22 January 2011

Monticello Society makes ready for US elections 2012

It is only January 2011 yet, but the speculations about possible candidates for the Republican nomination for US President have been going on for a while already, and most of the Republican politicians will publically announce their candidature during the winter and spring. The election will take place on 6 November 2012, by the way. It will as always be a long and exhausting campaign.

The Norwegian-based Monticello Society, which I am a member of, is perhaps the best place for Norwegians to find information and facts about US American politics and campaigns.(*) The purpose of the Monticello Society is to study the history, society, politics and culture of the USA, to work to enhance Norwegian's knowledge and understanding of American affairs and to oppose anti-American attitudes, particularly in the Norwegian media. Each year the society hosts the Reagan Conference and arranges members meetings with US politics and society on the agenda. The society's president Jan Henrik Gilhuus and vice president Jan Arild Snoen are among the leading experts on US American politics and campaigns here in Norway and are often consulted by the media.

Today it was announced that the society's 2012 election pages had been created. It aims to cover the nominations and campaigns for president, Senate, House of Representatives as well as the elections on state level. Besides the presidential election, 33 senate races as well as House of Representatives elections and 11 elections for Governor will take place. Exciting as always!

I have followed US politics and campaigns with great interest since I was a teenager, and have set a goal to read a (serious) biography of every US president, as well as books on other central politicians past & present. During the last few years I gather that I have read far more books about US politicians than about royals. In other words, I am really looking forward to the elections in 2012!

It is far too early - at least for me - to make serious predictions. It is not difficult, however, to say with almost certainty that President Barack Obama will win the nomination for the Democrats. The only elected Democratic President to have lost the nomination was Franklin Pierce in 1856, and I don't think that Obama will be seriously challenged within his own party. The midterm elections in 2010 turned out to be a disaster for the Democrats, so Obama will have tough job ahead of him in order to be re-elected. But it is still a long time until 6 November 2012. If the financial situation improves, it will improve his chances. Democratic presidents who run as a moderate but rule as a liberal will often end up in trouble, as Carter experienced in 1980. Obama has to move to the center to win back his supporters from 2008.

The campaign to win the nomination for the Republicans will of course be far more exciting, and it is still a very open race, among the reasons why I follow so many Republican politicians on Twitter. Many would maintain that the Republicans tend to nominate the candidate who is regarded to be "next in line", and this time it is Mitt Romney's turn. Personally I am not too excited about his candidature, and he seems a bit "yesterday news" to me, but I will probably be wrong. The last poll shows that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is in the lead, but as of today both would lose to Obama (see RealClearPolitics, polls 20 and 21 January 2011). Other candidates mentioned are among others former Alaskas Governor Sarah Palin, who was the Republicans' vice president candidate in 2008; former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr. of Utah, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

It might be too early for Scott Brown to run, but then again he is not in a much different position than Barack Obama was in 2008. Some think he is too liberal, too. He could be vice president material, though, although a Romney/Thune or a Romney/Daniels ticket might seem more likely. It will be fun to watch John Thune's campaign though - if he decides to run, that is. Of course the world needs a US president of Norwegian ancestry! :-) I still find it difficult to believe that populist candidates like Palin and Huckabee could win the nomination - the former will most likely be crushed by the other Republican hopefuls if she dares to run.

I will surely return with more comments and predictions later on! We are up for a lot of fun!

(*) Of course I get my news feed from many other sources, including RealClearPolitics, Politico.com, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post (which, by the way, asks today: "Who can win the 2012 GOP nomination?"), The Boston Globe and others.

Updated on Sunday 23 January 2011 at 10.15 (url corrected); last time updated on Wednesday 1 February 2012 at 23.30 (typo corrected).



  1. I am intrigued by the names of your society and conference. Did either Jefferson or his plantation have a connection to Norway? What about Ronald Reagan? Interesting that these two presidents should be so honored by Norwegian devotees of US politics.

    Some thoughts on some of your other comments:

    Yes, it is far too early to predict 2012. At this point in their presidencies, Reagan and Clinton both looked like long shots for reelection and Bush the Elder's position looked unassailable.

