speaker of the House was in 1961. I have also been on the campaigning side too. Working in several Congressional, Senate, and Governor’s races in my native Virginia, and once, for a national Presidential campaign. I have also spent a substantial part of my work life, either working on Capitol Hill, both in the Senate and the House, or helping an agency or department in its relations with the U.S. Congress.

You would think that after awhile I would get tired of it all. But, I don’t. Once it’s in your blood there’s not much you can do about it. This year the United States is in the opening stages of a Presidential campaign, its political heaven for a guy like me, and what I would like to do is offer an occasional perspective on what’s going on, what it means, and from time to time, though I consider these things hazardous, a prediction or two. American Presidential politics is about people, personalities, their foibles, their passions, their philosophy and their views on the issues. It is, as I like to call it, an American soap opera, full of plot twists, intrigues and surprises. It also, sometimes, has all the finesse and grace of a pub brawl

This year, the focus, since President Obama already has his party’s nomination sown up, is on the Republicans. And they have been glad to put on a show. The forum has been an unprecedented series of almost non-stop debates held all across the country. With each exchange poll numbers between the leading contenders gone up, down, and up again. Some dropped out before the campaign really began. Tim Pawlenty, the former Governor of Minnesota, once touted as the Republican Party’s knight in shining armor proved so deadly boring that he gave up the race months ago. Herman Cain, who couldn’t outrun his trail of sexual harassment charges, or jilted lovers, dropped out last month. Sarah Palin never debated, but she wrote another book, toured, acted like a Presidential candidate for awhile, but then, bowed out. I guess she decided her fifteen minutes were about up. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, came in with a bang, and promptly, proved he couldn’t hold his own in a debate. It was rather sad, and I wonder, why he’s still in the race. Another candidate, Jon Huntsman, is smart, funny, worldly, a former governor himself, as well as Ambassador to China (he speaks Mandarin), tries as hard as he can, but by acknowledging global warming, and a few other taboo topics as far as the GOP right is concerned just isn’t catching on.

Then there is Newt Gingrich. This man, one time hero of the party, when he led the GOP back into power in the Congress in 1994, has so much personal and political baggage that he needs a band of Sherpa bearers to carry it. And yet, he is running ahead in several polls. And finally, don’t forget Ron Paul. Who? He is a Congressman from Texas, he has run for President several times, and he doesn’t believe in government at all. He’s a libertarian, and, as the choices keep drying up, he is doing surprisingly well in the polls.

Finally, waiting and watching, but staying aloof is Mitt Romney. A former Governor of a traditionally Democratic state, prominent businessman, and savior of the 2004 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he is likeable and straight as an arrow. However, his one major flaw has been that he has been for and against most of the major issues. Sometimes at the same time. This bothers the Republican right, the core of the folks who select the nominee, as well as those who would just like to know what he stands for. Yet, his numbers, though never getting above 20%, have been steady. He may prevail simply because he is the last man standing.

The first test of the electoral power of those remaining in the field, the tier one candidates as they’re called, are the Iowa caucuses. Held in the dead of the Midwestern winter these are living room and community center gatherings where delegates to the national convention will be allocated based on how many people show up for which candidate. Sometimes Iowa means a great deal to who gets nominated and other times it doesn’t. This year doesn’t look like an Iowa win or loss will make or break anyone.

New Hampshire, however, which holds its primary a week later, is a different story. If Romney wins in New Hampshire that may prove to be all the momentum he needs to win the nomination. It has that reputation. However, if one of the others, all of whom are arguably, extremely flawed prospects, wins instead, the race will remain wide open. Possibly, and this is where it could really get interesting, the path may be open to a brand new candidate. Perhaps someone that’s not on anyone’s political radar screen. What’s called in American politics “a dark horse candidate.” Prospective nominees can enter late in the process, the primary season is a long one, and this year the conditions may prove right for that to happen.

Naturally, the happiest man of all, as the Republicans contend with this embarrassing show, is President Obama. His own nomination is a given. He has to run in primaries, and gathered delegates, just like everyone else, but without an opponent for his party’s nod, he is the Democratic nominee. Normally, given his low poll numbers, and an economy with 8.6% unemployment, he should be vulnerable. Both incumbent President’s who have lost reelection since 1980, did so because of a bad economy. In comparison polls the only candidate that might give him a real race is Romney. As for the others, Obama leaves them in the dust.