Never-ending campaign

Gonzo Meets the Press #20 August 17, 2011

The US presidential election race is underway, and the Republicans have
selected a right-wing Christian candidate in an Iowa straw poll that has the
pundits panting for the real thing. But Tom Krause predicts a win for the Texas
Gipper next year.

Campaigning has already begun for the US presidential elections in November 2012, in fact, it has never ended since the
last election on November 4, 2008. But this week, the campaign entered its
semi-serious phase, with the Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa won by Michele
Bachman, an anti-abortion, Tea Party-supporting member of Congress.
Her victory ended the bid of Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, who
lamented his loss and withdrew from the race with an honest assessment of what
went wrong: “What I brought forward, I thought, was a rational, established,
credible, strong record of results, based on experienced governing – a two-term
governor of a blue state. But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for
something different.”
What the audience of Republican voters was looking for was another Ronald Reagan, a conservative fiscally responsible patriot, so they
chose Ms Bachman. But the one that they really want, and may get as their
presidential candidate, is Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has been described as
The Texas Gipper in a Washington Post article this week:
The Gipper, you will remember, was the nickname given to Ronald Reagan, after he played George Gipp, the Notre Dame
football player, immortalised by coach Knute Rockne (played by Pat O’Brien in
the wonderful film, Knute Rockne All American). On his deathbed, Gipp
had allegedly told Rockne to tell his teammates to “win one for the Gipper”
during a tough game, and, of course, they did.
Republicans have been waiting for another Gipper, ever since Reagan’s death, and in Perry, they think
they have found one: a conservative, God-fearing cowboy – a handsome one to
boot. Even Bill Clinton said Perry was a “good-looking rascal,” though he did
dismiss his policies as “crazy.”
Perry rolled into Bachmann’s home town of Waterloo, Iowa, the state where the first real contest will be held in January
next year. Perry was apparently snubbed by Bachmann when they attended the same
party dinner the night after he entered the race. As a result, neither candidate
talked to each other on the floor of the venue. Iowa is important; it was Barack
Obama’s win in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 that propelled him on the road to the
White House.
You can also tell the campaign in getting into full gear when
the President goes on the road, and he did that this week as well, on a tour of
the Midwest, including, of course, Iowa, where he told residents of Peosta that
small-town America holds the key to economic recovery.
Small towns also can contribute to Obama’s recovery in the polls, as he needs to win back some of the
conservative vote now being grabbed by Ms Bachmann and Governor Perry, who just
happened to be campaigning in a town only 16 kilometres from Peosta. Perry was
talking with business leaders and blaming the President for the faltering
The Texas governor also played the military card this week, at the
famous Iowa State Fair, suggesting his own experience as a US Air Force pilot
would make him a better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama: “Experience
matters. Having walked in a person’s shoes, having done with these men and women
are doing matters to them. I don’t want somebody sitting in the front left sea
of the airliner who just got their pilot’s license.”
And Perry took the economically conservative line with another suggestion in Iowa: that if Federal
Reserve chief Ben Bernanke printed more money between now and the 2012 election,
“ … we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play
politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or
treasonous in my opinion.” Despite the defamatory tone of his comment, Perry has
so far refused to apologise – which the far right-wing Republicans love.
Michele Bachmann, the straw poll winner, and therefore a serious Republican front-runner until she
meets Rick Perry and the leading candidate, former Massachusetts governor, Mitt
Romney, in a head-to-head contest, has created controversy by backing down on
her previous statement that wives “are to be submissive to their husbands,” now
saying that they should “respect” their husbands.
That brought Sarah Palin back into the limelight, with the latest leg of her “One Nation” bus tour (with
no apologies to Pauline Hanson) beginning at the Iowa State Fair, where she
denied she was stealing the spotlight: “In fact, if anybody thinks I’m stealing
the spotlight, go! Go find the other folks and say hello.”
Palin also brought religion back into the campaign when she wrote on the online magazine
that Bachmann’s idea of the woman as “the obedient helpmeet, the
vessel for the children, the devoted mother and warrior for the faith” is
“central to the faith of many evangelicals.” Hadley Freeman wrote about this and
the scary proposition of Bachmann as a leading candidate in a brilliant piece in
the Guardian on the Republicans’ world view.
Sarah Palin, meanwhile, has returned to Alaska to work on her “writing and research on strategies” and
get her children ready for the school year in September. Let’s hope she stays
there. Most analysts now think she won’t run for president, but I have my
doubts. I’ll stick my head out and say at this stage it will be Romney or Perry
versus Obama (and somehow I think Perry will get the Republican nod).
Now don’t worry regular readers (my favourite few), I am not going to use this blog
as a commentary on the US presidential election race. I have covered every
campaign as a journalist since 1976 (with a brief foray into the 1968 slugfest
to act as a runner for the New York Daily News at a Eugene McCarthy
rally at Columbia University), and find them fascinating. But I know readers and
viewers, particularly in Australia, don’t get too excited until the primaries
and caucuses and the conventions. I will try to keep you up to date on the
important milestones of the campaign, as my hero, Hunter S Thompson, did in
Rolling Stone and my favourite Gonzo book: Fear and Loathing on the
Campaign Trail
, a chronicle of the 1972 election – which saw the
reinstalment of Richard Nixon in the White House on November 7, 1972,  a day
that will live in infamy (well, for me anyway!).
Tom Krause is the supervising producer of Ten’s Meet the Press. His views are his own; always have

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