To a certain extent, running for President of the United States is a glorified popularity contest. As we know, it is not always the best and the brightest who seek to secure the highest political office in the nation. While there are certainly some truly brilliant individuals who excel in the areas of public policy, international affairs, and the inner workings of the governmental process, intelligence alone will not propel you to the ultimate political prize.
In order to become President there are a variety of character traits that are unofficial prerequisites. Charisma and charm are on the list. Good looks and good health are up there. An incredibly thick skin that can withstand even the most brutal of criticism is essential. An unassailable track record certainly helps. And the ability to raise ungodly amounts of money could very well be the determining factor.
With those somewhat superficial criteria, it is difficult to weed out the presidential wannabes who may not actually be up to the monumental task of running this country. The reality is, however, that this nation desperately needs a superstar, not a second-stringer.
As we gear up for the 2016 presidential campaign and brace ourselves for a highly competitive contest, we ought to take a closer look at some of the Republican names being bantered about as possible presidential hopefuls.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is considering entering the race, tested the waters in the 2012 primaries for the Republican nomination but his run was short-lived and filled with gaffes. No one will easily forget that embarrassing debate performance when Perry emphatically declared that he would eliminate three governmental agencies after he took office, yet was only able to name two of those agencies.
Mitt Romney’s name is being floated as a possible GOP candidate. After falling short in his bid to be the GOP nominee in 2008, Romney was the Republican nominee in 2012, when he lost to Barack Obama in the general election. Would Romney really want to endure the stress and scrutiny of yet another presidential campaign? Does he want to run the risk of being a three-time loser in presidential politics? My guess is no.
Senator Ted Cruz is working his way into the conversation. Yet, with his Tea Part label and ultra-conservative makeup, will the darling of the Republican right be considered a viable candidate? Not if moderate Republicans have anything to say about it.
After watching his father and brother bask in the glow of the presidency, is it possible that Jeb Bush is looking to score the presidential hat trick for his family? The word is that he is indeed contemplating a run for the White House. However, with the expansion of his private equity enterprise and news that he has a new offshore private equity fund that is backed by foreign investors, Jeb Bush is highly susceptible to attacks pertaining to his financial dealings. In addition, it remains to be seen if the nation is ready for yet another Bush to occupy the Oval Office.
There are definitely some intriguing GOP stars who may throw their hats into the ring. Senator Rand Paul looks increasingly likely to launch a presidential bid. Senator Marco Rubio, who has solidified his spot as an expert on foreign relations and national security, is reportedly contemplating a run, as is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Yet, perhaps the most fascinating potential GOP candidate hails from our very own backyard. Governor Chris Christie has spent the past several years methodically laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign. His tenure as chairman of the Republican Governors Association was incredibly successful and raised his profile exponentially. His trips to Israel, Mexico, and Canada were intended to buttress his foreign affairs r?sum?, which is relatively thin at this point. Christie’s no-nonsense approach may endear him to some, but his periodic tirades directed at members of the public and his “my way or the highway” approach have led to him being labeled a bully.
But for all of the issues that pull at Chris Christie, the one thing that could potentially lead to his political demise is the Bridge-gate scandal. The controversy continues to percolate in the news despite Christie’s adamant denials that he had no knowledge of the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Taxpayers have had to bear the burden of nearly $10 million in costs relating to the investigations that ensued in the aftermath of Bridge-gate, including more than $7 million by the Governor’s office and over $1 million by the legislative committee investigating the lane closures. The shadow of Bridge-gate continues to cast an ominous pall over Chris Christie and his presidential prospects.
The New York Times recently reported that Paul Fishman, the United States Attorney for New Jersey who is investigating Bridge-gate, is considering invoking a somewhat obscure fraud statute in connection with this case. Under this theory, federal charges could be filed against members of a government agency that receives in excess of $10,000 annually in federal funds, such as the State of New Jersey or the Port Authority, if it is determined that the bridge was utilized for something other than what it was intended to be used for.
This latest revelation is a stark reminder that the Bridge-gate chapter in the tale of Chris Christie’s political career is not yet over. How it ultimately ends remains to be seen, but it unquestionably has the ability to singlehandedly quash Christie’s presidential plans.
As the GOP presidential aspirants jockey for position, there are indications that the person they worry about most is not a Republican, but a Democrat. A recent story in The New York Times noted how the prospective Republican candidates are each strategizing how they are going to attack the one Democratic candidate who they all believe will present them with the biggest challenge: Hillary Clinton.
As the 2016 presidential campaign begins to get underway, let us hope that the GOP candidates will spend more time telling us who they are instead of focusing on telling us who they are not. With no clear GOP headliner, the Republican candidates need to distinguish themselves from one another and tell us why they are best person for the job. This cannot merely be a popularity contest or an anti-Hillary skirmish. With real issues facing this nation, we need a real candidate to rise above the fray and pursue the mantle of leadership for all of the right reasons.
N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.com, or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter:@troodler
By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.