Lets start with saying that Republicans have a history of nominating the 2nd place finisher in the previous primary season. That has a lot to do with why McCain won the nomination. Looking at the last primary season one could reasonable argue that either Romney or Huckabee was number 2, depending on a what point in the cycle you look at. So, in normal situation you would see these two go head to head.
However, Huckabee has all but taken himself out. The normal way a future candidate waits things out, is they hits the lecture circuits, put together PACs, etc. However, in Huckabee’s case, he has decided to go for the money. He has his own show on Fox News and is now working on a deal for Radio. This means he is going to have to express opinions that would come back to haunt him should he run for president again. Now, there is nothing wrong with going for the money, but that all but puts him out of 2012. He will not have the time to start up a campaign, and do all the things a candidate needs to do to run for President. Huckabee will however remain a powerful voice for Social conservatives and that is where his future is.
Some argue that Palin is the likely choice. But there are several problems with this. #1, she has been badly beaten up by the press (rightly or wrongly). #2. She has to run for re-election in two years. That doesn’t give her time to organize a campaign for President. #3, where is she going to get the money? Any money she raises will go for re-election for Governor. She may not even be a shoe in for that. Surely the Democrats will try to target her. If for any other reason than to take out a potential Presidential candidate. So for practical reasons, it is unlikely she will run in 2012. It is more likely she will mount a future campaign for Senate. Since it looks like Steven’s is going to lose when all the ballets are counted in the Senate race, Palin has a perfect scenario for getting re-elected for Governor, then in six years, running for Senate. Giving her plenty of time to launch a future run for President.
Some say Jindal is a likely presidential candidate, and certainly he has all the makings of a future president. But like Palin, he needs to run for re-elect in two years, and will have not have time to mount a campaign. He is young enough that he has time. There is no doubt that Jindal will be a powerful voice in the Party for years to come, and frankly one the best governors the Republicans have.
Some voices say Gingrich. There is no way Gingrich has pray after his affair during the Clint scandal. Gingrich will remain an idea man for the Party, but nothing more. He has no future as a candidate.
Then there is the cadre of other potential candidates. Pawlenty being one. Mark Sanford being another. These guys are well known to those who keep close tabs on politics, but for those who don’t, they are unknowns. We are likely to see a few candidates run for president in 2012, not that they think they can win in 2012, but so they can get their names out there for a future run.
This leaves Romney, who will have the organization, the money, and the name recognition for 2012. He is likely to take the air out of any other candidate. Social Conservatives will have to come into line for a couple of reasons. After 2 years of Obama, suddenly winning will be more important than religious differences (which is really why most Huckabee supports where so anti Romney). Secondly, Huckabee, who is now a TV commentary and radio voice, will have no choice but to support a Romney campaign. He will not be able to afford to buck the trend of a Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc. Third, with no other horse in the race, they will need to back someone or risk losing any voice at all.
Finally, once Romney secures the nomination, he will need a strong running mate who shares the republican values and who will be hard for the media to destroy. He/she also must be a seen as a potential future president. Right now, that person is Bobby Jindal.
Now a lot can happen between now and 2010/2011 where campaigns for presidents usually start, and certainly a candidate could come out of the wood work like an Obama, but in republican circles, this is unlikely.
So, looking at the crystal ball, all things for now, point to a Romney/Jindal nominee.