UPDATE: The 2012 Republican Presidential Contenders

Earlier, I wrote a post about the possible Republican candidates for president, and since then there’s been a lot of movement in the Republican field.  Below is a list of the possible Republican contenders, ranked by how likely I think they are to be nominated (and why).

Republican Debate

1. Rick Perry (Texas)– after joining the race after the Ames (Iowa) straw poll, Perry has been center stage in the Republican primary race.  He’s quickly gained front-runner status.  He has several things going for him: a good record as governor of Texas, he’s conservative, his ability to raise money, and he has some appeal to moderate voters (though many would dispute this).  He is, however, kind of a pistol (some would say “straight-talking”), and is gaffe-prone.  This may be his downfall. (Previous Rank: 9)

2. Mitt Romney (Massachusetts) – Romney has been learning from the mistakes of his 2008 presidential run, and has been moving quietly toward his goal of becoming the Republican nominee.  He has been set back in the last few weeks by the entrance into the race of Rick Perry, and rumors of a Sarah Palin run.  He has a record of achievement as a Republican governor of a blue state, which gives him broad appeal, but the conservative base of his party doesn’t trust him—he has a reputation as a flip-flopper (see Kerry, John for how that turns out). (Previous Rank: 2)

3. Sarah Palin (Alaska) – As much as she’s been vilified by the media in the few years since she was the vice-presidential nominee in 2008, she has a dedicated base of support in the conservative wing of the Republican party.  Since conservatives are the voters in primaries, she’s more likely to be the nominee.  However, she has very high “negatives” in polling; a lot of people have heard of her, and they either love her or they hate her.  There are very few people who don’t have an opinion of her.  The mere mention of her name brings bile from the left, despite a good record as governor.  She makes a strong primary candidate, but a weak general election candidate. (Previous Rank: 1)

4. Jon Huntsman (Utah) – Huntsman ranks high on my list for three reasons: (1) he comes from money, so he can self-finance a race, even if donations are slow; (2) he appeals to moderate (and some liberal) voters, because he served in the Obama administration and holds some liberal social views; and (3) he was the governor or Utah, so he has some executive experience.

5. Michele Bachmann (Minnesota) – Bachmann is, I think, a flash in the pan.  She’s a celebrity candidate, who talks a good talk.  She’s remained in the race because she’s a great fundraiser, and she’s done well in the Republican debates.  She’s a disciplined candidate (she sticks to her talking points), but doesn’t do retail politics very well.

6. Ron Paul (Texas) – Ron Paul is on his third run for President.  He also ran in 1988 (as a Libertarian) and in 2008 (as a Republican).  He has a small base of supporters that would crawl over glass to vote for him.  In the 2008 cycle, he raised a fair amount of money (and there were articles about his money bombs), and his supporters will continue to support him financially for as long as he remains in the race.  However, like Bachmann, I don’t think there are enough people in his base to put him over the top.

7. Chris Christie (New Jersey) – Even though he has repeatedly said that he will not run, rumors still persist about the New Jersey governor running.  It’s probably wishful thinking, because he’s done a great job of turning around New Jersey’s flailing government, is very blunt in the way that he talks, and has a broad appeal (he’s the Republican governor of a deep blue state).  On the downside, he’s fat. (Previous Rank: 5)

8. Herman Cain – The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza has added spice to the Republican race, but he’s been having trouble gaining positive name recognition.  He’s also had some problematic gaffes (saying that he wouldn’t appoint a Muslim to a cabinet position in his administration, if elected).

9. Gary Johnson (New Mexico) – the former governor of New Mexico is still in the running (as far as I know), but has gotten very little traction in the presidential race.  He’d make a good general election candidate because he has a business background (he’s a self-made millionaire), and an executive experience (as governor).  However, as a libertarian candidate, he doesn’t appeal to the social conservatives that vote in the earliest primaries.

