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2012 GOP Race

It’s too early to say who – if anyone – this website will support in the 2012 South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary.

None of the major candidates have officially announced yet, and the presumed field has offered very little in the way of substantive policy. As far as we can tell the current GOP field is a thoroughly unimpressive batch of Republican retreads and Tea Party demagogues – which is unfortunate considering what’s at stake in the upcoming election.

Anyway, as our thinking on the current crop of GOP candidates continues to evolve we figured now was as good a time as any to share our first impressions of each individual candidate – and to preview our coverage of the upcoming “First in the South” presidential primary.

Obviously we will write on the substantive visits these candidates make to South Carolina, the consultants they hire and the inevitable sniping that takes place between campaigns, but at the end of the day what really matters to us is not politics but what these candidates offer up in terms of policy – i.e. how they propose we should deal with the God-awful mess in which our nation currently finds itself.

Specifically, we will assess each candidate based on their individual spending proposals – particularly the position they take on entitlements (assuming any of them have the courage to address that subject).

We will assess them on their proposed reforms to the U.S. tax code – most notably how much money they propose that the government stop collecting from overtaxed families and small businesses.

We will assess them on the free market alternatives they propose to “Obamacare,” not just how loudly they can bash this socialist monstrosity in the liberal “lamestream” media.

We will assess them on their support for parental choice – and not just politically-correct public charter school choice (which even Barack Obama supports).

We will assess them on their commitment to individual liberty – including their position on unconstitutional domestic wiretapping.

We will asses them on these and many other issues … always taking note of how their promises and pronouncements square with their previous votes/positions.

In the meantime, though, these are our first impressions of the 2012 GOP field …

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota)

MICHELE BACHMANN – We like the look of Bachmann (above) and admire her passion in opposing the socialist agenda of President Barack Obama, but so far she strikes us as a traveling red meat saleswoman – long on rhetoric but short on solutions.

We’re not saying that Bachmann’s righteous indignation isn’t appropriate (it is), but what else has she got?

Based on her “Tea Party response” to Obama’s State of the Union speech, not much. That high-profile response represented a huge missed opportunity in our opinion – seeming to indicate that Bachmann is a one-trick pony. Also, anybody who lets a proven RINO like Rep. Joe Wilson into her “Tea Party Caucus” clearly has no comprehension of what a “Tea Party Caucus” ought to be …

We’re keeping an open mind about Bachmann’s candidacy, hoping that the rhetorical ground she has staked out on the far right of the ideological spectrum ends up being accompanied by some specific fiscal policy.

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

MITCH DANIELS – As governor of Indiana, Daniels (above) helped push through spending cuts during the recession that have his state facing a comparatively favorable budget situation today. He’s also saying all the right things about the spending debate at the federal level – zeroing in on entitlements as the root of the problem.

Of course that’s not rocket science – it’s simple math, and for all his rhetorical awareness Daniels seems to be charting a course of half-measures as opposed to the sweeping entitlement reform that’s required if America is to ever get its fiscal house in order.

Also, Daniels folded like a cheap suit in the recent battle with the unions – shamelessly caving on a push to make Indiana the nation’s 23rd right-to-work state. This conspicuous lack of backbone (compared to the uncompromising stance adopted by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker) doesn’t bode well for his 2012 aspirations …

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Former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich

NEWT GINGRICH – By far the most disingenuous and hypocritical of the would-be 2012 candidates, we really don’t have to wonder whether Gingrich (above) will betray his stated conservative principles, do we?

He’s already proven that he will – as evidenced by the aborted “Republican Revolution” of 1994.

The fact that a demonstrated sellout like Gingrich is being seriously considered by Republicans in 2012 is a testament to the ongoing ideological bankruptcy of the GOP establishment. And Gingrich’s sellout is ongoing, too. Since leaving Congress he’s cozied up to the left on the climate change issue and endorsed left-leaningĀ  “Republicans” over credible conservative challengers.

Sure “Gingrich 2.0” talks a big game, but when the time comes to actually stand on free market principles he’d rather pander on ethanol subsidies to pick up votes in Iowa. Also, his jihad against the imaginary menace of “sharia law” is additional evidence of the vapidity of his so-called “intellectual” candidacy.

Unfortunately, Gingrich has the most money of the 2012 hopefuls, which means he’ll be able to buy a lot of support in states like South Carolina where the endorsement of RINO politicians is always for sale …

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

MIKE HUCKABEE – If there’s a front-runner at this early stage of the 2012 race – as well as an early favorite to win the South Carolina primary – it’s Huckabee (above).

Given his dubious fiscal conservative credentials, that amazes us. Isn’t the 2012 race supposed to be about dollars and cents? Seriously … what the hell is a bible-thumping Baptist doing at the head of the pack?

Perhaps the current disaster in Washington D.C. has caused Huckabee to rethink his previous left-leaning positions on taxes and spending, but it certainly hasn’t made him re-prioritize those bread-and-butter issues. In fact, earlier this month Huckabee said that abortion was still the most important issue facing America.

Huh?

Perhaps the “leftstream” media is building Huckabee up because they know he’s weak on fiscal issues … and has a “Willie Horton” problem. Or perhaps Republican voters are really this dumb … again. Either way the fact that Huckabee is the front-runner is probably not a good sign for the GOP.

Also is it just us or is Huckabee – who lost all that weight when he ran in 2008 – packing on the pounds again?

