Lightening strikes near the U.S. Capitol building during a thunderstorm in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2005. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, U.S. Air Force.

It’s mid May, 2011. Do you know where your candidate is?

Sorry, that old commercial about children and evening curfews just came to mind, thinking about this point in the year before the next presidential election, and the somewhat surreal environment that seems like dusk for the GOP. Especially given how early it all kicked off last time around, the day after the 2006 mid-term elections, two years before the 2008 general.

But instead of setting a new standard in politics, it set an example of what to avoid: long and costly campaigns. President Obama already has his ‘war chest’ and the office. Republicans who want to un-seat him have…what?

Maybe the element of surprise. Because right now, it’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen.

In recent days…

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has been getting a lot of coverage.

…Gingrich called for bringing together top minds to work out solutions that break from traditional perceptions and models of how Washington works, saying there was a need to “rethink the government.”

‘Rethink government’ has promising currency as a campaign slogan.

This also got attention:

He rejected a GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare a decade from now with a voucher system that would help senior citizens purchase private health insurance, calling that too radical of a change.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said.

He has also said, several times recently, that those Republicans calling for less attention to social issues while fiscal issues get worked out…just don’t understand the fundamental order of priorities.

Mitch Daniels is one of those Republicans.

As Daniels argued, “I think probably, as a general rule, it is better practice (to) do the people’s business, try to concentrate on making ends meet, which Washington obviously has failed to do for a long time, and have other policy debates in other places if you can” (as reported by The Wall Street Journal).

Daniels has already taken flak from social conservatives for proposing a “truce” on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

This is not to suggest Daniels has abandoned the socially conservative platform. As he told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” “I happen to share their views and respect their passion. However, Chuck, it comes to this. Are you more committed to results or rhetoric?”

Interesting that in this race, ‘rhetoric’ becomes an issue.

Except for Ron Paul, who has always run his own race on his own track. And no matter what you think of him or his ideas, he knows that being in the race means having a platform and a megaphone you just aren’t going to have any other way. Politics is about ideas, and this is as big a forum as it gets.

Representative Paul is running as much to promote his issues as to get in the White House, says Brian Doherty, a senior writer at libertarian Reason Magazine.

“That’s always what Ron Paul has been in this for,” says Mr. Doherty. “He’s not in politics to do well for himself, but to get a set of ideas out. Running for president is a surprisingly successful way to get that message out.”

But Mike Huckabee has found a platform and arena that he seems comfortable to stay with, one that generates debate about ideas maybe as well as…and maybe longer than…running for office. So after his announcement…

…Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, Monday called upon to GOP candidates to start campaigning in his state in earnest.

“I think we’ll look back at this and say this is the most wide open and competitive race we’ve ever had for the Iowa caucuses,” Branstad said at his weekly news conference.

So which candidate benefits from Huckabee’s decision?

It’s all there, or at least as the LA Times sees it.

But here’s how it’s seem from abroad.

America has clearly lost its way in recent years, not because the government hasn’t done enough, but because there is too much government interference in the economy, with a significant decline in economic freedom. The big government mentality which has dominated the White House for the better part of the last two decades has acted as a huge brake on American economic growth and competitiveness, stifling job creation and frightening away foreign investment. The United States today has the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world, a surefire recipe for killing economic creativity. US businesses and entrepreneurs require lower taxes, less red tape, and greater freedom to kickstart a moribund economy, not the deadening hand of government.

The US needs a Reagan-style revolution to reverse a poisonous big government mentality that is literally killing a superpower. Fortunately, there are signs that another political revolution is on its way, with the rise of a new wave of lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are serious about dealing with the deficit, reining in government spending, and placing the vision of the Founding Fathers at the heart of policymaking…

It is premature to write off America as the world’s dominant superpower, for this is a nation that possesses an extraordinary ability to rebuild itself after periods of decline. It remains a beacon of hope to billions across the world, a “shining city upon a hill” built on the ideals of liberty and freedom, as Reagan reminded the American people before he left office.

Here’s part of that message. An important part:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

… After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....