They Could Have Been Contenders: Republican Presidential Field Looks Thin

As difficult as the last two years have been for President Barack Obama, he is still proving to be a formidable opponent in the 2012 election – possibly explaining why no Republicans have formally announced their candidacy. At this point in 2007, Obama, Hillary Clinton and a handful of other candidates were already racking up frequent flyer miles on trips to early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Though it is extremely early to say Obama’s re-election is a lock, a quick look at the prospective Republican candidates reveals a huge problem for the Grand Ole’ Party: None of them can win.

Front-runners:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: With the exception of 2008, Republicans show a tendency of anointing the next person in line. This year, that person would be Romney. However, he has little chance of winning the presidency because he pushed a health care bill through the Massachusetts Legislature that was eerily similar to Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He will have to explain this throughout the primaries, and he will not be able to attack Obama in the general election on one of the president’s biggest weaknesses.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Between Romney and Huckabee, they form one decent candidate. Huckabee appeals to the social conservatives concerned about gay marriage and abortion while Romney caters to the old school Republicans focused on the economy and jobs. The candidate that bridges this divide will pose the greatest threat to Obama. If Huckabee enters the race, he could pick up an early primary victory in Iowa – where he finished strong in 2008 – but lose to Romney in New Hampshire, pitting the two against each other for a long, drawn out affair.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: Gingrich comes with more baggage than a Greyhound bus. He admitted to two extramarital affairs, the first of which occurred while his then wife was battling cancer. Doesn’t that just scream presidential character?

Spoilers:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: This little-known Midwestern politician might not have the legs to go the full distance, but he is one of the few candidates who appeals to all elements of the party. If he can raise enough money to stay alive through the first couple primaries, Pawlenty could emerge as a legitimate contender.

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: Much like Pawlenty, Daniels has little name recognition and is often considered the “intellectual” pick, meaning he does not stand a chance in a party filled with people who think Obama is a socialist Muslim born in Kenya.

Longshots:

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman: Obama shrewdly appointed Huntsman as the ambassador to China in 2009 to remove him from the picture. Now, Huntsman is going to have a lot of explaining to do for accepting a job with the Obama administration.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour: His penchant for making racist comments is not going to bode well for him on the campaign trail.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: Another social conservative who will not survive the Iowa caucus.

When hell freezes over:

Billionaire and professional blowhard Donald Trump: I pray every day for “the Donald” to throw his hair into the ring – nothing would make political columnists like me happier.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: I do not think the Democrats are going to be lucky enough to run against Caribou Barbie twice. Her chances are entirely dependent on the strength of the Tea Party. She could enter the race late as an outsider and siphon off votes like Ross Perot in 1992, but she is too divisive to win the Republican nomination. Like everything else Palin does, she will probably quit halfway through.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann: See Sarah Palin.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain: Who?

Waiting until 2016:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: He is literally and figuratively the biggest rising star in the party but has unequivocally stated he will not pursue the nomination.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: He is every demographic the Republican Party needs to win – Hispanic, young and well-educated. Fortunately for the Democrats, the Republicans have not realized this.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: Americans still have not forgiven his brother for going to war in Iraq, tax breaks for the wealthy, reading “My Pet Goat” on 9/11, politicizing the Justice Department, nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the Patriot Act, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina and many, many other things. Jeb should probably sit this one out.

With no clear front-runner, the question remains – which rich white guy is going to get the nomination?

 

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