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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 01/30/2011

The important questions in the 2012 presidential race

By Jennifer Rubin

In 2012, the Republican challenger has a golden opportunity to defeat the incumbent president, unless unemployment drops dramatically and Obama finds the gumption to tackle the fiscal mess rather than "investing" our money in things we don't want or need and certainly can't afford. The 2012 challenger is going to need to run as the tough guy, unafraid to take on the problems that Obama refuses to face. He, or she, has to be the one who believes not in government, but in people and private entrepreneurship. So, as I go through the parade of getting-to-know-you interviews (which have begun, both on and off the record) with candidates and wanna-be candidates, I ask myself: Who is going to seem the most serious and determined to take on the difficult issues that Obama won't?

Who is going to look senators and congressmen in the eye and force a showdown -- by use of serial vetoes, if need be? Which contender is going to explain why Obama's vision is unsustainable and harmful, not simply to our wallets, but to our ability to control America's destiny? Who is going to take out the PowerPoint and tell voters what it is going to take to get from a sea of red ink to sound economic footing?

Voters may go for the jocular toughness of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. They may go for the youthful, wonkish exuberance of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). Conservatives may go for the disarming resolve in someone like Tim Pawlenty. They may go for the quiet, technocratic precision of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. But a candidate who has blinked on spending or taxes, or who doesn't exude total determination to rip up ObamaCare and redesign our entitlement programs, is not going to be able to win the nomination or defeat Obama. It doesn't matter how much money they have or how much name recognition.

As exemplified by the State of the Union address, Obama turned out to be a political adolescent, full of himself, but, ultimately, irresponsible and lightweight. He is unable or unwilling to face up to our greatest domestic challenge: our fiscal mess.

Republicans need to find the grown-up who is both tough and appealing (the two often don't go hand in hand). The unserious and the irresolute need not apply. And oh, by the way, the same seriousness of purpose candidates display on fiscal matters, coupled with their ability to delineate the bad and good guys in the world (and be candid about the fact that there are good and bad actors), may give us some indication how they are going to conduct foreign policy. It's no coincidence that Obama finds it difficult to confront Congress on entitlements and to confront despots abroad.

The dig on Obama from many conservatives has been that he doesn't grasp the essence of America or embrace the role America must play in the world. There's plenty of evidence for both of those critiques. But in 2012, the most effective Republican is going to be the one who makes the case that he, not Obama, is willing to do the hard and big and important things to restore American prosperity at home and influence abroad.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 30, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: On Egypt, Obama offers 'too little, too late'
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Didn't someone post a couple of weeks ago about not focusing too much to early on the ups and down of the R race and on the central issues of governance in Washington and the State capitals. Oh, well.

That caveat aside - and lets face it, this is too much fun to eschew entirely - this post is quite precisely on the $$$$: " But a candidate who has blinked on spending or taxes, or who doesn't exude total determination to rip up ObamaCare and redesign our entitlement programs, is not going to be able to win the nomination or defeat Obama...." . This is very much the crux of the matter as is the subsequent analogue between the understanding of the connexion for between domestic and foreign policy and the importance of determination to right the course on both.

Posted by: cavalier4 | January 30, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I too have been impressed by Christie, the articulate, fearless happy warrior standing up to and besting the entrenched and entitled forces of bad government.

But his judgement on judicial appointments has been called into question. Some say he's getting corrupted by the Arab money machine. What's this all about, Jennifer?

Posted by: ZoltanNewberry | January 30, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Desperately Seeking a Contender

Posted by: rcaruth | January 30, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree with your general I'd like to hear you fill in the blanks. What spending programs need to be tackled? How would a candidate persuade the voters that it's necessary and that he/she can get enough congressional votes to make this happen?

I'd like to see your assessment of each potential candidate's ability to do such.

Posted by: DrBerkeley | January 30, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

The 'Stache. Guaranteed to not blink.

Posted by: kafbst | January 30, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty-Palin with all the remainders for positions in the new Administration could show the US what grownups can achieve by working together -- as long as Bacharach-Davis isn't the campaign song.

Posted by: aardunza | January 30, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

First of all, there are reports that Obama has been encouraging the revolt in Egypt - over the past 2 years.

I would like to make clear that if Obama has been doing this, it is INCREDIBLY NAIVE AND STUPID. The Muslim Brotherhood is going to take over - there is little dobut about that.

