It seems crazy to be talking about the 2012 presidential election already, but the race is already begun. Even thought the election is over a year away, we already have winners and losers emerging.
The interesting side of the race will come from Republicans. With Obama, the Democrats already know who their nominee will be. But with Republicans, the race is wide open.
Let’s start with who is NOT running. There has been some big names drop out of the race before it even began. Chris Christie and Paul Ryan both made it clear early that they were not running. This disappointed a lot of conservatives, but to their credit, both men admitted they needed more experience to be president.
Next came the announcement by Haley Barbour that he was not running. Gov. Barbour had an impressive resume and was the darling of Southern conservatives. Since many of our recent presidents have come from the South (Clinton and both Bushes) this was a surprise to many.
Then came the departure of Mike Huckabee. I know many social conservatives were particularly disappointed by his decision. Here ran a strong race in 2008, had a TV show on Fox, and a charismatic personality. His exit left a lot of people wondering who would carry the banner of social conservatives in 2012.
And then just last week, Indian governor Mitch Daniels (my personal favorite) dropped out too. Daniels had the best record to run on and many Washington insiders quietly admitted he had the best chance to beat Obama. Unfortunately, Gov. Daniels wife had a history of marital indiscretions and she didn’t want it all over the media.
So, who does that leave IN the race? We have Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney—so far. Ex-Pennsylvania Senator Santorum has the best record on social issues, but he lost his own senate race and many pundits don’t think he can win the big swing states need to win the presidency. Herman Cain is the CEO of Godfather’s pizza. His appeal is that he is a straight talking, African-American conservative, with great business credential. His down side is that he has absolutely no government experience—domestic policy, economic policy, or foreign policy. In some ways, he is the Ross Perot of 2012. He is charismatic, but prone to gaffs and the media is going to eat him alive every time he makes one.
Newt Gengrich, ex-Speaker of the House and author of the Contract with America, is in, but committed political suicide about two days after his campaign started. In one of his first speeches he attack Paul Ryan and called his budget plan “social engineering”. He then went on to say that he supported President Obama’s individual health care mandate. With rhetoric like that, he might as well run as a Democrat.
That leaves Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. Ex-Minnesota gov Pawlenty has a decent record, but most people respond with “Tim who??” He is a good mainstream Republican, but is pretty darn boring. Can he compete with Obama when it comes to debates and media? I’m not sure. And then there is Mr. Romney. Conservatives like him, but he makes us nervous. He was once pro-choice then switched to become pro-life when he ran for president in 2008. He has great business credentials and ran a successful Olympics in Salt Lake, but also gave us “RomneyCare” which is what Obama modeled his health care plan upon. How do you run against ObamaCare when you invented it?!
Given all this, I have a prediction. Look to Texas Gov. Rick Perry to get in the race. I think he will see an opening and throw his hat in the ring. He is from the South, governs a big state, has the ability to raise a lot of money, and both fiscal and social conservatives like him. If he can get around the criticism that he is from the same state of George Bush, he could be the surprise winner of the whole thing.