Election 2012: What You Need to Know So Far
Want to keep tabs on what’s going on in the election, without spending four hours a day on CNN? We’ve got you covered. From now through November, we’ll be bringing you regular updates on all things election—what’s happening, who’s trending, what to watch for, and the best news and articles out there to keep you up to speed.
This week, check out a run-down of the 2012 election basics.
The next presidential election is on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (why, you might ask?). As usual, this is expected to be a Democratic nominee vs. a Republican nominee, maybe with an independent (i.e., loaded and/or relentless; see: Donald Trump and/or Ron Paul) thrown in the mix for laughs and spoilers.
The Democratic party’s nominee is assumed to be Barack Obama, running for a second term. There are actually a handful of other candidates, but none who are even close to being viable against the incumbent President. So, unless something crazy happens (botched celebrity cameo on Wife Swap; Beyoncé’s baby endorses a Kennedy), the election is going to come down to Barack Obama vs. Republican Nominee X.
The Republican primary forerunner so far is Mitt Romney, but voters seem to be less enthusiastic about voting for Romney than about simply not voting for not-Romney. Until the Republicans decide on their candidate, the main questions we’ll follow here are “Romney or AnyoneButRomney?” and “If AnyoneButRomney, then who?”
These are the formally declared Republican candidates in the race, listed in order of the hilarity of their Google results:
Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and incumbent President of Sweater Vests. Pro-life and socially conservative, he came in second to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses by just eight votes and is known for—well, Google it.
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and Eagle Scout who holds an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. He’s known for his strong support of the death penalty, firm belief in intelligent design, and fierce opposition against federal healthcare reform proposals. And, of course, this.
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives from Georgia and (we can only assume) satirical defender of the sanctity of marriage. The architect of the 1994 Contract with America, he favors strong border control and religious expression (he’s Catholic). He also had 84 ethics charges filed against him while Speaker of the House. Famous relatives include Pillsbury Dough Boy and Keebler Elf.
Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and co-founder of Bain Capital. Though he has strong business credentials, he suffers from not being relatable to people who aren’t millionaires. He passed health care reform in Massachusetts that is now being attacked as the predecessor for Obama’s health care reform, and is known for looking “like every guy who ever fired your dad,” according to Jon Stewart. That, and being Mormon.
Ron Paul, Representative from Texas, staunch libertarian, and a medical doctor. He’s the only Republican presidential candidate who voted against the Iraq War Resolution of 2002, and he has called global warming a hoax. Known for previous presidential bids and affable mulishness.
These are the candidates who are no longer active, listed in the same order:
Herman Cain, Godfather’s Pizza CEO from Georgia: Suspended his campaign in December 2011 in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and extramarital affairs.
Michele Bachmann, Representative from Minnesota: Withdrew in January 2012 in the wake of people suspecting she might be kind of crazy.
Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota: Withdrew in August 2011 and is endorsing Mitt Romney.
Jon Huntsman, Jr., former Ambassador to China and former Governor of Utah: Withdrew in January 2012 after a distant third-place showing in New Hampshire, where he had heavily invested, and is now endorsing Mitt Romney.
Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico: Withdrew in December 2011 and is seeking the Libertarian Party nomination.
A Brief History of the Primary
Mitt Romney held an early lead in polls, as the establishment candidate and veteran of the 2008 primaries (although polls this early don’t necessarily mean anything—remember that in summer 2007, Hillary was polling at nearly twice Obama’s popularity).
Voters remained unexcited by the idea of President Romney and began to turn their attention to a series of alternatives, leading to a few different fads, the most prominent of which were:
Fad 1: Rick Perry. After Perry’s entry into the race in August, many quickly rallied to support this presidential-looking, non-Mormon, unapologetic, experienced straight-shooter from Texas. This momentum quickly dissipated with Perry’s uncomfortably awful debate performance and general inability to string together words.
Fad 2: Herman Cain. A charismatic businessman with executive experience, Cain briefly gained a lead in national polling, then lost it just as quickly after revelations of potential sexual misconduct and voters discovering his complete inability to grasp basic foreign policy.
Late Fall 2011
Newt Gingrich, whose campaign seemed to be on its deathbed in June when his staff resigned en masse, made a comeback in polling and fundraising (and, presumably, finding people who were willing to work for him).
Mitt Romney climbed back on top, winning the first two primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
What’s Up Next
The South Carolina primary on January 21, 2012: As Romney increases his lead in the polls, expect his rivals to continue their attacks on his business record, seeking to turn his greatest asset into a liability. (It doesn’t help that Romney says things like this.) South Carolina, with its stagnating economy and near-10% unemployment, might be particularly susceptible to these critiques.
On the other hand, Romney has deep pockets, having raised an additional $25 million in the last quarter of 2011, and one of South Carolina’s Senate seats is held by Tea Party golden boy Jim DeMint, who has been a firm Romney supporter.
News You Need
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Photos courtesy of League of Women Voters of California, Google Politics & Elections, and Rick Perry's Unpopular Opinions.
Lulu was born in China and grew up in Germany, Norway, and Canada. She graduated from Yale University with a major in Political Science and a minor in microwave cuisine. Having worked for J.P. Morgan in New York, she is now a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, where her focus is on technology, media, and economic development.More from this Author