Q&A Friday #104: A Short Evaluation Of Each Of The GOP’s Potential 2012 Contenders

Of the existing GOP field – if you discount the polls and take a good, long, honest look at the field – which candidate seems to be the most viable for 2012? My own opinion (though not necessarily who I’d really like to see): Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty. — Scott

You’ve been pretty quiet about Republican POTUS candidates. Without asking you to qualify the entire field of candidates, I’ll just ask your thoughts on my current favorite, Tim Pawlenty. — Eric Neill

Sarah Palin. Should she or shouldn’t she? — Eric Neill

What happens to the conservative movement if Obama is re-elected in 2012? — Anne Grosvenor

First off, presidential electability is a slippery subject. Take Obama and Hillary: Who seemed to be the more electable candidate at this point in the 2008 cycle? Think back to 1976: Republicans decided that Gerald Ford was more electable than Ronald Reagan. How’s that decision looking today?

At this early point in the campaign cycle, when we don’t know who’s running and have very little polling data to work with, it’s really hard to say who the most viable candidate would be. I can tell you this though: Governors make much better candidates than members of Congress. That’s because they haven’t been tainted by DC and they haven’t voted on the unpopular issues of the day.

So, here’s a very a quick rundown on some of the more likely candidates.

Sharron Angle: She’s already proven she can’t win a big election and people aren’t going to give her a second chance on a higher level.

Michele Bachmann: My instinct is that she’s too controversial to win, but Bachmann is conservative, she has charisma, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t dismiss her as a candidate. Would she be a longshot? Sure. But, just maybe? Sure.

John Bolton: He’d have a lot of credibility on foreign policy issues, but he’s a little on the feisty side for a presidential candidate and not a lot is known about his domestic views.

Haley Barbour: He’s a competent conservative who could conceivably be the best guy in the field, but the fact that he’s from Mississippi and isn’t as careful as he should be in dealing with race issues could doom him. If he can get past that issue, he could be a strong candidate.

Herman Cain: He has phenomenal charisma and a stellar business career, but he’s never been elected to office and his time as a talk radio show host will probably produce some damaging quotes.

Mitch Daniels: He’s a fiscal conservative from an important state, Indiana, but his “truce on social issues” comments were world class dumb. Not only did he give social conservatives a reason to deeply distrust him, he insured that he’s going to be constantly asked about social issues at every opportunity, which is a topic he has no interest in talking about. Making a blunder that big right out of the box suggests that he may be very gaffe prone.

Jim DeMint: He’s conservative and the base loves him. On the other hand, he doesn’t have top notch charisma and senators generally don’t make great candidates. If he does throw his hat in the ring, he would be a strong candidate.

Newt Gingrich: He’s an extremely smart guy, but his popularity with the base has slipped in recent years and he has a tremendous amount of baggage.

Rudy Giuliani: He has charisma, a national profile, and a reputation as a leader. But, he got absolutely no traction in 2008 and it would be a bit of a surprise if he did better this time around.

Mike Huckabee: He has tremendous charisma, but has a rep as a big government conservative that has made him unpopular with much of the base.

Jon Huntsman, Jr.: He’s a squish who worked for Obama. Chance of winning? He has about as good a chance of winning the Democratic nomination in 2012 as he does of winning the GOP nomination.

Sarah Palin: She has incredible charisma and inspires wild enthusiasm, but the key question is going to be whether the Left’s non-stop smear campaign has damaged her too much to be electable in 2012. If I were her and I absolutely had to make a decision today about whether to run, given the fact that she’s young for a politician and is making a tremendous impact doing what she’s doing, I’d advise her to wait another cycle before she gets in. That’s not because I think she definitely couldn’t win in 2012; it’s because I think she would probably be in a much stronger position in 2016 or even potentially, 2020.

Ron Paul: He has a small, extremely dedicated groups of fans, but he doesn’t have a wide enough base to have a chance to capture the nomination and he’s not capable of broadening his support enough to get the job done.

Tim Pawlenty: He’s generally conservative and from a key state, Minnesota, but he hasn’t shown much charisma or done a lot to distinguish himself. The real question is: How does Tim Pawlenty break out of the pack?

Mitt Romney: Despite the fact that he’s very well organized and a great fundraiser, I wasn’t a Romney fan in 2008 and there’s even less to like about him now because of the failure of Mittcare and the fact that he’s once again shifting his position from the “true conservative” in the race to a safe pick for the establishment. Romney doesn’t deliver any northern states and he runs very weak in the South; so he’s a really poor candidate all the way around.

Rick Santorum: Lost as a senator in Pennsylvania. Doesn’t have a reputation as a fiscal conservative. Comes across as a little too preachy on social issues.

Joe Scarborough: Ha, ha, ha — no.

John Thune: He’s conservative, but a Senator, not very charismatic, and he’s gotten dinged by some people in the base for being too “establishment.”

Donald Trump: See the entry for Joe Scarborough.

Now, what happens to the conservative movement if Obama wins? Well, what happened to the liberal movement when Bush won a second term? They got angrier, they got more fired up, and they kept pushing onward. The same thing would happen with conservatives — and incidentally, historically, sitting Presidents usually do get a second term. There are, of course, exceptions and Obama could very well be one of them, but the odds generally favor re-election.

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