Looking Ahead - Who Will Run in 2012?

Looking ahead, 2012 is still a long-way off. While no one yet knows who the next GOP Presidential candidate will be, it seems likely that this person is already making the moves necessary to run in a primary, as the primary season is likely to start (unofficially, at least) shortly after the 2010 Congressional elections.

Taking a look at the news and the blogosphere, I have compiled a list of several potential candidates for GOP nomination. This list is in no particular order, by no means complete and several are included simply because many people out there just want them to run.

I have compiled a the list to have a short, highly simplified analysis of each candidate.  Whether you agree or not, this is often the analysis found in the press or on the blogosphere right now, and any of these potential candidates would be wise to at least address the negatives listed if they wish to run.

Sarah Palin (AK) – Sarah Palin is everything that Hillary Clinton is not: She is from humble beginnings. She joined politics not as a career but to change government. Her VP nod from John McCain seemed to energize the flagging GOP ticket, and she has a reputation for fighting corruption in her state. Democrats made hay about her lack of international experience and questioned her intelligence (she did not attend an “elite” university like Secretary Clinton and sometimes seemed overwhelmed by the press attention). Palin is also easily demagogued on some issues, such as the unclear nature of her opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Piyush “Bobby” Jindal (LA) – Where Governor Palin is the anti-Hillary, Governor Jindal seems to be the anti-Obama. The son of an immigrant family from India, Jindal is young, bright and articulate. The major issue for him would seem to be the missteps (real or made up) during his national appearances and relative lack of apparent experience (something the Democrats are sure to highlight as the GOP did with Obama). Being ethnically Southern Asian, Jindal also gives the Republicans ammunition against the race-baiting frequently used by Democrats.

Fred Thompson (TN) – Popular among conservatives and libertarians alike, combined with his strong recognition thanks to his television and movie career, Senator Thompson’s 2008 campaign seemed to stall out of the gate. Questions about his age will also be asked as he will be 70 years when he would take the Oath of Office in 2013. So far, Thompson has given no indication that he would run, but the same was true in the last election as late as early 2007.

Marshall “Mark” Sanford (SC) – Popular amongst fiscal conservatives for his stance on President Obama’s stimulus package and voting against pork (even for his own Congressional District) while in Congress, Governor Sanford has often been accused of grand-standing (he brought pigs to the state house to protest the General Assembly’s supposedly pork-filled budgets).

Ron Paul (TX) – Popular among the libertarian wing of the GOP and with the whole Libertarian Party, Congressman Paul’s views on certain national security and social issues seems to leave him without the kind of national support he would need to run a successful primary campaign. He was seen by many in the party as an annoyance as he refused to concede his primary run even after it became mathematically impossible.

Mike Pence (IN) – Popular for his stances on immigration and taxes and his alignment with the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Congressman Pence has become a popular name amongst the GOP base. He has earned the support of Conservative activists such as Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, but is disliked by some in the libertarian wing for his stance on some commerce issues. He also lacks some of the national recognition that now seems required for a Presidential bid.

Tim Pawlenty (MN) – A relative unknown on the national stage, Pawlenty is talked about more often these days. While Governor Pawlenty considered running for both the Sentate and Minnesota’s governorship in 2002, he eventually settled on the latter to allow Norm Coleman the Senate opportunity. Pawlenty earned the ire of some fiscal conservatives by supporting some large public spending projects but aligns closely with most strong conservatives. Probably his biggest challenge in the Primary would be his close association with Senator John McCain, for whom he served as co-chair of the presidential exploratory committee.

Dick Cheney (WY) – Though it seems unlikely, some in the GOP have been bandying the former VP’s name as a possible candidate in 2012. Cheney is popular with the Republican base but hotly disliked by many moderates and nearly all liberals. Aside from some sharp jabs at the Obama Administration, he has made no indications that he would run.

Mitt Romney (MA) – Though he can claim multiple states, Governor Romney was most recently the governor of Massachusetts, where he kept moderate positions. Romney has been dogged by accusations of being a chameleon, changing his positions depending on the office for which he was running or the audience to whom he was speaking. He is popular among many in the party who view him as attractive, articulate and leaning socially conservative, but lacks credibility among fiscal conservatives who point at the Massachusetts healthcare program he signed into law that has cost much more than expected. Despite this, Romney is popular amongst both conservatives and moderates and is considered one of the obvious front-runners.

Mike Huckabee (AR) – From similar origins as former President Bill Clinton, Governor Huckabee gained wide-spread popularity among conservatives and libertarians after expressing support of the FairTax in his 2008 presidential bid, Huckabee is sometimes a conundrum. While a social conservative, a supporter of the libertarian FairTax and based his election to the governorship by opposing unnecessary spending, he is seen by many as a fiscal moderate. He is a Baptist minister and, after being diagnosed with diabetes, a strong advocate for physical fitness. His long run in the 2008 primary and frequent media appearances (including a talk show on Fox News) gives him strong standing for a presidential bid in 2012.

Bob Corker (TN) – Winning support for his stances on global warming, the Stimulus package and the Iraq War, Senator Corker seems to be pushing all the right buttons for a GOP bid. His opposition to the auto bailouts has been criticized as political support for foreign automakers in Tennessee, but there is little hard evidence. Corker would face a difficult primary season as a freshman Senator with little national awareness and would leave his seat vulnerable to Democrat poaching in 2012.

John Ensign (NV) – Able to win in districts that often go to Democrats, Senator Ensign supports a Pro-Life agenda, the Iraq War and strongly opposes government waste. Though he fought a tough electoral battle in 1998 against Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the two Nevadans relationship may be seen as too close for the comfort by many in the GOP. Ensign had chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2008 when seven GOP Senators lost their seats. His scheduled trip to Iowa in June looks like an indication he is interested in a Presidential bid.

Newt Gingrich (GA) – Though officially out of politics for over a decade, Speaker Gingrich has been considered a possible Republican candidate in each of the last three elections. Popular as the front-man for the 1994 “Contract with America” that led to the Republican Revolution that year, Gingrich framed much of the political debate in the 1990s. He is staunchly opposed to illegal immigration, supports fiscal responsibility and publicly opposed the bailouts and stimulus package, but has moderate environmental views. Gingrich is extremely popular with the base and among some moderates and libertarians. His inability to articulate the Clinton impeachment as an issue of law and perjury (rather than sex) is thought to have cost Republicans several House seats in 1998, leading to his resignation. Though frequently asked, Gingrich has yet to express interest in the Presidency.

Jon Kyl (AZ) – Considered one of the most conservative Senators, the Minority Whip has spent much of his Senate career in the Shadow of 2008 Presidential Candidate John McCain (R-AZ). Though taking strong positions on the Iraq War, Gitmo detainees and law enforcement issues, Kyl has been accused of being soft on illegal immigration. Like his fellow Arizona Senator, he has crossed the aisle looking for support on legislation. As minority whip, Kyl is close to the Party leadership, which may be advantageous in a Primary bid.

Jon Huntsman (UT) – Recently listed by Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe as the most feared potential candidate for 2012, Huntsman has made quiet moves that make it seem he is interested, including a trip to primary-critical Michigan. Huntsman appears to be moderate, taking social conservative positions on gun rights and abortion but more moderate positions on healthcare and the environment. Fiscally, he has promoted streamlining the Utah government and oversaw large tax cuts.

Could one of those listed be the GOP candidate in 2012?  The number and type of individuals ensure that the odds are likely that one of them will be, but three years is an awfully long time.  Who would have believed that Barack Obama would be the Democrat’s candidate for 2008 back in 2005?