And now it's time for 'Cainesian' economics

Business Times - 21 Oct 2011

And now it's time for 'Cainesian' economics

Former pizza salesman Herman Cain could well be next Republican presidential candidate


POP psychologists have proposed that there is a certain kind of woman who consistently tends to reject Mr Right, the trustful, responsible, hard-working and intelligent man who loves and wants to marry her. Instead, she seems always attracted to Mr Wrong who almost everyone knows is just not good for her. These days it seems that the entire Republican Party may be suffering from this Rebuffing-Prince-Charming disorder.

Republicans will have to marry - electorally speaking, that is - one of their party's presidential candidates in the coming months in a wedding ceremony aka 'presidential primaries' with the prospective groom carrying them straight into the White House (hopefully) after next year's elections.

But the man who has been courting the Republicans for the last eight years - good family, attractive, successful, smart - has yet to win the heart of the prospective bride. She is still looking around, going on dates with all kinds of weirdoes, and is unable to make up her mind.

Poor Mitt Romney. You have to feel sorry for a guy who looks like an actor that a Hollywood movie director would cast in the role of an American president. He is a member of a prominent Republican political family (his father, George Romney, served as a successful governor of Michigan and also ran for president), a graduate of Harvard University's schools of law and business and a successful business executive who made a lot of money.

He also served as the CEO of the Organising Committee for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and was elected as the governor of Massachusetts, a Democratic-leaning and liberal state.

Moreover, with Democratic President Barack Obama losing public support as the American economic recovery continues to stagnate, the Republicans seem to have a good chance of winning the 2012 presidential race. And public opinion polls indicate that Mr Romney, a centrist and moderate Republican who is doing particularly well among independent voters, a crucial voting bloc, has a better-than-even chance of defeating Mr Obama next year.

And this guy is not good enough for you, Ms Republican? Apparently not. In fact, Republican voters had already rejected the overtures from Mr Romney once, when they nominated Senator John McCain from Arizona as their (failed) presidential candidate four years ago. But Mr Romney has not given up and is asking for his party's hand once again.

And, unfortunately, he continues to get the cold shoulder from Republicans who just do not seem to be falling in love with him.

First, there was some talk that former Alaska governor (and ex-vice-presidential candidate) Sarah Palin was the preferred candidate. But it seems that she prefers making money on the lecture circuit and as a talking head on Fox News television in the coming years, and she can make more money than she would make in the White House.

And then there was the fling with celebrity millionaire and television entertainer Donald Trump who was leading in the Republican opinion polls for a few weeks. But that died out after a while, and was followed by a brief but sizzling affair with Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann from Wisconsin, a favourite of the Tea Party and a social conservative whose husband is a therapist specialising in 'curing' homosexual men and helping them to become 'straight'.

But that was before Texas Governor Rick Perry showed up at the door and asked our Republicans to a dance. That seemed to be love at first sight. The tall, beefy and folksy cowboy and a man of (Christian) faith, governing a state that has done economically better than the rest of the country, Mr Perry rose to become the leading Republican presidential candidate for a while.

That however did not last very long. Mr Perry performed miserably in the televised debates between the Republican presidential candidates and his commitment to restricting illegal immigration from Mexico was challenged after it was discovered that he had allowed the US-born children of these 'illegals' to study in the state's public schools.

So after the Republicans started losing that loving feeling towards Mr Perry - and following their unsuccessful attempts to get New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to join the race - some speculated that Mr Romney could end up after all as the default Republican choice.

Well, not so fast, please. Enter Herman Cain, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza who has almost no political experience - and brags about it, describing himself as the only 'non-politician' among the Republican candidates. The former pizza salesman who also happens to be African-American - raising the prospects of a presidential race between two black candidates - seemed to have won many Republican hearts with his so-called 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan that calls for lowering income and corporate tax to 9 per cent while adding a 9 per cent sales tax.

Independent analysts have concluded that contrary to Mr Cain's claim that his plan would be a boon for the middle class, the 9-9-9 plan would actually reduce the tax burden on the wealthy and increase it on lower and middle-class voters. Yet Republican voters seem to like that idea as well as his other proposals - for example, to build an electric fence on the border between Mexico and the United States.

So Mr Cain continues to lead in the Republican presidential polls, leaving poor Romney behind. But Mr Romney and his aides are confident that it would not be long before that romance too would come to an end and that Republicans would do the right thing and come back home to Mr Right.

There is always hope.

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


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