Assuming the first precinct caucuses in Des Moines for delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention are not held in 2011, around this time three years from now will mark the official start of battle for the right to challenge President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Hopefully the parties will bring some sanity to a process that has been ludicrously frontloaded in 2008 in which almost half the states in the Union held contests on a single day in order to appease directives by the national committees that provided preferential treatment to four states were not representative of national demographics while providing anemic penalties that failed to discourage larger states from ignoring the guidelines.
And since the new president hasn’t even been inaugurated, some might think it’s too early to openly talk about the future, though speculation about what the 2012 ticket would look like started before the first session of the GOP convention had been gaveled to order, partly due to many people’s belief that John McCain would only serve one term while others were confident he wouldn’t get that far.
The folks at Zogby Interactive conducted their first 2012 head-to-head poll in late November, before McCain’s political corpse was cold.
The survey showed 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin comfortably leading the pack with 24% followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney 18%. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was close on Romney’s heels with 15.6%.
Other potential candidates include Florida governor Charlie Crist, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, South Dakota US Senator John Thune, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. Former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani have had their names bandied about as well.
Sarah Palin: I know I am going to be repeating myself from previous write-ups on the Alaska governor and will mention some items ad nauseam over the next few years so please bear with my repetition of factoids. Palin has the name, fame and will have a warchest well-stocked with small donations from across the fruited plain. Though she would not be the first woman to seek the GOP presidential nod, Palin is no Margarent Chase Smith or Liddy Dole…thank goodness. Palin has three years, as opposed to the three weeks she was most recently afforded, to enhance her speaking style. Remember that senators are professional bloviators; governors are not, hence state executives are rarely picked as running-mates on major party national tickets. If she seeks it, the odds are heavily in her favor that she will win the nomination.
Bobby Jindal: Palin’s selection by McCain was somewhat of a surprise…to even the Arizonan’s own staffers. I was only the phone with one close McCain aide less than 12 hours before the Alaskan was announced and he strenuously argued why she would not be picked. That source later claimed he was in the dark until he found out that morning. Palin’s lack of preparation for the national media jackals could be a sign that McCain had his heart set on someone else…and not necessarily Joe Lieberman. Perhaps McCain’s first choice had turned him down. Jindal flirted with being open to it until publicly and unequivocally slamming the door on being veep, if only to not endanger his local political end. It should be noted that McCain had spent an inordinate amount of time in Louisiana despite the fact that the Bayou State was never in doubt. Jindal is the only candidate out there that could generate the same enthusiasm Palin has been able to on the trail and though the Louisiana governor has already sworn off a presidential run, a Palin-Jindal face-off could look like a GOP reenactment of the 2008 Democratic clash of the political titans.
Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor did not win any points for congeniality as his well-funded campaign machine brutally assailed whichever candidate had just so happened to be leading in the state Romney was competing in. At the end of the day it appeared that entire Republican field was ganging up against Romney in the debates and that Huckabee chose to stick around long after his candidacy appeared unviable if only to split the conservative vote and thus assuring McCain a plurality. Romney no doubt understood this and decided to quit spending his kids’ inheritance, at least in 2008. Romney’s orchestrated bowout at CPAC was intended to give him a Reaganesque sheen, 1976 vintage, and it seemed to work as the throngs of College Republicans gathered proudly sported his campaign paraphernalia and helped give a withdrawn Romney first place in the CPAC presidential poll. In a Palin-Jindal fight, Romney is a faithful John Edwards at best, if both Alaskan and Louisianan take a powder, Romney goes in with a major edge. Romney could also experience some drag due to his closeness with the Bush family if the soon-to-be former president continues to be held in low regard by the public.