Yes, the United States is going to have to make a decision fast about whether to go to war with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The alternative to this is clear: Hamas will have an OPEN BORDER for weapons into Gaza.

Furthermore, a TERRORIST GOVERNMENT in Egypt will be seeking to overthrown the Saudis really quickly. This is something the US can not stand for. After that, there is no telling how many other oil-producing nations will fall.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt, Obama's loyalty has to be called into question.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt - who is a close ally of Al Queda, Obama should be impeached and removed from office immediately.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 30, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

"...But a candidate who has blinked on spending or taxes, or who doesn't exude total determination to rip up ObamaCare and redesign our entitlement programs, is not going to be able to win the nomination or defeat Obama...."

I agree with this idea. The Republican nomination process is going to be grueling and bitter. Currently I simply don't see a winner, but we know too little about some possible candidates (Pawlenty for example) and there may yet be new additions to the list (Thune). But a lot of the "old guard", e.g. Newt, Huck, and Mitt, I think, are non-starters. They simply have too much baggage, too many blinks, or some other deadly negative.

It's a perilous time for the Republicans (and by extension the nation. If Obama is reelected, catastrophe is on its unimpeded way). However, I am hopeful there are some now sitting on the R bench who can come in and win the game. And if that does occur, the historic recruiting class from this last election alone will give us winners in future cycles. So, 2012 may be our Waterloo - as in a strategic election to change the path of the future, perhaps forever.

Posted by: jafco | January 30, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse


You missed the comment blog for that, overshooting by one high. You're a little like Michele Bachmann in that regard aren't you!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

According to Charles Blow's column in the New York Time, the people don't really care about the deficit, and don't want their entitlements cut. So whoever suggests that entitlements be cut might be able to get the Republican nomination, but will never be elected. I forget... how did George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security go down?

Posted by: michael_chaplan | January 30, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Obama will lose in 2012 because he's seen as completely unserious, weak, and not respected abroad. That's all it takes to lose the American presidency -- make America lose its stature and respect around the world. Despots bringing pianists to play anti-American Chinese anthems in the White House; giving the quiet green light to dictators to crush their citizens ... there's your Obama Doctrine. Crush away, boys; your intellectuals and peasants and Taiwan mean less than nothing to me. Just whip out those Chinese credit cards and get me reelected. Hey American voter - you wanted to feel good about yourself. So you're not a racist. Congratulations, imbecile.

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 30, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

But a candidate who . . . doesn't exude total determination to rip up ObamaCare and redesign our entitlement programs, is not going to be able to win the nomination or defeat Obama.
But Republicans in Congress have now declared the large entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, off the table in proposing any changes. A candidate who "exude[s] total determination to rip up" the new health care law needs to have the other shoe to drop: his or her plan for an effective health care plan that would expand coverage to Americans who've been struggling to get health care.

Many members of Congress, from both major parties, have said for years that the denial of coverage to everyone with pre-existing conditions had to end. The 2012 Presidential race would be a very good time to outline HOW that should be achieved, not only to cry out against the plan that includes that correction.

Posted by: CherieOK | January 31, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

JR: Two thoughts on your incisive post.

I'm a Utah Mormon who supported Mitt Romney last go round (including financially). I still think he would make a very good, perhaps even great, president. But I must agree that the Massachusetts experience with health care is an ENORMOUS obstacle to his getting nominated (I just can't see a narrative that gets him through that thicket).

As to Jon Huntsman, no way, not a chance, nada. He was OK as a Utah governor, but anyone who thinks he's a conservative is simply wrong. His acceptance of the ambassadorship to China in the Obama administration is Exhibit A. Yes, he won reelection in Utah, but a Republican governor in this state must do something incredibly stupid to be rejected, and Huntsman didn't. If he runs, he'll be eaten alive in the debates by Romney, Daniels, Pawlenty, Barbour etc. etc.

There is a misperception that Mormons reflexively support Mitt. I think that is mistaken. Mormons are conservatives for the most part and, given a choice between a Mormon who loses or a conservative who will win and finish off Obamacare, you'll see large support for a winner.

Right now, I'm becoming more of a fan of Pawlenty and Daniels. I absolutely love John Bolton, but he's probably a non-starter (how about him for VP? Or is he too controversial?) Thoughts anyone.

Posted by: TabulaRasa | January 31, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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