Former Republican Governor: 2012 GOP Field Full Of Clowns

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore spoke at CPAC yesterday and had some pretty discouraging words about the prospective Republican field in 2012:

Gilmore, a former Virginia attorney general and long-shot presidential candidate in 2008, now runs the conservative Free Congress Foundation think tank, and he was moderating a panel here at CPAC titled “The End of Productivity: The Growing Tax Burden.” His criticism of the 2012 presidential field came during a question-and-answer period at the end of the seminar. Asked by an audience member whether he thought the 2012 contenders have what it takes to turn around the country, Gilmore had this to say:

“Here at CPAC, you have seen a lot of people running for president. I guess you’ve seen seven or eight. I made my personal list; it was 23 and I stopped counting. Some of them are real, some of them statements, some of them clowns. And that is the reality.

The fact is, many of the people running for president are running for their own self-interest. Because they want to be something.

I caught up with Gilmore after the panel and asked if he really meant to call certain GOP presidential hopefuls “clowns” that care more about themselves than the country. “Yeah, yeah,” he eagerly replied. “Some people place more more emphasis on flamboyance than they do on thinking and policy and trying to make serious proposals. It falls to think tanks like us and others, Heritage and people like that, that actually offer decent proposals.” Gilmore paused a beat, then added, “And you know what, political theater’s OK. But when it’s all theater, the public suffers.”

Frankly, I’ve got to agree with Gilmore for the most part. As in 2008, the GOP will be blessed with a large field of candidates due to the lack of a party incumbent. Just like in 2008, though, I find myself largely dissatisfied with the field. In some ways, 2012 is better form my point of view because there are two candidates — Gary Johnson and Mitch Daniels — that I see myself voting for in a General Election. That wasn’t true of anyone in 2008. Johnson is a long shot who probably won’t win the nomination. Daniels has a shot, but his guerilla conflict with the social conservative wing of the party will likely pose a problem for him should he decide to run. If neither of those guys win the nomination, I honestly don’t know what I’ll do in November 2012, because giving Barack Obama another four years simply isn’t an option for me, and I’m not willing to vote for a Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, or Palin. And I have a feeling I’m not alone.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. jwest says:

    “Former Republican Governor: 2012 GOP Field Full Of Clowns”

    Normally, one needs to go to the Huffington Post to get a headline like this that refers to the quote “Some of them are real, some of them statements, some of them clowns.”

    But hey, give it a try. Maybe OTB will be bought out for 315 million.

  2. wr says:

    A man speaking on a panel called “The Growing Tax Burden” when taxes are at their lowest in decades calls other politicians clowns.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the state of “conservatism.”

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    wr says:
    Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 13:39
    A man speaking on a panel called “The Growing Tax Burden” when taxes are at their lowest in decades calls other politicians clowns.

    Well he didn’t say Republican rhetoric had much to do with reality and he didn’t necessarily choose the title of the discussion group. But he’s right about the Republican field, which resembles a circus show of monstrosities. Doug of course continues to amuse with his insistence he’s not a Republican but a Libertarian. It’s just that he can never conceive of voting Democrat.

  4. Trumwill says:

    I have to agree with jwest on the misleading title.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    You know what you never do, Doug, is articulate the serious policy differences you have with Obama that make it impossible for you to even consider voting for him.

    I wonder whether, without falling back on vague platitudes, you’d care to do that.

  6. reid says:

    Doug: If Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, or (especially) Palin is the R nominee, then giving Obama another four years better be an option for you. Are you just trying to sound tough to appease the wingers here?

    I, too, wonder what is so wrong with Obama’s policies that you hate him that much. It’s not like he’s much of a liberal…. And consider, do you really want an R in the White House when there’s a decent chance that Congress will be controlled by them? Talk about lunatics running wild for 2-4 years.

  7. EddieInCA says:

    Obama vs. Palin
    Obama vs Gingrich
    Obama vs Huckabee
    Obama vs Barbour

    How could anyone vote for anyone BUT Obama?

    Obama vs Pawlenty
    Obama vs Daniels
    Obama vs Romney

    Can any of these three win the nomination? Seriously?


  8. TG Chicago says:

    I agree with jwest and Trumwill on the misrepresentation in the headline.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable if Mataconis votes 3rd party instead of picking Obama or Romney (or whoever) if he really believes those two options are near-equally bad. But I agree with Michael Reynolds in that I have been reading posts here pretty regularly for a while, and it’s not entirely clear to me why Obama is unvotable for Mataconis. (though actually, I’m not really sure why Romney is either).

  9. michael reynolds says:


    The Romney objection comes from herpetism or reptilotry – irrational prejudice against reptiles.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Worth noting that the large lead Obama enjoyed over Palin last Sept. is now a HUGE lead, a gap that continued to widen even as conservatives were busy patting themselves on the back and writing Obama’s political obituary.

    Can’t wait for Kenny and JT to show up and tell us how the poll has a liberal bias…

  11. reid says:

    From what I’ve seen of him, Pawlenty is nearly as bad as Palin and the rest in terms of being a socon. Don’t let his mild-mannered style fool you.

    I would hope that Romney would be a reasonable president, but he’s too often shown that he’ll happily be whoever his committees think will win him an election. Who knows what his real principles are, or whether he’d just be a pawn of the far right.

    Of the names mentioned so far, only Daniels (who I don’t know much about) and Johnson sound tolerable, and their chances of winning are slim. Anyone I think would be tolerable probably wouldn’t survive the R primaries….

  12. Cato says:

    Jim Gilmore..failed governor, failed Senate candidate, failed Presidential..yeah there is an opinion I care about..NOT!