I recently proposed a way to quantify who is the leading contender for the 2012 GOP nomination. Essentially, I selected 10 attributes which, in my estimation, a winning candidate ought to possess.
It’s still early, but based on my analysis, Tim Pawlenty is in the lead.
Before we get deeper into the analysis, though, a few points are in order:
1. This is simply a snapshot based on facts on the ground now (and my perceptions). I intend to revise this as things develop. (For example, when it comes to making the “right hires,” I have assigned a question mark to Sarah Palin. In the past, she has been criticized for failing to surround herself with seasoned advisers, but in recent months it appears she has sought to change that.)
2. Rather than limiting this to a binary choice between a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I have added a third option — the question mark. Frankly, the verdict is still out on a lot of this. And besides, I’m only counting the number of thumbs up, any way.
3. Some of these attributes are more subjective than others. For example, you might actually enjoy having a beer with Mitt Romney, but I gave him a thumbs down on the “beer test” category.
4. Some readers have noted that I have not included a category for “experience”. In some ways, of course, “gravitas” and “leadership” can come from experience. But the larger reason I have not included a category for experience is that it has often been a poor predictor of success (see Bush or Dole vs. Clinton, McCain vs. Obama, etc.). What is more, I have the sense that “political” experience is becoming less important to voters than it has traditionally been in the past. For this reason, candidates like Sarah Palin (who did not complete her one term as governor of Alaska) and Herman Cain (who has never held elected office) are probably in better shape than they might have been a decade ago.
5. Regarding the image below, I am clearly not an art major, nor did I engage the Daily Caller’s graphics department for this project.
My analysis: Tim Pawlenty is clearly in the lead, but is he simply checking off all the boxes, without excelling in any one area? Some are sure to argue that T-Paw’s attributes are a “mile wide, but an inch deep.”
This exercise, of course, measures the number of attributes each candidate possesses, but does not measure intensity. It is possible for Pawlenty to check off more boxes than anyone else, yet not be the leader in any individual category (Romney probably has more money, you’d probably rather have a beer with Haley Barbour, etc.)
Of course, this is not necessarily bad for Pawlenty. As the saying goes, “Democrats fall in love, but Republicans fall in line.” The candidates who have passionate followers also have passionate detractors. Pawlenty may be the guy who is best positioned to be everyone’s second pick. And by checking off all the boxes, he would be positioned to lead when the voters eventually turn to him as a compromise candidate.
… So there it is. I’m sure you will disagree with some of my grades. That’s fine. Let me know in the comments. I plan on revisiting this every month, or so. Additionally, if candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, et al. begin to look like “likely” candidates, I will put them in the mix. (Obviously, changing the players could dramatically change the results) …