Dunsmore: Presidential Politics

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(HOST)  The 2012 presidential campaign is
now fully underway as seven Republican Party hopefuls debated earlier this week
in New
Hampshire. This morning, commentator and veteran ABC
News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore offers his thoughts. 

(DUNSMORE)  I am going to go way out on a limb and suggest that
most Americans were not riveted to their TV sets on CNN Monday evening. Even a
political junkie like me was channel surfing among the debate, a pretty good
baseball game, and an exciting Stanley Cup hockey

As the cliché goes, these are very early days in
presidential politics – about seven months before primary voting begins in
Iowa –
nearly seventeen months before the full American electorate makes its choice. And I
suspect what was said on a day in June in New Hampshire will not long be

But here’s what the professional political handicappers
seem to have concluded from Monday’s New Hampshire

-Mitt Romney remains the clear front runner. He looked
more presidential than the rest, and he was more relaxed than when he was a
candidate for the nomination in 2008.

-Michele Bachman, member of congress from Minnesota and self-styled
House Tea Party leader, exceeded expectations. Once thought of as just a Sarah
Palin wannabe, it’s now being suggested that Bachman is serious and might
eventually have a shot at the vice presidential nomination.

-Former Minnesota governor Tom Pawlenty disappointed the
media because he didn’t confront Romney in person with the charge he had made
on FOX News Sunday that President Obama’s health care program is virtually the
same as the one Romney created when he was governor of Massachusetts. That
prompted at least one commentator I heard to question Pawlenty’s political

Actually, the seven candidates might yet become eleven.
Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and
recently retired American ambassador to China, is expected to join the
race. Governor Rick Perry of
Texas seems to
be ready to jump in. Rudy Giuliani is leaning toward running again. And of
course there is Sarah Palin who continues to provoke the incessant “will she or
won’t she run” debate in the
political media.

Still, what was clear from this early Republican
encounter is that the economy will be THE main campaign issue – and, of course,
President Obama is going to be excoriated by his opponents as the man to blame
for the economic woes of the country. This is to be completely expected.

Yet what we saw Monday night seemed a case of convenient,
collective amnesia – the kind that has erased any memory of what actually
happened in the fall of 2008, when the world’s capitalist system was on the brink
of total collapse. It was the crash of ‘08 that led to the loss of millions of
jobs and the devastation of countless middle class retirement accounts.

Barak Obama was not the president then, nor was he
responsible for the policies that nearly led to economic Armageddon.

It is, then, perhaps ironic that some of those very
policies – tax cuts and de-regulation – have been repackaged and are now being
offered as “solutions” to the unemployment and slow growth that have followed
the worst economic upheaval since the Great

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