Who Will Be the Republican Presidential Nominee?

by Samantha Plotner

The million-dollar question inside the Beltway is which Republican is going to challenge President Barack Obama for the 2012 Presidential Nomination? I know, the primaries don’t start until February 2012. That’s true but it takes a lot of time to raise the money for a Presidential campaign, especially when you’re running against the fundraiser juggernaut that is President Obama. Also, speculating is incredibly entertaining both for us and for the talking heads that populate cable news. There was a straw poll January 22 in New Hampshire (the first primary state and a key contest for any Presidential hopeful) and there is a debate happening in May. The season for speculation is in full swing. What follows are a few of the most likely contenders, though for what it’s worth none of these candidates have actually declared their candidacy or taken the baby step that comes before that, forming an exploratory committee.

Could Win

Mitt Romney
He’s the former governor of Massachusetts and was a top contender in 2008. He just resigned his position on the Board of Directors of the Marriott Hotel, which he also did before he ran in 2008. He’s got the talking points down pat and for what it’s worth he won the New Hampshire Republican Party straw poll January 22 by quite a large margin. However, Romney is haunted by some of the more moderate positions he took when he was the Governor of Massachusetts. Health care will be a particularly sticky issue for him because the plan he instituted there is uncomfortably similar to the Obama health care plan many Republicans are so eager to repeal. Especially considering Republican primary voters are typically the most ideologically conservative he’ll have problems convincing them he is as ideologically pure as they want him to be. His Mormon faith may also pose problems. The Republicans have a tendency to go for the next in line, and in the 2012 election that would be Romney, but for the reasons already mentioned he is definitely not a sure thing.

Tim Pawlenty
He is the former governor of Minnesota who labels himself a main street conservative. His remark in 2001 that the Republican Party should be “the party of Sam’s Club not just the country club” has become a standard theme for him, and one that can be construed as a dig at Mitt Romney. He was on the shortlist to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008 and his decision in June 2009 to not run for a third term for Governor was widely seen as a sign he was eyeing a 2012 Presidential run. He self-identifies as an evangelical and has strong ties to that community, an important constituency for the Republicans. His solid conservative credentials and measured rhetorical style that gears towards constructive criticism rather than sensationalism could make him a strong candidate for the nomination.

Mike Huckabee
Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas who made a splash when he was the surprise winner of the Iowa Caucus in 2008. Since then he has remained in the limelight through his book, his television show on Fox, and his political action committee. Like Tim Pawlenty he labels himself a “main street republican.” In his book about his 2008 campaign he took shots at his 2008 rival Mitt Romney, accusing him of being “ anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president.” He’s an evangelical Christian who resonates with that community quite well. Four years ago he did not have the organization or profile that he has now. Huckabee’s humor and easygoing personality on the campaign trail makes him popular and he will likely be a strong contender for the nomination.

Sarah Palin
The half term governor of Alaska and failed vice presidential candidate is a favorite of the Tea Party faithful and the Saturday Night Live writing staff. She was a coveted endorsement in the midterm elections though several of her high profile endorsees such as Sharron Angle of Nevada, Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Joe Miller of Alaska lost their races. Palin draws large crowds and she can be a formidable fundraiser. However she has alienated important people within the party establishment with her conduct during and in the aftermath of the 2008 election. Palin could certainly fair quite well in the primaries because of her devoted fan base; however, the New Hampshire straw poll did not go well for her. She finished in fourth place, behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty. It is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Palin will snag the nomination, but it is certainly beginning to look less likely. If she were to win, she would make a weak nominee against Obama because it would be incredibly difficult for her to attract independent and moderate voters.

Maybe Vice Presidential Pick


Ron Paul
Ron Paul is a Congressman from Texas who was a member of the Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool. In fact one of the Tea Party’s most high profile members, freshman Senator Rand Paul, is his son. A self-labeled Libertarian he ran on that party’s ticket for President in 1988 and gained a devoted following when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008. He told The National Journal that he is considering a Presidential run, as opposed to running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchinson. While he was a fringe candidate in 2008, he came in second behind Romney in the New Hampshire straw poll. He will be getting even more attention in coming months because he is the chair of the House subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve, his first major leadership position in his 20 year career. However, his policy positions are seen as extreme. He supports an economic policy known as Austrian economics, which advocates government being completely removed from economics. His anti-foreign intervention stance that led him to not support the Iraq War is also problematic. His controversial opinions will make it difficult for him to win the nomination. However it is possible he could be tapped to be Vice President to brush up the Tea Party credentials of a more moderate candidate. While this also seems unlikely, weirder Vice Presidential picks have happened (say the untested and unknown Sarah Palin being tapped by John McCain).

Jon Huntsman
He’s the former governor of Utah who does not have much of a national profile. Currently, he is the Ambassador to China, but reports say the White House is expecting he will resign come spring to run for President. His resume includes stints working for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. The Washington Post also points out fluent Mandarin speaker Huntsman has more foreign policy bona fides than any of the other Republican contenders. However to the party base, the fact Huntsman served in Obama’s administration could kill his chances before they really begin. Like with Mitt Romney, Huntsman’s Mormon faith could cause problems for him. He also leans more centrist than other candidates, having publicly stated his support for civil unions and cap and trade. These positions could cost him come primary time as well as the fact he is largely unknown in field that may include big names like Sarah Palin. He could be a strong candidate in the general election but he will have serious problems getting there. If he does not gain the nomination he could be a strong Vice Presidential pick to lend his foreign policy credentials to the ticket, much like what Obama did when he picked Joe Biden.

John Thune
Thune is one of the Senators from South Dakota and is well liked in Republican circles for defeating former Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He and New York’s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who sat together at the State of the Union, were dubbed “Prom King and Queen” by the media. He could catch flack in the primaries for voting for TARP (the bank bailout started under the Bush Administration) though he later backpedaled on the vote. Besides that, he has had an unremarkable career in the Senate. In such a crowded field he’ll likely have trouble standing out, though he might run to gain visibility to be a Vice Presidential pick. He would be a safe, non-controversial pick for the second slot on the ticket.

Won’t Win

Newt Gingrich
He’s the former Speaker of the House who spearheaded the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. His ruthless tactics helped grab a Republican majority for the first time in years but after obtaining power he started making mistakes. He ended up embroiled in an ethics investigation, and he was behind the government shutdown and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After the Republicans lost seats in 1998, Gingrich resigned from Congress. He was a family values campaigner but ironically he divorced his first wife while she was being treated for cancer and cheated on his second with the woman who is now his third. It gets better. His affair happened while he was impeaching Clinton for his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. Even though he has been out of public office for over a decade he has managed to stay in the public consciousness through his books, political action committee and gig as a political analyst for Fox. However if the 2008 and 2010 elections are any indication voters want new faces, not someone who has been a vocal political figure since 1978.

Rudy Giuliani
The joke about Giuliani during the 2008 campaign was that all of his sentences consisted of a noun, a verb, and September 11th. He won as a Republican in New York City, which doesn’t do much to bolster his conservative bona fides. Almost a decade after the national tragedy that was September 11th it is no longer a keystone of a political campaign. While he may prove to be an entertaining candidate he has little chance of winning the nomination.

Donald Trump
Yes, you read that right. Mr. “You’re Fired” himself is reportedly considering a Presidential run. Truthfully, the odds of him becoming the nominee are slim to none with the multiple reality shows and dubious political credentials. Though one has to admit it would be quite entertaining to watch the Donald campaign through snowy Iowa and New Hampshire shaking hands and kissing babies all while trying not to ruin his comb over.

Samantha is a sophomore at Barnard College and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is majoring in Political Science and Human Rights Studies.

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