In a rollercoaster ride that mimics the recent ups-and-downs of the stock market, the Republican Party moves ever closer to picking a 2012 presidential candidate.
In Saturday’s much-watched Iowa Straw Poll, a Republican fundraiser that’s viewed as a barometer of candidate’s viability, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann walked away as the voters' top choice with 28 percent of the votes.
In a close second was Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, with 27 percent of the straw poll votes. Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, came in a distant third with 13 percent, prompting him to surprise supporters by announcing on Sunday that he was exiting the race altogether.
"I wish it would have been different. But obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist so we are going to end the campaign," Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week." "What I brought forward, I thought, was a rational, established, credible, strong record of results, based on experience governing — a two-term governor of a blue state. But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different," he said.
A buzzy event where voters are fed corn dogs and ice cream, the Iowa straw poll certainly isn’t a fool-proof indication of who will ultimately snag the Republican National Committee's (RNC) presidential nomination next August.
For example, Mitt Romney, a frontrunner in the race according to recent polls, declined to officially participate in the Iowa straw poll. And Texas Governor Rick Perry stole the spotlight on Saturday when he announced his presidential candidacy at a meeting of conservative bloggers in South Carolina as the Iowa straw poll was underway.
These events came on the heels of a Thursday GOP debate marked by inter-partisan jabs and some memorably bizarre moments.
Bachmann, the only female participating, was incomprehensibly asked whether she would remain “submissive” to her husband if she were elected. Meanwhile, Romney remarked that he would not “eat Barack Obama’s dog food” when asked about why he was so late to the party on the debt ceiling debate.
On the topic of immigration, most candidates sang a similar tune that decried illegal immigration, and called for increased border security.
Romney was the only candidate to address high-skilled immigration directly when he said he liked the idea of stapling green cards to PhDs. "I want the best and brightest to be metered into the country based upon the needs of our employment sector and create jobs by bringing technology and innovation that comes from people around the world,” he said.
Anything can happen
Though some campaigns bank on the Iowa poll numbers, anything can happen in the battle for the RNC presidential nomination. (Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are both rumored to throw their hat in the ring.) At the moment, however, it appears that Romney, Perry, and Bachmann are the current candidates to beat.
Bachmann chairs the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, and she has positioned herself as a populist, anti-Big Government candidate who has been vocal about her opposition to raising the debt ceiling, and who promises to repeal Obama's health reform. "I am unwilling to accept the new normal of ramped-up spending. We have to grow the economy and reduce government spending. That's how we will get to balance," Bachmann said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Romney has historically had difficulty proving his conservatives credentials, although the Washington Post reported that recent polls show that he is currently more popular among Republicans than ever before. His biggest political Achilles heel may be the fact that Republicans oppose health care reform under Obama, but the Massachusetts’ universal healthcare program came online under his watch as governor. It’s sure to be a political liability; Pawlenty has famously dubbed health care reform “Obamneycare.”
Meanwhile, Perry is painting himself as the "jobs candidate" who is pro-business, anti-government spending, and who understand the needs of the everyday American. A social conservative who is not shy about his religious devotion (he hosted a Christian prayer rally last weekend that involved international prayer partners from India), Perry has a mighty arrow in his quiver with his record for job creation. According to to the Dallas Federal Reserve, nearly half of the new jobs created since June 2009 have been in Texas. (Some challenge this finding.)
More jobs, less outsourcing
The GOP candidates' recent activity makes it clear that jobs and the economy will be the focus of the campaigning leading up to the Republican primaries—and it could prove to be the hot-button topics during the presidential campaign itself.
In a down economy and an era of globalisation, this means that Americans and those running for higher office will be confronted with what it means to create jobs in a new economy.
Given the increasingly international flow of workers and capital, efforts that merely focus on outsourcing is an antiquated way of looking at job creation. A recent San Jose Mercury News report found that Indian companies are creating thousands of jobs in the US, and immigrant entrepreneurs have created companies that currently employ 200,000 Americans.
Firstpost has also argued that the cure to “capitalism's crisis” is freer immigration; some policy makers—including the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation—have also cautioned against economic protectionism.
Still, the popular conversation on jobs and immigration don’t tend to consider the developments and nuances of business and employment in a global economy. A March 2011 Gallup Poll, for instance, found that one in four Americans believed that the best way to create more jobs in the US is to stop outsourcing.
As campaigning for the Republican primaries heats up, the high-skilled immigration debate will rear its head again, and so will charged and at times uninformed rhetoric about the perils of outsourcing and “sending jobs overseas.” Brace yourselves.