Monday, June 29, 2009

Who Are You Looking At in 2012? - Results

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey! We got a lot of interesting perspectives and predictions for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

The winner, at 18%, was Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2008. According to one respondent, “Palin is the front runner, since [the GOP] didn't have a really great speaker during the Republican Convention, [there is] no way of gauging the possibilities.”

A sudden surprise front-runner was former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) who lately has been making a surge in media coverage. Yesterday on Meet the Press he told David Gregory he was not considering another presidential campaign, but according to Politico today, “many of his loyalists expect one and remain at the ready for 2012.”

Romney also made a point of criticizing Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) for his recently-revealed affair with a woman in Argentina. He said that governors must be held to a “higher standard” because “the culture of the nation” can be hurt by their failings. It certainly seems like something a Republican presidential candidate would say in order to appeal to the culturally conservative base in preparation for a primary.

In fact, everything about his spotlight appearances cry “campaign.” From the first Politico article:

Whenever Romney has a major TV appearance or pens an opinion piece, a PAC staffer, Will Ritter, circulates the news to an e-mail list of the former governor’s extended political family…

…When Romney does a high-profile Sunday show like he did yesterday, for example, that means that former communications aides such as Matt Rhoades and Kevin Madden will join PAC spokesman and longtime adviser Eric Fehrnstrom to help prepare their old boss, either in person or over the phone. When he’s delivering a speech, as he did earlier this month on national security, other former campaign officials such as media consultants Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens are brought in.

And Romney is looking good within the Republican Party. Many see him as a good pro-business candidate that can legitimately attack the Obama economic strategy.

But Romney isn’t the only one reaching out to the media. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who tied for a surprising last place in our poll, has also been making headlines in political circles.

He recently made his own criticisms of Sanford on CNN.

And he made sure to let the nation know that he was ready to certify Al Franken as Minnesota’s Democratic Senator once the state’s high court issued their ruling. This should help him with his credentials as being less partisan. In fact, one of Pawlenty’s major selling points will be that he isn’t so in-line with the far-right - thus he’s electable. That could be a major plus in a Republican primary in 2012.

All-in-all, these media outreach efforts are right out of the traditional presidential campaign playbook. In a 1972 memo to then-Governor Jimmy Carter, aide Hamilton Jordan wrote

“[I]t is necessary that we begin immediately to generate favorable stories and comments in the national press…Once your name begins to be mentioned in the national press, you will not lack for invitations and opportunities to speak in major groups and conventions…[The press’s] recognition and acceptance of your candidacy as a viable force with some chance of success could establish you as a serious contender worthy of financial support from major part contributors.”

Other names that came out of the survey were Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) (if the GOP is ready for a minority candidate), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who one respondent said was one of the only Republicans on-message at the moment), House Minority Leader John Boehner, and former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) who ran in 2008.

We’ve already discussed Jindal’s chances in previous posts. He may have to secure his popularity with his Louisiana constituency first. Although the other three candidates are possibilities, we’re not putting much weight behind their chances. Gingrich and Thompson both left their political careers a while ago and they both have sex-scandal skeletons in their own closets. Boehner probably won’t run seeing as he already has a powerful position in the House.

Several respondents said they had “no idea” - it’s far too early to tell. That’s probably a good answer. A couple mentioned General David Patraeus. The General would certainly be a strong candidate (in theory) for a GOP primary, but it is definitely unlikely that he would leave the military for a political stint.

Outside of our survey there are other names being thrown around, including former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN), and Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) who recently replaced Sanford as Chair of the Republican Governors Association.

It’s no surprise that most of the names being mentioned are governors. Republicans in Congress are particularly unpopular these days and historically governors have had an easier time in the presidential field because of the lack of a voting record to attack.

Huckabee and Daniels may have an especially good chance. Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 and is a recognizable figure in national politics. His populist message and program at Fox News give him ample opportunity to succeed with the conservative base. Daniels, though not well-known outside his own state, has an acceptable record as governor and - unlike many Republicans - hasn’t yet given Democrats much to attack him on. Thune may have difficulty with name recognition, but his ties in Washington would be useful. Barbour is unlikely to make it outside Mississippi, however, because he is a former tobacco lobbyist.

Another surprise from our survey was the frequent mention of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as a Vice Presidential candidate. He is called a “rising-star” who is on-message and speaks well to the base. He also is known for introducing Republican solutions so the GOP does not appear to be the “Party of No.” As a Congressman, he probably wouldn’t be a viable presidential candidate (House members seldom are) but he is frequently mentioned in the national press and couldn’t refuse the opportunity to be on the ticket if he is asked. Dick Cheney even mentioned him in a recent interview - before any other Republican - as a young, talented politician who gives the party hope.

Thanks again in taking part in the survey! As 2012 comes closer we’ll keep up-to-date and look back at these results and our own analysis.

UPDATE: An interesting new Pew Poll finds that two of the previously mentioned Republicans - Palin and Gingrich - are fairly popular within the party, but extremely divisive otherwise. A third - Romney - is fairly popular overall, but just less than a third of respondents could not say whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of him yet.

Needless to say, these results are good for Palin and Gingrich as far as primary prospects go - as long as electability isn't a principle concern to the GOP base - but not so much when it comes to a General Election. The public's opinion of Romney will no doubt further develop as the 2012 race comes closer.

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