10. Newt Gingrich (Georgia) – Gingrich has remained in the race, even after his campaign has imploded, and will probably drop out at some point, but he’s still powering through.  His strengths are that he’s a policy wonk, and has great ideas.  His weakness is his personal life—he’s been married three times, and was rumored to have begun an affair with his now-third wife several years before divorcing his second wife, during the time when he presided over a House of Representatives that was impeaching President Clinton in connection with his alleged affairs. (Previous Rank: 3)

Honorable Mentions: Here are some people who are in the race, but have a low profile, or are not in the race, but are considering running:

11. Rudy Giuliani (New York) – could run again, but would likely be a re-do of his 2008 campaign.
12. George Pataki (New York) – the former governor might make a run.
13. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) – has said he won’t run, and is more likely a VP candidate.
14. Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) – the former Senator is running, but unlikely to win.
15. Jeb Bush (Florida) – really?  People really want another Bush to run?  C’mon!
16. Marco Rubio (Florida) – photogenic, popular.  At the top of my VP candidate list.

Question: Did I miss anyone?  What candidate would you vote for today?

  • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

    Comedy gold that you’re so dismissive of THE candidate that’s raised more money, has more experience and polls better that Obama:


    and of course:

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2011/08/jon-stewart-ron-paul/41311/ <–funny as Stewart always is.

    Als0 – where can i get a copy of the Republican talking points?

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      Thanks for the videos.

      Ron Paul finished 5th in the Ames Straw Poll in 2008.  Mitt Romney finished first.  Mike Huckabee finished second.  Sam Brownback finished third.  John McCain finished in 10th place.

      I’m not against Ron Paul.  In fact, I like what he says.  However, I think he has too small a base of support in the Republican party.  I think that he’s doing better than he did in 2008 because the issues are economic, instead of social.  In December 2007, in the Gallup poll, he was running at 9% in the Republican primary poll, which ended up being his highest polling of the 2008 cycle.  Today, he’s running at 13%, which is better, but still puts him in third place in a poll in which Sarah Palin is not polled.

      I placed him sixth in my list.  Sarah Palin’s above him because she would be third (or second) if she were in the race, which many say that she will do.  Huntsman is above him because he can self-finance a long-distance campaign.  Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul could easily have been in the same position in my list, because they both have smaller bases (at this point).  Both are at a point in their campaign where they could either surge (like McCain did in 2008, from third place in the Gallup polling), or they could fade away (like Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson in 2008, both of whom where leading McCain in 2008).

      In terms of money, President Obama has raised $46M, Romney has raised $18M, Pawlenty raised $4.5M, and Ron Paul has raised $4.5M (at the same point in time).  The stats currently don’t include Sarah Palin or Rick Perry, both of whom are expected to raise a lot of money if both are in the race.  In the 2008 race, Ron Paul ran fourth in fundraising, behind the top-tier candidates.  I expect that he will raise a fair amount of money.

      Ron Paul has a long way to go to get above his current 13%.  He has to convince social conservatives that he’s their man, and he has to convince Republicans that he can lead a country after only being in the House of Representatives.  This is a huge negative for me personally.  At this point, I would rather have Gary Johnson leading the country than Ron Paul, in terms of a libertarian candidate.

      The Republican race will have narrowed significantly by November/December of this year.  I will look for some significant shifting to happen between now and then.  I expect that Romney will fade, and that a second-tier candidate will rise to the top tier to replace him.  I also expect Bachmann to fade.  If Ron Paul gains traction, I would not be yelling at my computer in disgust.

      • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

        I don’t love RP; his association with Lew Rockwell (someone that has a racist past that he never disavowed) is unseemly.  I’m just sayin’ it’s beyond obvious that he’s being shut out by the media….establishment…whoever.

        It’s to the point of comedy – the Jon Stewart Video is comedy gold (and Jon is my only source of news nowadays).

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      BTW, I love that much of the Republican field has more experience than Obama.  We need an experienced executive for the country.  However, in terms of executive leadership, Ron Paul isn’t top on my list.

    • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

      Rick Perry number 1??? Really?  That is very “prisoner of the moment”. 

      Sarah Palin number 3??? Really? Based on what? Her place in the Iowa straw poll..nope that can’t be it.  Quote me now and take it to the bank Sarah Palin is NOT running in 2012.  She doesn’t have the voters or organzation required to make a serious run

      Herman Cain number 8??? Really? This dude shouldn’t even be a candidate let alone your list. 

      Come on Bob… I expected better.

      • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

        If you expected better, you’re not a Brevis Reader. ;-).

      • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

        1.       Mitt Romney – till he takes significant hit, he is “King of the Hill”
        2.       Jon Huntsman – The only truly moderate Republican in the field, once the race intensifies this will ensure he stand apart from the pack
        3.       Rick Perry
        4.       Ron Paul
        5.       Michelle Bachman
        None of the other candidates even matter because they either aren’t in the race or have ZERO shot at winning. 

        • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

          OK, so your list is a top 5. I get that… you don’t want to stick your neck out on anyone else…

          In 2007, McCain was #9… he shouldn’t have been on the list.

          BTW, you’re picking Jon Huntsman as coming up… he’s currently polling near 1%.

      • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

        The list is a snapshot in time… I suppose you could say “prisoner of the moment.” But you could have said the same thing against Barack Obama in 2007… Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead in October 2007…. 48% to Obama’s 20-some percent.

        If you’re making a top ten list of candidates, who would you put ahead of Herman Cain that I listed below him?

        • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

          I know where Jon Huntsman is and where he is polling but when the dust has settled he IS going to be a contender, well that is if the Republican party hasn’t been completely hijacked by the far right.

          Who would I put ahead of Herman Cain…. a rock, bowling pin, Kermit the Frog, all of which have the same chance of winning the nomination….ZERO. 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            The list is definitely top heavy in terms of likelihood, but that doesn’t mean you toss out everyone at the bottom of the list. Cain, for example, has a greater chance of being the nominee (at 4% in the polls) than Huntsman does (at 1% in the polls), but I ranked Huntsman higher in my list because he has political experience, and huge personal wealth.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            If the current Republican field had any other candidate besides Jon Huntsman who actually has a shot to win I would have put them on my list however it doesn’t, so until Cristie, Ryan actually jump in I will ignore them in regards to this debate just as the media should.

            Stop with Herman Cain stuff, you might as well put “the rent is too damn high” guy on your list if Cain is on there.

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but Perry, Romney, and Paul have all either topped Obama in a head-on matchup in a poll, or have been within the margin of error. I haven’t seen one on Huntsman.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            No I wasn’t saying Perry Romney or Ron Paul can’t win…sorry I wasn’t clear. I was talking about 2nd tier candidates.   I agree Perry, Romney, and Ron Paul RIGHT NOW are polling ok but if all you are doing is mirroring polling numbers its much on an analysis, it just a regurgitating of poll numbers. 
            If feel this way, if the Republican Party does not nominate a “moderate” or something resembling a “moderate” they will lose in 2012.  While embracing the “Tea Party” may right now get you some traction in the race it will come back to bite those candidates, because more than anything Republicans want a candidate who can win a general election and you aren’t going to win a general election from the far right.  Even with a terrible economy. 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            This list isn’t a list of who’s most likely to win the general election, but who’s most likely (at this point) to win the Republican nomination.

            In defense of polling… the whole nominating process is highly subjective, and it comes down to the opinions of people.  Polling is the consolidation of people’s opinions of people.  At this point, the opinions of people are highly influenced by media coverage (good or bad) of a candidate.  So, polling doesn’t take into account several things (all forward-looking): (1) the ability to raise money, (2) the retail political ability of each candidate, and (3) debate performances.  That’s why my list has some variances from polls, and places Huntsman higher up than the polls would suggest.

            So, polling is one factor in the list, but those three areas are other factors:

            Perry: good polling, good fundraising, great retail politicking, not tested at presidential debates.
            Palin: good polling, good fundraising, good retail politicking, not tested at presidential debates.
            Huntsman: poor polling, poor fundraising (but significant potential), not sure of his retail politicking, mediocre in debates.
            Paul: getting better polling, OK fundraising, good retail politicking, OK debating (some would say good).

            You’re looking at Huntsman from a purely ideological perspective, which is fine, but it says nothing of his actual ability to campaign, and says little about how he’ll fare in a primary election.

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            That’s debatable, Broc. Just look at the 1980 election. There was a terrible economy, and the “far-right” candidate won the election, and then was re-elected in a landslide four years later.

      • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

        I’m not really hot on Sarah Palin (politically, of course), but she polls well among those who will vote in Republican primaries, and she can raise a lot of money, and has name recognition through the roof.  That speaks for something.

        • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

          Do you agree that if Republicans do not nominate a “moderate” they will lose the election in 2012? 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            No, I don’t.

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            No, I don’t.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            Well you are wrong….LOL

            Seriously though, even with a bad economy America is not going to elect a President who is too far right on social issues.  Its just not going to happen. If Republicans do put up a candidate who is what I will call “tea party right” it gives a huge opening to Obama because of where those candidate stand on issues of gay marriage, abortion, immigration etc. 

