While a host of Republicans — ranging from Mitt Romney to Newt Gingrich — have said President Barack Obama needs to be replaced in 2012, so far few have proven willing to take the plunge into a presidential challenge.
By all accounts, the field of possible 2012 GOP contenders seems to have something for everyone — libertarians, "big tent" conservatives, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and businessmen. The real question is whether Republican and conservative voters can find the one to rally around come Election Day in 2012.
According to a variety of reports, the 2012 race may contain big-name Republicans like Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jeb Bush or John Bolton. While known to many, each of these possible candidates would bring a number of challenges with him.
Time Magazine calls Evangelicals Gingrichs biggest challenge, saying theyre not a match made in heaven.
A personal history that includes multiple affairs and divorces doesnt have to spell electoral doom for a GOP candidate if he presents it as part of a narrative of sin, repentance and redemption, Amy Sullivan writes. But Gingrich seems constitutionally incapable of engaging in the kind of confession and repentance that evangelicals want.
Giuliani, whose 2008 presidential bid didnt take off like he had hoped after the primary in Florida, told Politico he might enter the race if the Republican candidates are too far right so that they cant win the general election.
After Giulianis 2008 defeat, the UKs Guardian credited a flawed campaign strategy and his socially liberal views as the miscalculations that led to the end of his run.
On the issues that mattered to the Republican right — gun laws, gays and abortion — Giuliani simply was not their man, the newspaper said.
Although a recent Gallup Poll shows that social issues have taken a backseat behind the economy, federal spending and the deficit, Giulianis strategy of aiming for the middle rather than courting the Republican base voters has proven ineffective in the past. What happens in 2012, however, remains to be seen.
For Bush, the most obvious challenge he would have to overcome is his name. While former President George W. Bushs popularity has improved since he left office — a March 23 Pew Research Center poll gives him a 42 percent favorable rating, up from 37 percent in September — Democrats ran against George W. Bush two years after he left office and would likely appreciate the opportunity to do so again.
According to Bolton, the decision to officially enter the 2012 race is still on the distant horizon, as The Washington Post reports that he is still thinking about it. If he were to enter, Bolton said, foreign policy would be the driving force behind the move.
I think its important not to have sound bites and bumper stickers but to have a sustained political discussion, Bolton said. We havent had an adequate discussion at the national level on threats to American national security. I think it is very important to get that conversation going.
With the Middle East engulfed in turmoil and ongoing challenges in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, a foreign policy candidate may be able to get a foot in the door. However, with the possibility of terrorist attacks in the U.S. far down on the list of current American concerns, foreign policy credentials alone might not be enough to carry Bolton through the nomination process.
Conservative stars — and lighting rods — Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have also toyed with entering the 2012 field. According to CNN, Bachmann plans to form a presidential exploratory committee (the first step in making an official run) in June or earlier.
A Bachmann candidacy would crowd Palins space, The Washington Post says, because she might steal core conservatives from Palin while she decides whether or not to run.
On the other hand, Palin has expressed hesitancy to run, telling The Hill in December that she would stay away from the race if a common sense candidate with a pro-Constitution passion emerged. Conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart told CNBC he doesnt think Palins future lies in the White House, but rather in becoming the Oprah Winfrey of the Republican party.
Should Palin choose to run, her star power may be eclipsed by yet another celebrity who has toyed with throwing his hat into the ring — Donald Trump.
Trump, who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., in February, hasnt decided on a presidential campaign yet, but told The New York Daily News that he is planning to decide before June.
Until then, though, Trump has jumped into the spotlight quickly, planning a trip to Iowa in June and using an appearance on The View to ask Obama to release his birth certificate. He quickly followed that up by releasing his own birth certificate.
Another possible candidate, Jon Huntsman Jr., is known to Utahns but will need to work on his national profile if he chooses to enter the race. Although Huntsman hasnt officially declared his candidacy, Huntsmans brother Peter told Bloomberg Monday that Jon was interested in running in either 2012 or 2016.
While U.S. News writer Cameron Lynch wrote an article saying Huntsman could be Obamas worst fear in 2012, the Obama administration has tried to head off the possible campaign with the political death hug, praising Huntsman and saying he and Obama were close.
As of Wednesday, Politico reports that Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, hasnt decided whether he plans to run for president again or not. If he doesnt, its possible his son, newly-elected Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will jump into the race. Earlier this month, Rand Paul released a five-year plan to balance the budget, which was supported by Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
On Monday, former 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee told CBS News he is still considering another run at the presidency, noting that virtually every poll that comes out shows me at the top. Should he run, reports suggest that he would announce his decision by early summer. However, Politico recently reported Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is trying to woo Huckabee, seeking his support for his own presidential run.
Other possible candidates contain some of the whos that? factor, such as Herman Cain, Fred Karger, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, Charles Roemer or Roy Moore. While being relatively unknown to the majority of voters, with hyper-focused messaging and well-run campaigns, these candidates may be able to ride the anti-establishment mood of the country clear to the nomination.