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U.S. Ambassador Jon Hunstman

JON HUNSTMAN – Jon Huntsman (above) could end up being the “Mitt Romney of 2012 …”

Not because he’s a fellow Mormon, but because he will likely seek to pull off a dramatic reinvention of himself the way Romney did in 2008.

The former Utah governor and outgoing U.S. ambassador to China needs reinventing, too, because his record on a whole host of conservative issues is remarkably weak. He’s embraced the fuzzy science of climate change, and leans left on both immigration and education issues. Not only that, he supported Obama’s $787 billion bureaucratic bailout …

Good luck running on that record this year … in South Carolina or anywhere.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

SARAH PALIN – Loathed by the professional left and dissed by many establishment Republicans, Sarah Palin (above) could have been the perfect candidate for president in 2012. Unfortunately, she’s prone to excessive hyperventilation over all sorts of perceived indignities … and her war with the “lamestream” media has cost her among independents who might have otherwise been receptive to her position on fiscal issues.

Still, Palin’s ability to arouse fiscal conservatives (in more ways than one) is impressive – and if she’s able to craft a coherent fiscal policy and channel that base of support behind it, watch out.

Unfortunately, Palin seems more interested in being a talking head than the leader of the free world – as evidenced by her insatiable desire to express an opinion about everything under the sun.

Speaking of, Palin has had some less-than-kind things to say about our founding editor in the past, but we will continue to keep an open mind as it relates to her presidential ambitions. Our hope is that Palin will be able to transition from a whiny drama queen into a credible candidate.

Like Eddie Murphy said in Coming to America, we’re looking for a queen who can arouse our intellect as well as our loins …

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U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

RON PAUL – As far as we can tell, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (above) is the only pure soul contemplating a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. His record of defending both our tax dollars and our individual liberties is unimpeachable and unparalleled – and if Republicans would only follow his example America might have a fighting chance to reclaim its lost greatness.

Unfortunately, based on the spending debate currently taking place in Washington – and the peanut gallery comments coming from the “major” 2012 hopefuls – that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Like U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and a handful of other elected officials in Washington, D.C., Paul “walks the walk …” which of course has resulted in him being derided as a “kook” by the GOP establishment.

Be that as it may,Paul is hands-down our first choice for the Republican nomination … and if that makes us “kooks,” too, so be it.

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

TIM PAWLENTY – The so-called “sleeper” of the 2012 field, we respect the willingness of Pawlenty (above) to challenge the entitlement behemoths of Social Security and Medicaid. He also consistently received better-than-average fiscal grades as governor of Minnesota – despite his support for several fee increases.

The problem? Like Huckabee, Pawlenty is a slave to social issues – which means there is a ceiling to his support (even as “Pawlenty-esque” candidates like Mike Pence and John Thune drop out of the race).

Thus far, though, “T-Paw” has run a remarkably well-disciplined pre-campaign and is picking up stronger-than-expected support in the early primary states – including South Carolina.

We’ll be interested in hearing what Pawlenty proposes over the course of the upcoming race, although we are very skeptical of his candidacy based on its orientation around social issues.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

MITT ROMNEY – Next to Gingrich, Romney is absolutely, positively our least favorite candidate in the presumed 2012 field. In 2008 this shape-shifter proved there wasn’t an ideological U-turn he wouldn’t take in an effort to pick up votes – although the end result of all these contortions in South Carolina was a disappointing fourth-place finish.

No wonder Romney is thinking of abandoning the Palmetto presidential primary this go-round …

Considered by many to be the GOP’s best chance to recapture the White House, Romney’s support for an Obama-style health care plan in Massachusetts (one that included an individual mandate) has likely killed his chances of claiming the Republican nomination.

As far as we’re concerned, that’s as it should be. The sooner this guy exits the GOP stage, the better …

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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)

RICK SANTORUM – Pretty much every election in South Carolina has a candidate like Rick Santorum, a fringe panderer who can be counted on to spew hard right vitriol in an effort to make themselves seem relevant.

From where we sit, Santorum is probably the biggest douche/windbag that the Republican Party has produced in the last decade – which is saying something. One of those “Bush Republicans” who didn’t mind growing government when he was in the ruling party, Santorum is now posturing as a fiscal and social conservative hero.

Why is he being taken seriously?

We have no idea … the fact that we’re even including this blowhard in our list of would-be candidates is another example of the fundamental weakness of the 2012 GOP field.

Even more depressing? The fact that there’s such a receptive audience for Santorum’s shtick in South Carolina.

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FINALLY … as was our policy in 2008, FITS founding editor Will Folks will not consult with any of the 2012 candidates – nor will he work for any political action committee or other organization that is affiliated with any of them.

We’re not saying our “unfair, imbalanced” opinions are completely undefiled … but as far as the 2012 presidential primary is concerned they will be.

Also, we are extending to every 2012 candidate the opportunity to sit down with our founding editor for an on-the-record interview as well as an off-the-record chat (he interviewed John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani back in 2008, in case you were wondering). Additionally, all 2012 campaigns are invited to submit us news releases and opinion pieces on issues that they believe our readers would be interested in. We are more than happy to publish all of those documents.

And while we certainly invite all 2012 candidates to spend their advertising dollars with us, please be advised that we will be no more complimentary (or less brutal) in our commentary based on who does – or doesn’t – spend money to reach our readers.

If you want “pay-to-say,” we would humbly direct you to websites like Process Story

FITS 2012 S.C. PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY POLL

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