             If its not a fatal error, in the words of monty python and the holy grail “its a flesh wound” as he rolls around on the ground with no arms or legs. 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            From an historical standpoint (going back)…

            On the Republican side
            John McCain (moderate) – lost
            George W. Bush (social conservative) – won
            Bob Dole (moderate) – “Dole had a moderate voting record and was widely considered to be one of the few Kansas Republicans who could bridge the gap between the moderate and conservative wings of the Kansas Republican Party.  He lost.
            George H.W. Bush (moderate) – lost his second election
            Ronald Reagan (social conservative) – won

            On the Democratic side
            Barack Obama (liberal) – won
            John Kerry (liberal) – lost
            Al Gore (moderate) – lost
            Bill Clinton (moderate) – won
            Michael Dukakis (liberal) – lost
            Walter Mondale (liberal) – lost
            Jimmy Carter (social liberal) – lost to conservative

            So, if you look at how moderates have fared, compared to social conservatives, you see that moderate Republicans don’t win presidential elections.  The only Republican candidates in the last 30 years who have won have been social conservatives, with the exception of George H.W. Bush, who arguably only won because of the popularity of Ronald Reagan.

            On the Democratic side, a social liberal will win when running against a social moderate (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama), but not when running against a social conservative (John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter).

            I don’t see how you can make the argument that the Republicans can only win if they nominate a social moderate.  Can you explain your reasoning?

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            The Simple answer Generation Y: The Millennials
            This generation is the LARGEST vote group in America, recently growing larger than even the “baby boomers”. These young people are more politically engaged and less partisan than previous generations, unlike generation X. Ideology and partisanship is not appealing to this generation. Generation Y is environmentally conscience and seeks social equality. This group of young people was key to President Obama’s election in 2008.
            Also never before in history has a majority of near majority of American supported gay marriage rights in some form being civil unions or marriage. Politicians who do not at least support equal legal protections for the gay community in the form of civil unions will face an uphill climb (i.e. Michelle Bachmann). This issue is not like all those years past, the trend of acceptance is growing larger and larger.
            The same hold true for pure Pro-Life candidate who won’t even support abortion to protect the life of the mother. The largest and most populous view of abortion is legal but limited approach and smaller groups of support for abortion bans and unlimited abortion. For these two issues alone “far right” Republican candidates may lose any chance at broad crossover appeal which is critical to win the INP vote and the general election. If President Obama continues to show signs of triangulating and Republicans do not put forth a candidate which can challenge for those swing votes, I don’t believe it will even be close.

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            I think the election is more complex than that.  What you say may be true, but it’s also critical for President Obama to actually get independents to vote.  If the Republican candidate alienates all the independents, but they stay home instead of going to vote for President Obama, then he loses just the same.  If he can’t invigorate independents, he’s going to have a very hard time getting re-elected; if he can’t invigorate his base, then he’s a goner.

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            BTW, from what I’ve heard, Gen Y is NOT the largest voting group in America; old people are.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            This from 2009:  http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1437/millennials-profile 

            This from March of 2011:  http://ndn.org/taxonomy/term/755

            “At around 95 million, the Millennial Generation is the largest in U.S.
            history, but its full force has yet to be felt. In 2008, when
            Millennials preferred Barack Obama over John McCain by a 66% to 32%
            margin and accounted for 80% of the president’s popular vote margin,
            they comprised less than one fifth (17%) of the electorate. In 2012,
            when Obama runs for reelection, Millennials will account for about a
            quarter (24%) of those eligible to vote. In 2020, when the youngest
            Millennials reach voting age the generation will comprise more than a
            third (36%) of American adults.”

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            Its either close to being Gen Y or going to be the next few years either way Republicans need to Re-brand themselves as a party if they want to be successful with young people. 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            You could be right about this, Broc. Or, we could find that young people become more conservative as they get older. It will be interesting to see, either way.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            I don’t think young voters are going to switch from a more progressive social view to socially consevative in the 4 years from 2008 to 2012. 

          • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

            True. I think it’s more likely that the more progressive voters will stay home in 2012.

          • http://brocmiddleton.blogspot.com/ Broc Middleton

            Agree that Obama will need to energize voters again.