Although Barack Obama has only been in office for a couple of months, this hasn’t stopped the 2012 Republican presidential contenders from jockeying for early position in what will likely be a crowded GOP field, and if the length of the 2008 campaign was any indication, it won’t be long until the race for 2012 will get going. The question is who among the contenders will challenge President Obama?
I have ranked the five most likely contenders for the GOP nomination based on their likelihood of winning the nomination and the degree of difficulty that they would present for Obama in the general election.
5). Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
What he’s got: Southern roots, experience as a governor, has been an early and vocal critic of the Obama stimulus
What he lacks: National name recognition, fund raising, appeal outside of the GOP
Outlook: There are going to be some known quantities and rising stars in the 2012 field. Stanford has the look of a candidate destined for an early exit, and possible running mate status.
4). Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
What he’s got: Youth, ethnicity, a conservative message.
What he lacks: Charisma, experience on the national stage, fundraising, and luck with volcanoes.
Outlook: Bobby Jindal may have a serious run at the presidency in his future, but I don’t think that 2012 will be his year. The field will be too crowded with candidates who have either more money (Romney), more charisma (Palin), or a base of support (Huckabee). As Jindal’s disastrous Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress demonstrated, he is not quite ready for prime time. Jindal would be best served by waiting until what is likely to be a non-incumbent presidential election in 2016. He could use the time between now and then to polish his skills and develop a national presence.
3). Mike Huckabee
What he’s got: Huckabee has national presidential primary campaign experience, a build in coalition of evangelical Republican supporters, a now known name, and a winning personality. He is also a son of the South.
What he lacks: Strong positions on non-social issues, fundraising, the ability to appeal to non-socially conservative voters.
Outlook: Huckabee will be a player in the 2012 GOP primary because he appeals to the socially conservative backbone that makes up most Republican primary voters. Huckabee has already been hard at work building and expanding his base of support, specifically with evangelical voters. Huckabee is going to find himself in a dogfight with Sarah Palin for the hearts of social conservatives. Palin and Huckabee are the two potential GOP candidates with real personality and charisma, but Huckabee would be labeled as too far right to defeat Obama.
2). Sarah Palin
What she’s got: As the running mate of John McCain in 2008, she was given the biggest platform to launch her political star. She is beloved by large segments of the GOP base, and is perceived by many as the heir apparent 2012 nominee. Palin has personality and is one of the few current Republicans that can raise money. Her appeal cuts across the party. She is the candidate most likely to unify the GOP.
What she lacks: Palin has a high disapproval rating with Democrats and Independents. She has yet to prove any sort of competency on the issues. Palin is polarizing and divisive. After giving McCain an initial bump, she hurt the ticket especially with Independent voters. What Palin lacks most is a clean slate. She will come in to the 2012 campaign as a known quantity, but she also brings with her a ton of baggage.
Outlook: Palin could easily find herself in the top slot of future GOP fav 5 2012 rankings, but for right now there are serious doubts about her ability to win a general election. We have also not seen how Palin will hold up in a primary campaign. It is possible that the biggest favor Republicans could do for Democrats would be to nominate Sarah Palin, who unifies them in a way that no other Republican outside of George W. Bush can. Palin is so unpopular that Obama would likely crush her in a general election match up.
1). Mitt Romney
What he’s got: Romney has money, experience on the economy, political experience, and national campaign experience.
What he lacks: A personality, the ability to connect with voters, a solid conservative record, and he has a history of flip flops. His Mormon faith hurts him with evangelical voters.
Outlook: Mitt Romney is one of those candidates who if he could survive his own party’s nomination process could pose some problems for Obama. If the economy is still struggling , Romney has the ability to discuss economic policy in a knowledgeable way. Romney has oodles of money so fundraising isn’t a problem.
Romney has the ability to appeal to the middle, and one of his biggest mistakes in 2008 was his shameless pandering to the far right. If Obama looks strong heading into 2012, the GOP would be wise to nominate Romney who at worst would save Jindal or Palin from taking a beating at the polls.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let me know.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association