The emblem of a movement that could have
little clout in the 2012 race
As 2012 Republican nomination speculation heats up, the field of prospective candidates appears to be narrowing. Mike Pence and John Thune, two prospective dark horse candidates who some considered the most electable Republicans, have bowed out early. Sharron Angle, Harry Reid's 2010 opponent and the third member of the 'mama grizzly' trifecta, has also announced that she will not make a 2012 attempt. Evangelical darling Mike Huckabee is unlikely to try for the nomination. He has not made moves to establish exploratory groups and he just took out a mortgage to finance a new mansion, which limits his personal resources for a possible bid (as well as putting him in the 'elitist' category). These moves have narrowed the field down to a considerably shorter list. It now seems that none of the Tea Party candidates have the poll numbers to pull off a win unless the political climate drastically shifts. The numbers for the Tea Party Patriots GOP subgroup look split among prospective candidates Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, and Herman Cain, ensuring that neither can have success unless two take themselves out of contention. Meanwhile, polls show increasing national disgust at the media antics of two candidates sympathetic to the Tea Party: Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, with disapproval ratings at 60% and 40%, respectively. To round out the likely field, purist conservative Ron Paul retains a dedicated following, but lacks the broad base of votes to pull off a nomination win, while Donald Trump's potential impact is difficult to predict with confidence, especially considering his 43% unfavorability rating. Both Trump and Paul might run as third-party candidates and siphon votes away from the mainstream Republican candidate.
It seems that conservative columnist George F. Will's statement that only five viable candidates exist is to some extent accurate. I would say that this 'winnowing process' is even further advanced. For instance, Jon Huntsman and Haley Barbour have huge amounts of ground to make up to even have a chance. Their name recognition percentages are 21% and 41% respectively - within the GOP alone
. Huntsman's involvement with Obama and China and Barbour's race remark escapades could prove huge strikes against their chances. On the other hand, Mitch Daniels is perhaps the best hope for the Republican party in 2012. He has convictions, but he retains the ability to compromise. Most importantly, he has declared a truce on moral disputes, and he is willing to engage substantively on trimming budgets in creative ways (i.e. without looting valuable social services like WIC). It would be nice to see two qualified candidates with proven track records of leadership as the nominees (Obama and Daniels). However, a Daniels campaign is doubtful. He has expressed worries about its potential toll on his family, and he would have to deal with a 26% name recognition among Republicans. Sadly, this is shaping up to be another election cycle where the GOP is too afraid to follow in the responsible footsteps of Eisenhower, preferring instead to choose from among a sea of Reaganites. The effects of this choice, positive or negative, should be apparent by November 2012.