With the November midterm elections having just recently taken place, it is hard to believe the first Republican presidential primary debate is just months away. Daily Caller contributor and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain became the first Republican candidate to formally launch a presidential exploratory committee last week. More will surely follow.
Below is my first ranking of the top 10 possible candidates, ranked by their current strength to win the nomination should they run. This will undoubtedly alter significantly as we move through the primary season and my rankings will be periodically updated to reflect the changing environment.
But without further ado, the current rankings:
1. Chris Christie, “The Dream” – Chris Christie insists he isn’t going to run, but no one excites the conservative base as much as the tough-talking, union-bashing governor of New Jersey who isn’t afraid to throw his ample weight around to get things done. Christie has surely seen the recent Zogby poll that shows him not only at the top of the heap among Republicans if he decides to make a run, but the only potential 2012 contender that currently leads Obama in a hypothetical match-up. Christie has also certainly learned the Obama lesson – strike while the iron is hot. There are still a lot of “known unknowns” with Christie, however, which could potentially cause his blubber to burst if he enters the race. Where does he stand on foreign policy? How about social issues? A salivating party wants to know.
2. Mitt Romney, “Mr. Manufactured” – The former Massachusetts governor is still the leading pick of Republican insiders, according to the latest Hotline survey – though Mitch Daniels is gaining on him. But Romney has a potentially fatal flaw: health care. The 2010 midterm rage was driven in large part by Obamacare. But before there was Obamacare, there was Romneycare. Romney has not done a good enough job explaining this away – the federalism argument doesn’t cut it – and if he is unable to, his candidacy may very well be doomed. Which, in some respects, is a shame since a businessman renowned for turning around companies might fare well in 2012 if the economy hasn’t fully recovered.
3. Sarah Palin, “The Superstar” – Despite shirking her duties in Alaska, you can’t deny that Sarah Palin is the biggest personality in Republican politics. She can draw a crowd probably as large as each of the other GOP presidential contenders combined – and then some. For that reason alone, she can’t be discounted as a serious contender for the GOP nomination if she decides to run, especially since she has the potential to do extremely well in Iowa and South Carolina, two of the earliest and most important primary states. As for her potential to actually win a general election, well, that’s another story altogether.
4. Mitch Daniels, “Mr. Competent” – The rap on the Indiana governor is that he is boring. But it seems like establishment-types are slowly getting behind him, and some of the brightest minds in conservative punditry have sung his praises. Even the New York Times reported how well he has done to right Indiana’s fiscal situation. If America’s budget problems have not been addressed a year from now, the GOP and ultimately America may just be ready for, in the words of conservative columnist George Will, a “a short, balding, unimpressive, uncharismatic competent governor” at the helm.
5. Mike Huckabee, “The Talker” – People have underestimated the former Arkansas governor before and it is possible I am doing so again. He has done well in a lot of recent polling, including leading a recent poll of Iowa Republicans (Christie was not included in the poll). Remember, Huck came out of nowhere to win the Iowa Caucuses in 2008.