Friday, August 26, 2011

The GOP Field (and Perry vs. Willingham)

Intrade provides the current odds for the 2012 GOP nomination. It shows, in effect, that the choice in 2012 is between the status quo (which is bad enough as it is), and an even worse GOP candidate. Roughly, the odds break down as follows:

Perry - 39%
Romney - 30%
Palin - 8%
Huntsman - 7%
Bachmann - 5%
Paul - 3%

(This gives a total of about 92%, meaning the prediction market is holding out an 8% hope for someone else to jump into the fray.)

Romney is simply not popular with the party's base (given his liberal past and his Religious Incorrectness), which means it'll take a big-money Establishment push to make him viable. I don't see how he could be any more or less status-quo-ey a candidate than Obama. Bachmann is batshit crazy, and Palin is a Dingbat. Paul doesn't really stand any actual chance, and his run will be a repeat of '08. Huntsman is about the only candidate who doesn't look like crap. All in all, it's obviously a really slim field if you're looking for a quality candidate, and this is a problem the GOP has brought on itself.

To illustrate that problem, let's consider Rick Perry, the current front-runner. Everything I've seen and heard about the guy suggests to me that he's as dirty a politician as they come, and he's got all the anti-reason, anti-science credentials the southern party base craves these days. Already on the campaign trail he's said thoroughly dumb things and has gone back on things he wrote in his book only 9 months ago.

But the main thing that pops into my mind whenever I hear Rick Perry's name - the thing that most represents to me what Rick Perry is as a politician and a human being - is his handling of the Texas Forensic Science Commission's inquiry into the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Zack Beauchamp over at the Daily Dish sums it up nicely:

I doubt, sadly, that the Willingham case will have much of an influence on Perry's chances. The real reason to talk about it is to point out the absolute insanity of a situation where someone with Perry's record can be thought of a "serious" candidate. The man was complicit in covering up the truth about the execution of an almost-certainly innocent man. That's outrageous, and should be disqualifying. But it's not, which says a hell of a lot about American political culture. This problem - whatever its source - is something we ought to be highlighting.

My hope is that the Willingham case isn't kept under the rug like it has been so far, and that this issue dogs Perry throughout the campaign season. By the way, the Willingham case is not an isolated instance of Perry's complicity in his state's corrupt capital punishment system:

In the Hank Skinner case, Perry has actively fought DNA testing that could confirm the innocence (or guilt) of another Texas man on death row. Skinner was at one point hours from execution before the Supreme Court intervened (the intervening justice was Antonin Scalia, believe it or not). In Skinner’s case, the prosecution actually began to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence, then stopped when the first tests confirmed Skinner’s version of events. Perry again justified willful ignorance in this case by simply noting that he’s personally convinced of Skinner’s guilt.

It will also be interesting to see just how willfully ignorant the GOP primary voters could possibly be when it comes to these matters.

All in all, the 2012 election season is shaping up to be a nice, big shit sandwich.