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Who will take on Obama in 2012?

The midterm elections, if you’re a Democrat, aren’t shaping up well. The worst case scenarios project losses that at the very least are going to cost the Democrats control of the House of Representatives. Even more dire predictions suggest they could lose control of the Senate. The latter isn’t likely, but enough pieces seem to be coming into place to make it a possibility.
Unless there is a turnaround, the day after Election Day is going to be glum for the Democrats. There will be a lot of explaining, endless analysis, Fox TV will be joyful, and there will promises from the White House stoically expressing their willingness to work with the new majority. Under almost any scenario President Barack Obama will have to develop a new approach to dealing with Congress.

In terms of spin, the Republicans will no doubt say it’s a referendum on the administration and the Democrats. The Democrats, admitting some errors of their own, will likely say it’s the fault of a bad economy and a campaign of distortions from the other side. Both sides, to varying degrees, will be right.
But, almost instantly, on that same day, what was once only a passing interest in the 2012 presidential election will turn into a passion. The Democratic nomination is a given. President Obama has that locked down. There aren’t likely to be any insurgents out to give him any troubles. But the Republicans, feeling empowered by their likely successes this November, will be scrambling. The fight will be on and the campaigns, which have so far centered on political action committees, visits to help candidates in the midterm elections, and appearances on talk shows, will escalate into a near full time affair.
In America the presidential campaigns only have lulls; they never actually stop.
However, there is a question that I suspect many GOP strategists are asking. Can the Republican Party field a national candidate in 2012 who is strong enough to defeat a sitting president? It’s a good question. At the moment, the question, at best, elicits a “qualified maybe.”
For one thing there still aren’t that many attractive Republican candidates. Mitt Romney, a candidate for the nomination in 2008, likes to consider himself the leading contender. However, he may be the only one who does. In the 2008 GOP primaries he wasn’t exactly a winning candidate and for many conservatives he is still too willing to morph his opinions to suit the moment.
But at least two other candidates, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, both former governors, and now, a celebrity and a talk show host respectively, have the ability to warm the conservative Republican heart. They often draw big crowds at conservative events, but serious political experts wonder if they could ever be credible national candidates.
Sarah Palin has celebrity star power. She has a following in the party, but she would probably have a tough time if she decided to make a serious run for the Republican nomination. That’s why I don’t think she is ever going to be a candidate.
Mike Huckabee, now a Fox TV host, is another popular conservative. Again, he has a following, and he will stay close to the Republican conservative issues, but it’s doubtful he would have much chance in a national race. But he may give it a try just the same.
Then there are the governors and a few Senators. In varying degrees they have been sitting back waiting to see what happens. Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, conservative, but from a blue state, could well prove one of the most powerful contenders. But so far, he has taken a go slow approach. Then there is the once forgotten, but thanks to the Gulf Spill, somewhat rehabilitated Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Even Texas’s Rick Perry (you know, the guy who thought it might be nice if Texas succeeded from the Union “again”) hasn’t ruled out the idea of a presidential bid. Also, add to the list, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint. Nationally, Graham could prove a strong draw. But, because he has extended the bipartisan hand a few too many times he might have trouble with the GOP’s core base. Jim DeMint wouldn’t have that problem. Finally, there is Haley Barbour from Mississippi. Barbour was a consummate insider. His resume is daunting. But instead of staying in D.C. he left the inside the beltway crowd behind to take over the helm of his home state. He could prove interesting.
The race for the GOP presidential nomination has, if you get down to it, been underway for quite some time. These guys have been jockeying for position for at least the last two years. But once the midterm elections are done, and if the Republicans score the kind of victories they’re hoping for this November, the party’s nomination race will start to look more and more like a real campaign. However, for the moment the field is a little anemic. None of the prospective candidates are all that well known and they all lack national stature. But, then again, it’s amazing how fast, seeming unknowns, can go from “what’s that guys name again?” to national candidate status. Just ask President Obama.
You may reach David Kerr
at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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