2012 Republican Power Rankings

Sure, it’s early and we don’t know for sure who’s going to get in the race yet, but it’s still fun to speculate about who the GOP nominee in 2012 will be. Here’s a short, but sweet rundown of the strength of the most likely candidates. This can and will change — perhaps considerably — by 2012.

Look Unlikely To Run And/Or Don’t Make The Top 8: Haley Barbour, Dick Cheney, Charlie Crist, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman, Bobby Jindal, John McCain, David Petraeus, John Thune

8) Ron Paul:

Strengths: He has more name recognition now after his 2008 run and a small, but absolutely rabid fan base that will keep him well financed and neck deep in volunteers. His strong emphasis on financial issues in the 2008 campaign will help buffer his credibility in 2012 and may allow him to broaden his base of support.

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Weaknesses: It’s not possible for him to broaden his base enough to win the nomination, although he may increase the percentage of people supporting him.

7) Jeb Bush:

Strengths: He could guarantee Florida for the GOP, can raise the money he’d need, and is fiscally conservative.

Weaknesses: He’s pro-comprehensive immigration and more importantly, his last name is Bush. It’s hard to imagine Republicans or for that matter, the American people, voting another member of the Bush family into the White House in 2012.

6) Newt Gingrich:

Strengths: He’s one of the best conservative idea men and can raise the money needed. He’s also an experienced politician and well liked by the base — for the most part. Additionally, he’s one of the smartest and savviest political operators out there.

Weaknesses: Has a long legislative record that can be picked apart and a messy personal life in his past. He once lost his leadership position in a GOP coup. Honestly, he also seems to have the same problem Fred Thompson did: he has a pretty good life and doesn’t seem to want it all that bad.

5) Tim Pawlenty:

Strengths: He’s from Minnesota, which is a key electoral state and that would certainly help him. He’s socially conservative, wasn’t involved in the 2008 primary or the election, and he’s doing great work on the budget in Minnesota.

Weaknesses: Whether he’s charismatic enough to be President is yet to be proven. He has low name recognition. Can he raise the money needed?

4) Mike Huckabee:

Strengths: He has tremendous charisma, will have much better name recognition next time around, and is working hard to build a long term organization and shore up his support in the party. Not everything he is trying is working, but he is putting in the work.

Weaknesses: He tends to be mistake prone and got tagged as a “big government Republican” last time around. Unless he can change that impression, it’s going to be very difficult for him to win. He also may not be as well financed as some of the other candidates and has some enemies in the Party who will be very difficult to turn around.

3) Mark Sanford:

Strengths: He’s a strong fiscal conservative who has been working to get his name out there. His decision to decline some of the stimulus money has helped significantly on that front. Happily for him, because he’s governor of South Carolina, he’s not associated with the disaster in DC or the fractious primaries of 2008.

Weaknesses: He doesn’t have big name recognition and the fact that the GOP has been tagged as a “Southern Party” will undoubtedly make some Republicans less likely to support a Southern candidate. He’s not net savvy — yet, although that may very well change by 2012.

2) Mitt Romney

Strengths: He’s extremely well organized, will have plenty of money, and he developed into a sort of “weak consensus” conservative alternative to McCain near the end of the last primary. Depending on how the economy looks in 2012, his business background could be a big plus and he’s a solid, but not spectacular speaker.

Weaknesses: He wasn’t able to close the deal with most conservatives in 2008 because they didn’t trust him and he may very well have the same problem in 2012. Mitt also has a group of Republicans who hate him with a passion and will be inconvincible. He was also weak in the South in 2008 and will probably be weak again this time. It’s hard to say how much of a factor his being a Mormon is in all of this, but at a minimum, it certainly doesn’t help.

1) Sarah Palin

Strengths: She has the most enthusiastic support amongst the GOP base by far. That will translate into fundraising, volunteers, and a ferocious defense from the Right. She is an excellent speaker, a savvy politician, will have the most compelling background of anyone running, and her primary weakness, a lack of experience, will have been shored up a bit by then.

Weaknesses: She has been damaged by media attacks a bit, but not beyond repair. Her approval rating in Alaska has slipped considerably. There is a small group of Republicans who hate her with a passion, based more on style than substance. She has done a very poor job of reaching out to her rabid supporters since the election and that could sap some of their enthusiasm.

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