    Franklin Pierce may have been the last Democrat denied renomination, but only because Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the race when his defeat looked likely.

    Romney has the problem of his past career as a moderate, before his conversion to staunch conservatism, which some might think opportunistic. He also has a big problem as a Mormon, a faith which at present suffers from a shameful amount of bigotry among many Americans.

    Huntsman is probably the class of the field, but in the current bitterly partisan climate, especially on the Republican side, his service in the Obama administration will make it almost impossible for him to win the nomination.

    Scott Brown is way too liberal - and too Northeastern - to win the Republican nomination in the present era. Also, having elected an inexperienced senator in 2008, those who oppose the President's reelection are unlikely to choose somewhere with a similar resume.

    Hailey Barbour would be a very formidable candidate in normal circumstances, but he may be too establishment for those with a taste for "tea."

    You neglected to mention a possible "dark horse," former Florida governor Jeb Bush. While two years ago the Bush "brand" looked irreparably damaged, he may be the one candidate the establishment Republican can rally around who might have a shot at neutralizing the Tea Party.

  2. Hello Gary!
    To the best of my knowledge, Jefferson and his plantation had no connection to Norway. We chose the name because we wanted to honor Jefferson and his ideas. At the time of choosing, there were lots of other alternatives as well, such as "Lafayette Society" and even "51st State" (I'm glad we picked Monticello!).

    Ronald Reagan was the US president during the formative years of most of the founders of Monticello Society, and his contribution to ending the Cold War with an American victory is unsurpassed. To a Norwegian, this alone would make him an important president. Additionally, his work to promote the ideals of economic freedom, lower taxes, etc was important for the right wing movement in Europe throughout the 80s, and again that's when and where most of us got started.

    Jon Henrik Gilhuus
    Monticello Society

  3. Hello Jon Henrik,

    Thank you for the explanation. I agree that Monticello Society is an excellent name. It's very interesting to read about Norwegians who admire Ronald Reagan, as one tends to think of Norway as a very liberal, socialist society, which was certainly not the political philosophy of the late President Reagan. But as the saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows!

  4. Gary, thanks for your input. I don't think you should view the leadership of the Monticello Society, or the majority of its members for that matter, as representative of how Norwegians in general think about Reagen - or Republicans for that matter. The majority of Norwegians would probably sympathize with the Democrats.

    I wouldn't define myself as a Reagenist, though, in contrast to many of the Monticello Society members. But I certainly support and accept the statement of purpose of Monticello Society.

    Concerning your other comments to my blog article, I am under the impression that Jeb Bush has ruled himself out of the race. And would GOP dare to go for another Bush after the 8 years with George W. Bush?

    In general, I decided only to list the most likely candidates for the GOP nomination and chose not to make an in-depth analysis of their chances. I wonder, however, if Mitt Romney's church affiliation (or Jon Huntsman's for that matter) really would mean so much in this time and age?


  5. Ruling oneself out of the presidential stakes is generally never ruled as definitive unless the statement is "Shermanesque" ("If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.") I agree it is unlikely, but there does seem to be a certain "Draft Jeb" contingent among GOP stalwarts. Would they do it? Would they nominate Sarah Palin? The current primary system favors candidates who are popular with the fringes of the parties, not those who have the best chance to win the general election.

    As for Romney and Huntsman's faith, I regret that it is a serious concern. A generation ago, when Romney's father ran, it was not an issue at all. Since then, as Evangelicalism (of the American, not the northern European variety) has grown, an ugly undercurrent of anti-Mormonism has grown with it. I have been shocked in the past couple of years to hear people I know make prejudiced statements about Mormons (including Governor Romney). As I said, I consider it shameful, but it exists.

  6. The final program in English for the Reagen Conference on Sunday 6 February 2011 can now be viwed here.


  7. Concerning Mitt Romney's church affilation, of course I remember from the 2008 campaign that his Mormon faith was mentioned, but I doubt it decided the GOP nomination. Faith matters in US politics (in my opinion too much), but race was and is another issue that played a role in the 2008 campaign (and still does, referring to the birthers and all the people who believes Obama is a Muslim etc.), but still Obama won. When Obama could win, then I think Romney could win, despite his faith.