Mike Huckabee: I think Huckabee is going to talk like a candidate for the next three years, sell books, make speeches and the not run. Super Tuesday was the high-water mark of the Huckabee effort as a split field of weak candidates allowed evangelical voters to coalesce to former a plurality, including a near majority in Louisiana- where he did not get delegates (don’t get me started). Huckabee’s candidacy opened many financially rewarding doors to the Baptist preacher that has mostly lived a cash-strapped life (remember the campaign break to deliver a paid speech in the Caribbean? Or Mrs. Huckabee staying at the budget Hooters Hotel & Casino while in Las Vegas?). The Huckster is making big bucks these days on television, radio and in print and while speculation of another presidential run will drive up his public demand, a second failed run will only dry up his income.
Charles Crist: The Florida governor did not endear himself to conservatives by arbitrarily extending voting hours, the stuff most Republicans expect a Democratic judge to do. The newly wed Crist was chomping at the bit to ride shotgun on the McCain ticket and when denied proved to be not nearly as helpful in the general election than he was in the primary. For whatever reason, Floridians have not made the best presidential candidates and I cannot find a compelling reason why this guy should be on a Republican ticket let alone on top of it. As I said months ago, if you need Crist to carry Florida than then the party is already doomed in November.
Mark Sanford: The archconservative South Carolina governor went into political exile in 2008, not lending the same assistance in the critical Palmetto State primary to McCain that he did back in 2000. Word on the street was that McCain was very bitter over that thus nixing the prospect of Sanford being invited to join the ticket. Sanford made a point of being everywhere at the convention and has raised his national media profile considerably since McCain’s political demise. A favorite of fiscal conservatives, Sanford is probably going to run and could be the sleeper candidate if Jindal stays out.
John Thune: Considering his height, it’s kind of ironic to say Thune made his name playing “David” to Tom Dachle’s “Goliath”, Thune was a rumored potential running-mate for McCain as a low-risk/low-return safe choice. His ascension as party nominee in 2012 would almost have to be Hardingesque. Thune’s most immediate challenge is to avoid getting “George-Allened”, AKA “Macaca’d” when the Democrats continue their strategy of targeting the GOP’s farm team in 2010.
Tim Pawlenty: Even people in his own state were hoping the self-proclaimed founder of the Sam’s Club-wing of the Republican Party would be passed over as McCain’s running-mate, though for VERY different reasons Louisiana conservatives did not want to see Jindal tapped. It was for the best Pawlenty wasn’t asked; despite the fact his state hosted the Republican National Convention, and thus giving the GOP added exposure in Minnesota (and also providing for Minnesotans a first hand look at the radical screwballs that were backing Obama via obscene street theatre and random acts of violence against delegates and private property), the Democratic nominee won the state by ten points. Of ironic note, McCain did a little bit better in Colorado, the site of the Democrat’s conclave. Even had Pawlenty been on the ticket, it would not have been enough to make Minnesota red and would have simply been an unmitigated embarrassment for the Minnesotan, whose national ambitions would be as dead as McCain’s. Furthermore, Pawlenty or his state won’t be looking too good in the eyes of Republicans if Al Franken ends up a US Senator. Obama could only be so lucky as to face a Crist-Pawlenty tandem in 2012.
Jeb Bush: The public was told from the beginning that HE was supposed to be the president, not Dubya. But a funny thing happened on the way to Tallahassee. Florida’s incumbent Democratic governor Lawton Chiles proved to be cagier than Ann Richards in Texas. Comments from his presidential father about how he hopes he has another presidential son have made the news, though it appears a likely and successful US Senate run is in Jeb’s immediate future. But don’t think an eventual run for the White House might not be in the not too distant future.
Newt Gingrich: A brilliant political tactician that would’ve been the hands down choice for RNC chairman, Gingrich has enjoyed a major public relations turnaround thanks to the masses now directly hear what he is saying and not what the media reported he said (a big difference). Main reason why a Newt 2012 is not going to happen: the second former Mrs. Gingrich. But all the presidential talk is great for book sales.
Rudy Giuliani: Somewhere in the hereafter John Connally is thinking he got a bargain for the millions he blew on his failed presidential candidacy. Rudy’s Florida strategy appeared more like an exit strategy, maybe on purpose. The ex-mayor might have been the best hope the GOP had of winning in 2008 but definitely proved how little one should put in early presidential polls.