It has been said that without George W. Bush, Obama would not have been president. There is some truth to that. Had the Bush presidency not gone up in such spectacular flames and had the mood of the country not been so dire it is hard to imagine that Americans would have gravitated the way they did to the message of a young, single term African American Senator.
A good portion of Obama’s appeal was that he was in many ways the opposite of Bush. Where as Bush was relatively short, Obama was relatively tall. Bush had a father, a famous one, Obama only met his twice. Bush went to schools that had scholarships named after his family, Obama was the one getting those scholarships. Bush had trouble speaking, Obama could always speak. And then there is the obvious racial difference which underscored the entire campaign.
Democrats were smart in 2008. They knew that the country didn’t just want someone who was the political opposite of Bush but someone who was the opposite in every single way. They had learned from their mistake in 2004 in running John Kerry who was politically opposite from Bush but in every other way cut from the same patrician cloth.
American politics has always been like this. We tend to elect president’s who are not only political opposites of their predecessors but also the opposites in terms of personality and character. It is almost as if Presidents are not so much self-made as they are children begat by the previous President leaving office.
Do you think a nice, well meaning naïve peanut farmer would have ever been elected President if Americans were not reeling from the Nixon Years and were yearning for someone who was distinctly outside the beltway? Nixon gave birth to Carter. After a few years of the nice but weak, slightly depressing Carter, we were ready for someone who could start carrying the country confidently again. Carter in turn begot Reagan. And so on.
The guys who are able to defeat the incumbent president or party do so because they represent not only an ideological turn but a turn in personality and character. Youthful, dynamic Clinton over stogy Bush I. Religious and moral Bush II over the too slick for his own good Clinton. I know Bush technically ran against Gore but he was really running against Clinton just as Obama was really running against Bush and not McCain.
Now, what does this mean for the 2012 cycle? It means that the Republicans if they are smart will find someone who is in every way the opposite of Obama. Being the incumbent, Obama will have all sorts of advantages going into the election. If they run someone who doesn’t represent a complete break from Obama, both in his or her approach to governing and his or her personality then Americans will go with what they know. Can we go through a process of elimination find the perfect candidate for this 2012 election cycle?
Obama’s experience is limited so the Republicans will need someone who has lots of government and private sector experience –eliminate Sarah Palin.
Obama is young, boyish so the Republicans will need someone who is older, more adult like –eliminate Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal.
Obama is very telegenic and charismatic so the Republicans will need someone who seems more plainspoken and down to earth – eliminate Mitt Romney.
Obama is too over exposed and the media is too saturated with him so the Republicans will need someone who is relatively unknown and not trying to constantly grab face time – eliminate Mike Huckabee and eliminate Sarah Palin again.
So who are we left with after this process of elimination? Who is the anti-Obama? The answer is….
This guy…Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana.
You’ve probably never heard of him. Let me just give you a quick summary. Mitch Daniels is a short, quiet, not particularly charismatic, plain spoken down to earth Midwesterner who has loads of government and private sector experience and more than anyone else fully grasps the fiscal issues this country is faced with. Hearing him speak reminds you that adults still do exist in this country. He is already building some support and momentum going into this cycle. It still is unclear if he will run or not but a lot of smart people within the party would like him to.
More on Daniels at a later point.