With a dissatisfied party base and plenty of fired-up Republican opposition, a few months ago, it looked as if anyone could beat President Barack Obama. Democrats lamented repeated concessions that contradicted core campaign promises, like the failure of the public option and the continuation of Bush’s tax rates on the rich. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to gain support for their firm opposition to compromise and stubbornness with both debates on healthcare reform and the debt ceiling. But now, just months before their first party caucus, Republicans are looking weaker than ever.
Recent frontrunner Herman Cain is facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct from former employees. Despite the allegations, he continues to hold the top spot in Republican party polls across the country, challenging longtime frontrunner Mitt Romney. But Cain has made some serious gaffes, not only with the sexual misconduct scandal but in his attempts to answer basic foreign policy questions.
During an interview last week with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, when asked whether or not he agreed with Obama’s actions in Libya, Cain repeated the question multiple times and struggled to find an answer. Several uncomfortable seconds passed before he formed an answer. The video has gone viral and is being promoted by the popular liberal website MoveOn.org
Speaking of uncomfortable moments, Rick Perry, during last week’s CNBC Republican presidential candidate debate, failed to name the three government agencies he pledges to cut if elected president. If elected, the Departments of Commerce and Education would be cut, but Perry struggled to remember the third—despite help from Ron Paul—and eventually uttered “oops” when he realized he would be unable to state it. Later on, he finally added that is was the Department of Energy. Simply put, it was uncomfortable to witness an individual who wants the top job in the country fail to name an organization on national television he so confidently wants to abolish.
However, he remains a popular candidate. Like Cain, Perry’s appeal comes from individuals wanting an Average Joe-type candidate that is able to make some mistakes, say some wrong things, but all-in-all be on the right track, rather than relying on a teleprompter for a flawless speech. For example, Perry, a day after his embarrassing debate performance, went on five morning television programs and read the Top-10 List on David Letterman’s “Late Night” to downplay the significance of his memory lapse and make fun of the candid moment.
Republicans have a lot of work to do, however, if they expect their nominee to beat the incredibly eloquent President Obama. While some voters may be attracted to a more “real” sounding candidate, the majority of voters— especially highly courted independents— will find Obama’s professor-like behavior much more presidential. So while Obama’s concessions may have made him vulnerable only a few months ago, today they are nothing in comparison to the continued gaffes of leading Republicans. It very well may cost the GOP the election.
Matt Hansen, a fourth-year student, writes The People’s Republic of Matt, a politics column in Opinions. He double majors in political science and sociology at Concordia. On Twitter: @MattHansen