Political Report, Wayne Greene: Coburn says he won't run in 2016, but spidey-sense isn't so sure
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 4:06 AM
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I guess I can tamp down the next Tom Coburn political rumor before it even gets started.
Sen. Coburn got a mention in the Des Moines Register last week as an outside Republican presidential prospect in 2016.
That's Des Moines ... as in Iowa ... as in the traditional home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus ... as in the launching ground for the past five winning presidential campaigns.
That made my head tingle ever so slightly.
Then Sen. Coburn made a speech to the American Spectator's Annual Dinner in Washington that could easily be mistaken for very preliminary, testing-the-waters, non-campaign campaigning.
Here's a sample:
"Our vision is not based on a sentimental optimism that is blissfully ignorant of history, and math," Coburn said. "Our vision is a serious optimism based on enduring principles that have stood the test of time because they stand outside of time; principles that come from nature and nature's God; principles of self-reliance, sacrificial leadership and most of all, the dignity of each person regardless of race or creed."
Vision and history and principles: That's would-be executive branch talk, isn't it?
That had me ready to start climbing walls and shooting web.
That had my spidey-sense really climbing the wall.
Surely, I thought, Sen. Coburn has grand aspirations.
But sometimes tingling ears and spidey-sense alerts are just a random goose wandering across a grave somewhere.
In a brief statement sent through his spokesman, John Hart, Coburn made it clear he isn't testing the presidential waters, and his self-imposed term limit from the U.S. Senate in 2016 isn't the starting line for anything else.
"He is not running for anything but home," were the precise words from Hart.
That would seem to throw cold water on any speculation about the senator's future political plans - including my own thoughts of a few weeks ago about him seeing a future as governor of Oklahoma when he looked in the mirror in the morning.
At least for right now. Remember, Sen. Coburn said he wasn't going to run for the Senate, just before he did.
At any rate, Coburn's statement gives us the freedom to enjoy his speech (as relayed to me by Hart) at face value.
I get to see a lot of political speeches in my job and Coburn is one of the best. Whatever you think of the man's politics, he's smart and charismatic at a podium. He walks past mere politics and talks about eternal verities of self-government.
It's not by accident that pretty much every time he gives a speech, someone stands up and says he ought to run for president.
His American Spectator speech looks like one of his best.
He started by taking a close look at the Nov. 6 election. It was, Coburn said, "a seminal moment in history."
"We may have passed a tipping point," he said. "I woke up on Tuesday believing we were a center-right country and went to bed realizing we may simply be a divided country."
He dismissed those who say the Republicans are on the wrong side of national demographic shifts and said simple reality will eventually drive young voters - a deciding element in both of President Obama's presidential victories - to the conservative side.
"The demographic advantage - at least among younger voters - is a bubble of inflated expectations that can't be met. Where the left sees a demographic advantage, I see a generation of Americans about to be drowned in debt."
Recapturing the majority means staying true to Republican values, Coburn said, drawing on historic references to St. Augustine and George Washington.
"You see, our vision welcomes all people because it is based on a view of freedom, liberty and dignity that comes from a creator, not from the state, the king, or a board of unelected bureaucrats in Washington," Coburn said.
"We offer a vision of shared prosperity through what Arthur Brooks calls earned success. Their vision offers shared misery through the redistribution of wealth and class envy. We uphold the dignity of all people. Their ideas diminish the dignity of all people through debt and dependency. Their vision is unsustainable, ours is sustainable. Where they offer a rendezvous with debt, we still offer a rendezvous with destiny."
Still sounds like would-be executive branch talk to me. I'm not retiring my spidey-sense on this one yet.
Possible 2016 candidates
The Des Moines Register interviewed dozens of Republican and Democratic leaders from Iowa about early prospects for the 2016 presidential election.
Last Sunday, the newspaper reported that leading potential Republican candidates were U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Less likely re-run candidates included former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was mentioned as an outside contender, along with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Democrats who were touted included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Others with an outside chance included former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
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Original Print Headline: Coburn says he won't run, but spidey isn't so sure
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