Jamie Weinstein

While the 2012 Presidential election is some distance away, the Conservative Political Action Conference held last week in Washington, DC gave us our first look at what the Republican primary might look like.

During the 2008 Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was the most serious contender to John McCain for the Republican nomination. He will almost certainly run again in 2012.

His speech at CPAC showed that he has a firm grasp of the current political zeitgeist. Using his own tremendous history as a successful businessman as a political weapon, Romney criticized President Obama’s economic inexperience and his failure to focus on fixing the economy.

“Had he [President Obama] or his advisors even spent a few years in the real economy they would have learned that the number one cause of failure of small and large business in the private sector is lack of focus,” Romney exclaimed. “And that the first rule of turning around any enterprise is focus, focus, focus.”

Romney concluded, “He failed to focus and so he failed.”

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Not only did Romney hammer away at what he perceives as the Obama administration’s economic failures, he also sought to unabashedly trumpet his belief in American exceptionalism. Like Ronald Reagan, Romney seemingly seeks to inspire Americans to believe in America again. It is no accident his new book is entitled No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness. The title is an obvious attack on President Obama’s propensity to apologize for America overseas.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich again proved himself to be the most politically astute of all the potential 2012 candidates. While every other speaker came to the stage from a back entrance, Newt got to the stage by walking through the thousands of attendees in the audience. It was political genius.

Newt tends to always be a step ahead politically of everyone else and this reality makes his potential as a 2012 contender very real. In terms of policy, there may be no Republican nominee with a greater grasp of the challenges facing America and possible solutions to fix them than Newt. It is almost as if he comes up with a new idea every minute.

Newt’s big problem, of course, is some of the personal baggage he carries. If he can overcome some of this baggage, he may be able to surprise the political establishment by emerging as the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Fellow potential 2012 Republican contenders underestimate Newt at their own peril.

Jamie Weinstein

Jamie Weinstein holds a master's degree in the history of international relations from the London School of Economics and is a columnist for The North Star National.