Here is a recent survey of the field posted on a site called PinskiPolitics. The author ranks the possible contenders as follows:
- Mitt Romney
- Sarah Palin
- Mike Huckabee
- Newt Gingrich
- The field: Jim DeMint, Ron Paul, Mike Pence, Haley Barbour, Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Mitch Daniels.
Huckabee -- well, really, who is that guy? Is a high-tax, high-spend moderate Republican (except for the abortion issue) really going to fly in the era of the Tea Party and trillion-dollar deficits? I don't think so.
Gingrich? Please. Again, his time is long gone. And, for better or for worse, the Independents who took the GOP to a landslide in 2010 in my judgment have long since made up their mind about Gingrich. Fair or not, he's been labeled as... what's the word I'm looking for?... "icky" by the Independent voter.
Which leaves Sarah Palin. People underestimate her at their peril. She would easily be the most glamorous figure in the GOP race with the most name recognition and likely with plenty of money to put up a good campaign against Romney. I think she could win the nomination. But I think she too has been labeled by the Independents... in her case as being "not qualified" for the Presidency. I think they are probably right on that too. I don't think she can win.
The Independents have turned off from Obama as "arrogant" or "incompetent." The 2010 landslide was the result of a "preference cascade," where, all at once, it became OK to say out loud what everyone had been thinking about Obama. I don't think the Independents will go back to Obama, unless the GOP is stupid enough to nominate someone who himself (or herself) has already had their own "preference cascade." For Palin (or Gingrich), I think this has happened, fair or not.
Which leaves the field. The list above strikes me as incomplete. I have to believe that in the next two years, someone is going to emerge who will capture the imagination of a restive GOP primary electorate, someone as outside the box as Obama himself was in 2008.
Can you say, hello, Big Man?