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Op Ed: On the GOP Frontrunner, or Lack Thereof

On the GOP Frontrunner, or Lack Thereof
By Jaret Glenn
Media pundits from the left and right have been parroting the notion that there is no clear frontrunner for the GOP Presidential nomination for weeks now. Indeed, the field has yet to be sorted through, with a few candidates—Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Gary Johnson--officially declaring their intentions to run. Several other prominent potential candidates—Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour, Mike Pence, and Mitch Daniels—have pronounced unequivocally that they will not seek the nomination. Then there are the wild cards—most notably Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and (possibly) Rudy Giuliani—who haven’t announced their intentions either way.

Right-leaning analysts on Fox News are quick to declare either Romney or Pawlenty as the “clear frontrunner”. Lefties on CNN and MSNBC, perhaps deliberately, are quick to claim that nobody stands out in this “weak field” of contenders. Even Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have weighed in without coming to any conclusions. This begs the question: “What constitutes a frontrunner and how will we know it when we see one?”
Though it’s very early in the process to single out any one candidate for inclusion or exclusion, there are some signs the average person might look for in order to determine who actually has a shot at defeating Barack Obama in November 2012.
1. Supporters—The ideal candidate would have a large following of dedicated, enthusiastic supporters; not just in his or her home state, but across the country and willing to turn out in numbers on a regular basis. Money cannot buy the type of support required to win the White House, only a substantial following of true believers will do. Name recognition is crucial, with past Presidential candidates enjoying the potential advantage here.
2. Money—It is estimated that Barack Obama will receive one billion dollars in campaign contributions from banks, the healthcare industry, unions, major corporations, and individual contributors for the next campaign cycle. In order to compete with this astounding sum of money, any potential GOP candidate will need broad-based appeal and the ability to cash in on it. Simply appealing to the religious right or social conservatives may have worked for George W. Bush in the past, but it won’t be enough this time.
3. Polling—As unreliable and prone to manipulation as they can be, polls do reflect the sentiments of the voter base every bit as much as they influence it. Let’s face it, many people will vote for their presumed victor in order to be part of the winning team. Look to larger straw polls, like CPAC; and more credible, scientific polls, like Zogby and Rasmussen, to see who comes out on top against other GOP contenders as well as hypothetical matchups against Obama.
4. Credibility—Pundits love to pick apart inconsistencies in a candidate’s political past. When a candidate flip flops or his rhetoric doesn’t match his voting record, this only serves as fodder for the naysayers. With Obama looking forward to a clear advantage in positive media coverage, barring anymore regrettable recommendations for Israel between now and 2012, his challenger in the general election will have to be consistent, principled, and sincere.
5. A Clean Background—Divorce, drug use, or disgrace will hamper any candidate’s chances. The liberal media will attempt to derail the conversation from the failing economy and jobs creation efforts of Obama by bringing up a candidate’s past indiscretions. If a candidate can be kept on the defensive, he will not be able to move the conversation forward by proposing meaningful solutions.
Is there any candidate who has what it takes to be called a “frontrunner” in today’s declared or potential field? Is there any one candidate who has broad-based appeal and enthusiastic followers, a proven fundraising record, the ability to win scientific and straw polls, consistency between rhetoric and record, and an impeccable personal life? Now that a rubric has been provided, the author will let the readers duke it out in the comment section.

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Please repost far and wide. I think anyone who uses my rubric for grading potential GOP candidates will come to one conclusion--Ron Paul. It's important for people to come to this conclusion on their own though. We are such big fans of the good doctor that our exuberance tends to drive people away at times. So let's lead these horses to water and hope they drink!