The historical rhyme of the GOP Presidential primary

by Eric Shierman

Mark Twain once said that history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The current GOP Presidential primary has poetically mimicked the same contest four years ago.

There was a really smart governor from the Midwest who was full of ideas and possessed such an impressive track record from governing a blue state that he attracted serious interest very early only to run out of steam and money long before most voters even started to pay attention. Tim Pawlenty became Tommy Thompson.

There was a very culturally conservative senator who tried to consolidate what was left of the Christian Coalition. He was successful but the culture war caucus just has not been what it used to be. Rick Santorum has become Sam Brownback.

There was a bona fide country club Republican with moderate cultural views and moderate views on most everything else. The media loved him, but despite his impressive accomplishments, Republican primary voters politely ignored him. John Huntsman has become Rudolph Giuliani.

There was a candidate who did not even seem to belong in the Republican primary. Answering foreign policy debate questions he seemed to be running against George W. Bush not seeking to replace him. In 2007 the focus of his campaign was an issue Republican voters had hardly ever taken into consideration, the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. He argued that Fed policies had spawned an imminent financial catastrophe. Ron Paul has become Ron Paul.

Towards the end of 2007 there was discontent among the base of the party with the quality of choices available. There was a search to find a superhero candidate who could satisfy every faction within the Republican Party and also do what no Republican had a chance of doing in 2008 anyway: win. Such a candidate seemed to emerge with great fanfare. He was a movement conservative, handsome, and had a southern drawl. Then in a matter of months he proved to be a dud. Rick Perry has become Fred Thompson.

There was a clear front runner from the very beginning. He had lots of money and spent lots of money but Republican primary voters kept viewing him as an unreliable sellout. They could not trust him, but because their votes were divided amongst so many factionally specialized candidates, his plurality would be enough to win each winner-take-all contest until he inevitably wrapped up the nomination. Mitt Romney will become John McCain.

Eric Shierman is a partner at Creative Destruction Investment Partners, writes for the Oregonian under the pen name “Portland Aristotle” on the My Oregon blog, and is the author of the forthcoming book: A Brief History of Political Cultural Change. His articles can be read at: