Voters are feeling a little better about President Obama after his neutralization of Osama bin Laden. But if the unemployment figures are not significantly less by this time next year, Republicans think they have a shot at making him a one-term president.
This sends a tingle of excitement up the nerves of those Republicans who have declared their candidacies. This was evident at CNN's first candidates debate June 13 when Michele Bachmann upstaged the others by formally announcing her candidacy on live TV and Mitt Romney offered his most persuasive yet explanation on the problems with Obamacare. Bachmann may be unlikely to become America's first woman president but could she as a vice-presidential running mate deliver the tea party vote to a Romney presidency?
It is time to take a fanciful, and highly unscientific, look at the lineup so far.
Declared candidates who have a shot at becoming president: Romney, Pawlenty, Santorum.
Romney is in the lead. A millionaire businessman, he is well qualified. Took over the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when they were in financial trouble and mired in scandal, cleaned them up and the day after they closed turned over a bundle of money to Utah. Newsweek said he has an "icy persona." But he's loosening up, took his tie off for his TV interview with Piers Morgan. If he were a Catholic, a Jew, a black, or a female he might be home and dry, but he is taxed about his Mormon faith. Like President Kennedy, he assures his religion would not influence his decisions as president.
Declared candidates who probably will not be president: Bachmann, Paul, Johnson, Cain, Gingrich.
Gingrich has flamed out. His senior staff has jumped ship. Taking off for a two-week luxury cruise when all of them were working their tails off was a bad decision. That half-million dollar tab at Tiffany's did not exactly brand him a man of the people either.
Candidates not declared who probably will or might declare: Huntsman, Palin, Giuliani, Texas Gov. Perry.
Huntsman may have formally declared by the time this column is in print. Rich kid who played in a heavy metal band, still rides motor bikes. Was a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, says he is a Christian, believes in God, proud of his Mormon heritage. But when Time magazine asked whether he was still a member of the Mormon church, was quoted as replying: "That's tough to define." Was a popular governor of Utah, highly commended ambassador for Obama to China, would be a breeze for secretary of state in either a Republican or Democratic administration. But a long shot for president this time around.
Then there is Sarah Palin. Ah Palin! The Economist described her "One nation" bus tour as a "slow dance of the seven veils." There are more political veils to fall before we discover if she is to run or not. Upstaging Romney's New Hampshire presidential announcement with her bus tour was a coincidence? If you believe that, you probably believe in the tooth fairy, too. She is not going to be president, but could enliven even the dullest of campaigns. Do not underestimate her influence in the Republican Party.
Giuliani is the hero of 9/11. But he's kind of a gadfly. Would like to be president without enduring the grinding process of fundraising and hand-pumping and speaking at a hundred town hall meetings that has become essential, like it or not, for a successful candidacy.
Not running but yet could: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Not running but I wish they would: Bob Gates, General Patreus.
Not running but could have: Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour.
Did run, then not running, but says he could yet run: Donald Trump, as Republican, Independent, perhaps even Democrat?
Stay tuned. The parade has only just begun.
John Hughes teaches journalism at Brigham Young University. He is a former editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret News, and a former editor of the Christian Science Monitor, which syndicates this column.