Five reasons the GOP race is so unsettled
Among the Republican candidates, Mitt Romney has emerged as the early front-runner. Yet the field remains as uncertain as any in modern times – can any of them beat Obama?
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The "cultural charisma" that Obama exudes comes from his representation of a "truly inspiring American exceptionalism: He is the first black in the entire history of Western civilization to lead a Western nation – and the most powerful nation in the world at that," Steele writes. "Thus his presidency flatters America to a degree that no white Republican can hope to compete with."Skip to next paragraph
In practical terms, for Republicans hoping to unseat the president, that means steering clear of the iconic Obama. Mr. Trump lunged headlong into Obama the icon with his crusade over the president's birth certificate, an episode that many Republicans believe hurt the party. It shined a light on Obama's heritage and the insidious idea that Obama is not a loyal American, and did nothing to attack his real vulnerability, the economy.
"You have your establishment Republicans, your social conservatives, and your tea party candidates, and if the Republicans are going to beat Obama, they have to nominate an establishment Republican with executive experience who understands the economy backwards and forwards," says Ford O'Connell, chairman of the conservative Civic Forum PAC. "If you can do that, then you can run against Obama the candidate."
The tea party's image as having some racist elements would dog almost any candidate seen as coming from that movement. The candidacy of Cain, who is black and has growing tea party support, mitigates to a degree the movement's largely white profile. But until he shows signs of becoming a top-tier candidate, his impact is limited.
Some GOP activists argue that their party's candidates need not hold back in their critique of Obama simply because of the color of his skin. Obama's election in 2008 by a solid popular majority represented a major step by the nation toward overcoming its ugly racial past, they argue.
Obama's race "will be an issue only to the extent that the Obama campaign will attempt to exploit it as an issue, and only to the extent that liberals in the media cooperate in that exploitation," says Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative activist who ran for president in 2000. "I think they need to be called on it very aggressively."
Mr. Bauer says he begged the McCain campaign in 2008 to confront Obama over his ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a black pastor with a penchant for inflammatory comments. But he says the McCain people told him it would be "so divisive."
The Palin factor
Will she run? That's the biggest question hanging over the GOP race. Her recent "One Nation" bus tour reignited speculation that she was ready to jump in. So has the impending release of a Palin-authorized documentary about her in Iowa sometime this month. If she does run, it's a game changer. Her star power could eclipse the other candidates, especially those in the "outsider," tea party-oriented column, like Bachmann and Cain. A Palin candidacy could also cause more establishment-oriented Republicans to rally around Romney, solidifying his position as front-runner.
Maybe the bus tour was really all about refreshing her brand as a conservative pundit on Fox, author, speaker, and political kingmaker. At one point during the tour, she said she loved the "freedom of not having a title and being a declared candidate" and she knows she can "make a difference as an individual."