The wild card in the 2012 election is not just the non-existent economic recovery. It is the spreading fear that the United States is in decline.
If the economy continues with this non-job-creating stagnation and its associated hopelessness and pessimism, all bets are off for both the GOP nomination and for the eventual outcome of the November general election.
A sourness is gripping America. A pessimism about our future. And, thus, cynicism about all traditional political candidates.
This began around 2007 as the housing market/mortgage mess began. Katrina, Iraq and other scandals only fueled the feeling that both political parties have failed us.
Thus came an-out-of-the-mainstream candidate: Barack Obama, a newcomer who opposed the Iraq war and was not seen as part of the problem in D.C.
Two years later the country has reassessed that decision. Some regret it. Others are looking for another total outsider. A real outsider — not one who lets business as usual continue.
The tea party movement is indeed the energy behind a lot of this change. And as of now no one has yet emerged as the likely tea party candidate.
That candidate is the likely GOP nominee.
The New Hampshire debate showed us a few things:
- The seven GOP candidates, all good people, missed the boat. None of them even attempted to inspire Americans to believe that we can reverse our present sense of decline. Ronald Reagan was the last politician to do this successfully. It is a special skill and clearly none of our present political class has it.
- Tim Pawlenty proved himself to be a minor leaguer by his refusal to take on Romneycare. Pawlenty also lost to Michele Bachmann. She took a giant step forward toward trumping him in Iowa. And that may be fatal to Pawlenty.
- Herman Cain had, at best, a mediocre night. He didn’t build on his break-out South Carolina debate.
- Newt Gingrich made some good points. But he is a sideshow these days.
Let’s face it: of these seven candidates, only one — Romney — can win the nomination. And he is, despite last night, a weak front-runner. Thus the certainty that others are still coming into this race.
Jon Huntsman, Obama’s ambassador to China, cannot win the GOP nomination. Period.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry? He probably will enter the race, seeing a vacuum.
There will still be plenty of room in the fall for a new candidate to enter, get hot, and sweep to victory. This is what indeed will happen.
That candidate will have to be able to inspire Americans like no one we have seen in over thirty years for the challenge ahead is to reverse a massive national mental depression.
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