Cain, an African-American, former CEO of Godfathers Pizza and current radio talk-show host, announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on Your World with Neil Cavuto. In The Huffington Post Wednesday, writer Jon Ward posits that Cain may sneak up on the 2012 primary field — if he can avoid saying controversial things.
A lot of people want me to win but still dont believe that I can win, Cain told the Huffington Post. But I got news for them: I have been a long shot all my life, and so being a long shot is nothing new to me.
Karger, who served as an adviser to presidents Ford, Reagan and George H.W. Bush, filed to run for president on March 23. Karger is the first openly gay presidential candidate and told CBS News that he wants to be a new, fresh type of progressive Republican like Theodore Roosevelt.
According to an adviser for Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, Johnson plans to announce his candidacy for president in April. In an interview with Fox News, Johnson said he supports gay unions and legalizing marijuana and believes the Republican base needs to grow.
Im under the belief that I might speak on behalf of 50 percent of Republicans, Johnson said. Thats what I believe, and Im putting that to the test. This isnt lying on the couch theorizing about it, this is actually burning some shoe leather.
Santorum, a former senator for Pennsylvania, has been a frequent visitor to New Hampshire, which holds the earliest presidential primary. However, he recently told The Associated Press that his 2-year-old daughters illness, Trisomy 18, will impact his decision on whether or not to run. At the beginning of March, Politico suggested that while some may scoff at Santorums chances, he could alter the course of the Iowa caucuses. Fox News suspended Gingrich and Santorum on March 2 in accordance with Fox policy regarding possible runs for the presidency by its contributors.
According to an article on deseretnews.com, former Louisiana Gov. Roemer entered the race on March 3. In the article, Roemer said hes embracing a person-by-person campaign style, refusing big-ticket donations and money from lobbying groups. He also said he wont take money from political action committees, and he wont accept more than $100 per donor.
Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, spoke at a rally in Des Moines in March, where he announced that he might also run for president. Radio Iowa reports that Moore will make his final decision about running in April.
Although the Republican field for 2012 is filled with many different possibilities, in an article published Wednesday, The Christian Science Monitor narrows the field down to just three possible candidates — former governors Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, and current Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
According to most news sources, Romneys chances to claim the Republican 2012 nomination are still strong, despite praise from Obama and the possible battle over the Massachusetts health care law created while Romney was governor.
The National Journal reports that GOP insiders say Romneys No. 1, while New York Times writer Nate Silver writes that Romney has tactical advantages over the rest of the GOP field. While a Pew Research poll puts Romney ahead of others in terms of tea party support, Romneys 2008 deputy campaign manager and political director said Romneys Mormon religion is still his biggest hurdle.
Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, announced the formation of his presidential exploratory committee via video on March 21. As the first major Republican to enter the race, The New York Times says Pawlentys five biggest challenges will be money, visibility, message, fiscal discipline and tactics.
Out of The Christian Science Monitors three contenders, Barbour might have the most work to do on the way to the nomination. Back in 2009, Mark McKinnon wrote in The Daily Beast that Barbour has a long political history that includes working in the Reagan White House, governing Mississippi and chairing the Republican National Committee. However, as McKinnon describes him, Barbour is an old, white, rotund former lobbyist from the Deep South, Mississippi.
A Washington Post article calls Barbour a man from another time an insiders insider — a backroom dealer, a trader of favors, a conservator of the establishment. However, the article continues, Barbour has an unshakable faith in his power to bring around just about anyone, and in Americans, who, he says, have given hope a chance. They want to give results a chance.
In different articles from both The Washington Post and The Hill, other possible contenders like South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have also been mentioned. The only person making both lists is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Despite saying hes not ready to run for president and that suicide may be the only way to convince people hes not running, Christie speculation continues to grow. At CPAC in February, Ann Coulter said Christie was the only chance for a Republican victory in 2012. A poll released on Tuesday shows Christie leading the 2012 GOP pack, and Wednesday Politico reported that the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a Christie run would be exciting.
While some are content to wait for the GOP nominee to emerge, others are beginning to get impatient. Politico reports today that the slow start to the 2012 campaign led the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to postpone its debate for Republican candidates to Sept. 14. It was originally scheduled for May 2. A Huffington Post article Wednesday also suggests that the media is starting to panic over the slow start.
While the media is perhaps annoyed by the delay, some conservatives and Republicans are also beginning to complain.
In a Pajamas Media column written in February, Jeffrey H. Anderson argues that the coming election is likely Americas most important since 1864, and yet Republicans are acting as if theyre content to conduct tryouts for the jayvee.
Given the extraordinary decision faced by Americans in 2012, it is the profoundest understatement that its time for Republicans to put the varsity on the field, the article states. The finest candidates in the Republican Party owe it to their country, and to the ideals in which they believe, to enter this race with the determination to win.
During a Feb. 28 show, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham discussed this issue with political analyst William Kristol, who agreed that Republican candidates need to step up and begin campaigning.
If you agree that the country is sliding into an abyss, and you have the ability to run a strong campaign, and yet you stand on the sidelines as if youre pretending youre on the injured reserve list, then I say dont ever run, because this is the go-to election, Ingraham said.