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SALT LAKE CITY -- Prior to Rick Perry joining the presidential race, Mitt Romney enjoyed much of the limelight as the early front-runner of the Republican Party. Now, Romney appears to be in a legitimate battle for the GOP nomination. Is it possible for Romney to secure the GOP nomination? If so, does he have a shot at incumbent President Barack Obama? What qualifies him to be president more than the other candidates?
Romney’s status as the GOP front-runner has a long history. After formally declaring his candidacy for the 2008 election, Romney did well in the polls but ultimately fell short in the voting booths. Although he often traded blows with the eventual nominee, Sen. John McCain, Romney gracefully bowed out and endorsed McCain.
Notwithstanding Romney’s support, then Sen. Barack Obama cruised to a landmark victory in November 2008.
As Democrats took control of the presidency and Congress, Romney began working to secure victories for Republicans in the 2010 elections. He published a book outlining the strength of America and his vision for continued national greatness. And although he didn’t formally announce his candidacy for the 2012 elections until June 2011, an article in Time magazine observed, “Romney’s 2008 effort never really closed up shop.”
The political marathon appeared to have paid off. Romney came into the 2012 election season with front-runner status written all over him—and national polls concurred. In a crowded GOP race, Romney looked positioned to run away with the nomination.
The atmosphere quickly changed, however, when Perry entered the race. Soon after declaring his candidacy the Texas governor surged ahead of Romney in the polls.
Perry is well-known for speaking his mind. A devout Evangelical who figuratively campaigns with a bible in one hand and the constitution in another, Perry energizes conservatives with strongly worded views on issues such as social security and states’ rights.
His charisma and political stances have positioned Perry at the top of the GOP leaderboard. For weeks, Perry has held significant leads over Romney and other Republican candidates in most polls.
Will that trend continue — or will Romney be able to regain his status as front-runner and secure the GOP nomination?
Notwithstanding Perry’s recent dominance, there are many who believe that Romney can — and will — be the eventual Republican nominee.
Why? There are a number of reasons, but perhaps foremost among them is Romney’s electability.
Not surprisingly, Romney claims that a victory for Perry in the primaries would be disastrous for Republicans. There are many others who agree. A wide range of political figures such as Karl Rove and Meghan McCain all worry that Perry’s nomination would result in Republican defeat next November.
Even Romney’s arch-nemesis from the 2008 elections, Mike Huckabee, has shifted his attacks from Romney to Perry. Although certainly not enamored with Romney, Huckabee stated, “The fact (is) that Mitt may be the most electable Republican.”
Pundit observations aside, Perry’s tenure as a poll favorite may be short-lived. A recent Gallup survey shows that more voters are “trending towards Romney” than either Obama or Perry.
Additionally, Perry’s performance in the Sept. 22 debate was sufficiently poor to prompt Politico writers Jonathan Martin and James Hohmann to surmise, “The first line of Rick Perry’s campaign obituary may have been drafted Thursday night.”
Although anything can happen, Romney appears to be regaining momentum while Perry appears to be losing it.
If Romney ultimately prevails in the primaries, could he really defeat Obama to become the next president?
If the election were held today, it’s very likely that Romney could win. Obama’s approval ratings are clearly headed in the wrong direction and show few signs of reversing course. Whichever candidate secures the majority of Independent votes in the primary election stands the greatest chance of emerging victorious.
According to the Gallup survey, “Romney’s overall advantage over Obama and Perry likely comes from his greater appeal among Independents.”
Romney could very well become the next president by defeating Perry and other Republicans in the GOP primary and Obama in the general election.
But do Romney’s qualifications set him apart from other candidates?
Aside from general traits desired in all leaders, the qualities desired in a president varies from election to election depending upon the challenges facing the country.
Right now one of the most significant issues challenging the nation is economic stability — or the lack thereof. Although the Great Recession has technically been declared dead, unemployment has yet to recover and a double-dip recession is certainly possible.
Roger Altman, formerly a Treasury official in the Clinton White House, worries that the negative consequences of a second recession would be even more dramatic than the first. He wrote, “We could be in for a repeat of the experience of 1937 when America fell back into recession after three years of recovery from the Great Depression.”
In a statement representative of many others designed to assuage fears, Obama stated recently, “I’m not concerned about a double-dip recession.”
(Romney has) the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament.
Yet the fact remains that Americans are concerned. That reality is one reason Tim Pawlenty is throwing his weight behind Romney. Pawlenty explained, “(Romney has) the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament.”
Romney’s economic prowess is perhaps what sets him apart most from other candidates in the field. His successful ventures in the private sector could make him a valuable asset for the country at a time when unemployment rates are stubbornly high and Congress shows little signs of being willing to work together to solve the problem.
Even still, Romney is not the only candidate who brings an impressive economic resume to the table. Utah’s other favorite son, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, also has an impressive skillset relevant for these troubled times. Under his leadership, Utah created more jobs than any other state and was also noted to be the best managed. Although his campaign got off to an awkwardly slow start, Huntsman is gaining ground with plenty of time before the election.
Hunstman could be tomorrow the challenger to Romney that Perry is today. Perry could also retain his political following and give Mitt his money’s worth. Others with their own unique talents such as Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich could also come into the forefront.
Yet whoever the challenger, Romney is in a good position to potentially win both the Republican primary and the general election.
Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah. He is the owner of Manwaring Consulting, LLC and maintains a personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.