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Who Will Take the Reins? By: Jamie Weinstein
North Star Writers Group | Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The morning after his narrow electoral loss to George W. Bush in 2004, John Kerry conceded the election in a very gracious concession speech.  

"In an American election, there are no losers," Kerry told supporters assembled in Boston's Faneuil Hall, "because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. That is the greatest privilege and most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on Earth." 

What was true then is true today.  

Americans didn't reject John McCain last Tuesday. They didn't vote against anybody. Rather, they voted for somebody. They voted for an inspirational figure who appealed to their best hopes and promised them better tomorrows.  

The truth of the matter is that John McCain faced an uphill battle from the very beginning. The party of a sitting president generally gets blamed for a bad economy, and McCain had the Herculean task of convincing voters to put another Republican in office during a time of great economic turmoil. Beating the economy and Barack Obama were just too much for even a great man like John McCain to achieve. And make no mistake, John McCain is a great man, one of the finest to have ever served this country.  

I watched the election from an underground bar on the campus of the London School of Economics. Hundreds of students gathered in the early hours of Wednesday morning to see who Americans would choose. These students were overwhelmingly supportive of Obama, so much so that, to their discredit, they booed every time John McCain picked up a state. But at 4 a.m. London time, when CNN declared Barack Obama the winner, something special happened. After the cheering ended, the exultant onlookers began chanting: "USA, USA, USA." 

Now, I don't know how many Americans were in the crowd, but there is no question that a good proportion of those chanting USA were foreigners. It was a remarkable sight and I couldn't help but smile. 

Symbolically, Barack Obama's election as president means something very important. It proves that any child, no matter their background or ethnic origin, can achieve their dreams in America.  It proves that America remains that great land of opportunity that has drawn and continues to draw immigrants from around the world. For a moment, there is nothing wrong with ideological opponents of Obama taking in, and even appreciating, the history that was made on Tuesday. I know I did.  

In the wake of last Tuesday's electoral defeat, the Republican Party will have to find a new leader to rally behind. If they have any shot at taking on Barack Obama in 2012, they will have to nominate a candidate who is energetic, relatively young, smart, exciting and, just as importantly, a very able communicator. Republicans cannot get their ideas across to the American people if they do not have a leader who can speak effectively and movingly.  

As McCain's vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin will likely leverage her newfound fame into a 2012 presidential run. She is, however, not the leader the Republican Party needs. Besides failing to show a strong grasp of the foreign policy challenges that confront America, she did not demonstrate the gravitas that one expects from a president. If Republicans go this route and nominate Palin, it will mean certain defeat in 2012.  

Few doubt that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is eyeing the opportunity to run again in 2012. Romney has many positives, most importantly his tremendous record in the private sector. Yet, in 2008, Romney tried to be all things to all segments of the conservative base. By choosing this route, he came across as inauthentic. If he changes course and runs in 2012 as the businessman candidate that he is, he may well have a shot to win the Republican nomination.  

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee must also be seen as among the top contenders for the Republican nomination in 2012. Huckabee is a fantastic communicator and a likeable person, but his economic populism makes him a poor choice to lead the party.   

Columnist Robert Novak reported last week that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has been mentioned by party leaders as a 2012 contender. There is no one in the Republican Party who has more ideas than Newt. He is a brilliant man, a great communicator, and would likely make a fine president. Unfortunately, he has a lot of personal baggage that may be hard to overcome.  

There is no potential 2012 presidential hopeful more interesting than Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. At 37, Jindal is the youngest governor in the country. Though young, his resume is dazzling. A graduate of Brown University, Jindal studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He turned down acceptances to Yale Law School and Harvard Medical School to go into government.  

After Oxford, Jindal worked briefly at the highly respected consulting firm McKinsey & Company. At just 24 years of age, Jindal was appointed Secretary of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. He has also served as an assistant secretary in the Health and Human Services department and as a U.S. Congressman.  

On top of all this, Jindal is an outstanding communicator and his story is one Americans will embrace because it testifies to the American dream. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal very well may be president one day, and that day just may well be in January 2013.  

There will be other candidates who will certainly throw their hat into the ring in the coming years.  But if you want to know the future of the Republican Party it might be smart to watch closely what is going on in Baton Rouge.  

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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