(Steve Sebelius/Slash Politics) – Who will the Republicans nominate to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012? Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post has some possible answers in The Fix today. The upshot? There’s no front-runner, but there are some prominent names identified in a new Gallup poll.
In order, they are: Mitt Romney (19 percent); Sarah Palin (16 percent); Mike Huckabee (16 percent) and Newt Gingrich (13 percent). Nobody else got into double-digits, including much-discussed candidates such as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (he got 4 percent); Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (he got 4 percent). And U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who took out Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle in 2006, got 2 percent, although Cillizza calls him “the buzziest candidate inside the Beltway.”
All the top candidates have flaws. Romney was mandating that people buy health insurance before it was cool, and his positions evolve while you watch (like Christine O’Donnell thinks actual evolution works!). Palin is hampered by a playbook that’s mostly a scrapbook of conservative bumper stickers, and quit the only real executive job she had halfway through. Huckabee, a Fox News host, is the nicest face in the bunch, but stories of abuses from his time as Arkansas governor keep popping up. (What is it about Arkansas governors, anyway?) And Gingrich has a hard edge that doesn’t take long to surface. You’d think a history buff would model himself more on the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.
But 2012 is a long way off, and somebody even with low name recognition now can lay the groundwork for a credible national campaign two years hence. But they’ll have to get moving fairly quickly, so watch out for any Republicans haunting the hustings in Iowa or New Hampshire (or maybe even here in Las Vegas!) starting shortly after the new year.
P.S. My favorites? Huckabee or Gingrich, the former because I’m always fascinated to watch how people meld religion and politics (Huckabee’s a former preacher), and the latter because, agree or disagree, he’s got ideas that can keep me listening for hours.
UPDATE: Oh, and then there’s the independent campaign of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MSNBC morning show host (and former Congressman) Joe Scarborough to consider.