The Field in 2012

The 2008 Presidential election will – regardless of outcome – go down in history as one of the largest and most complex elections in history. Not only did an open election produce a field of more than 15 candidates, but the entire process lasted almost two years, and cost more money than any election in history.

As the failures of the McCain campaign mount, and America heads towards what appears more and more likely to be a President Obama, the 2012 election seems likely to be smaller – though not necessarily less important – than 2008. Since Obama would be virtually guaranteed re-nomination, only the Republicans would be facing an open contest. You’ll hear more about the 2012 election after we are clear about who the next President is going to be, but I’m going to start off by covering who is, or isn’t, likely to run:

Sarah Palin (Gov. of AK, VP Nominee) – Sarah Palin’s candidacy for Vice President has been something between a joke and a disaster. Though she originally brought new life to a struggling campaign and helped to send McCain to the top of the polls, she has since been found to have abused her power as Governor, performed poorly in interviews, and has been generally short on substance. Still, Palin could choose to run in 2012 if McCain loses. How would she do? I don’t know yet, but I’m going to hold back on an analysis of Sarah Palin’s chances in 2012 until after election day.

Bobby Jindal (Gov. of LA)– Much like Gov. Palin, Bobby Jindal has been seen as a rising star within the party, and, although he showed no interest in the Vice Presidency, he has been floated many times as a potential candidate in four years. Should he seek the office, however, he may find his path complicated by Sarah Palin. Should her candidacy come to be seen as an ill-advised political experiment, it seems unlikely that Republicans would be quick to turn to yet another young, fresh face. In addition, failures any failures by Obama during his Presidency could leave the public hesitant to put in another President who hasn’t hit 50. Jindal could still run, though it could be more likely that he becomes a VP contender, or else waits until future cycles.

Jeb Bush (Fmr. Gov. of FL) – As a popular, conservative governor, Jeb Bush served two terms as Florida’s chief executive. He declined – wisely – to seek the Presidency in 2008, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t return in four years.  Ultimately, like Jindal, a Jeb Bush candidacy would be governed as much by how history judges another politician as it would be by the candidate himself. In this case, that politician is the current President. If, in four years, George Bush has been vindicated – by failures on Obama’s part, by success in Iraq, etc., then there could be an opening for Jeb to run. However, even if that does occur, there will likely remain a large portion of the population with no desire to return to the 20 years of Clinton/Bush domination of the White House. I’d keep an eye on Jeb, but don’t expect to see him at the front of the pack come primary time.

Mark Sanford (Gov. of SC) – Sanford is, in many ways, very similar to George Bush – a popular, Conservative Southern governor who is liked by most people. Another similarity? I don’t expect either to win many (if any) states in four years. If Sanford had wanted to be President, 2008, with its initial lack of a popular first-tier Conservative, presented him with his best opportunity, and his claims that his 2006 re-election bid was his last campaign make me think that “Sanford” won’t be on the ballot.

Mitt Romney (Fmr. Gov. of MA) – All signs point to a Romney run in 2012. From the moment he dropped out, speculation swirled that we hadn’t seen the last of Mitt, and a 30 year-old rule of tradition in the GOP indicates that the nomination is Romney’s to lose.  He still retains the support of a large following, and there will likely be many in the party who see Romney as the “next in line”. Only a decline in the health of Ann Romney would likely push Romney out of the race. What remains to be seen is exactly how the campaign will pursue the nomination – if it will stick to the early state strategy that got it so close this cycle.

Mike Huckabee (Fmr. Gov. of AR) –Huckabee is another name who many people speculate will run again in four years, and the kind of sudden run-to-the-top that Mike experienced last December is usually the kind of thing that set a candidate up for future runs, but there is something unusual about Huckabee’s post-campaign activities. Its true that he founded a PAC, the Huck-pac, but two things make me question his dedication to a future run. First, despite his impressive rise at the end of the primaries, Huckabee alienated many Republicans when he refused to drop out and permit McCain to begin an early campaign. Second, he seems comfortable in his new role as a talk show host, and he may not want to trade that for what could be a much more difficult Presidential campaign.

Fred Thompson (Fmr. TN Senator)– While there are some who are still hoping that the Fred Express will ride again, I don’t see it happening. Thompson’s 2008 campaign was largely built on the support of voters looking for an alternative to the “Rudy McRomney” pack of RINOs, and the 2012 field is likely to be far more Conservative. After his dismal performance this cycle, I would be very surprised if Thompson tried again.

Rudy Giuliani (Fmr. Mayor of NYC) – The 2008 campaign has effectively ended Rudy Giuliani’s political career outside of New York. While he could return to run for Senator or Governor, the most stunning failure of the primaries made it clear that the GOP isn’t going to send an pro-abortion candidate to the White House. Giuliani started at the top of the polls, raised as much money as any other candidate, and couldn’t even win the one state he lived in for half the year.

John Thune (SD Senator)– Thune is a likable Conservative, but he must overcome several problems if he hopes to run in 2012. Most importantly, he has to raise his profile. Barack Obama-style come-from-behind wins might be the norm in the DNC, but the Republican party has a history of sending well-known, experienced candidates to the nominating convention. But there is another strike against him – if Obama disappoints, don’t expect the next President to come from the Senate.

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2 Comments

Filed under elections

2 responses to “The Field in 2012

  1. Liz

    Matt –

    We’re not even finished suffering through this campaign; you can’t be looking toward the next! Ack!

  2. Jake Nathan

    Great article. I love your insight. There are a couple more I would add to the list. You have to consider Newt Gingrich and mark my words the sleeper in 2012 will be Governor Riley from Alabama.

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