GOP 2012 Pres. Rankings, Updated 6/30!

At this early stage in the 2012 Presidential election cycle, I am updating my rankings every two months. (Click for previous rankings, end of December, end of February, and end of April.)

So much can happen in two months! These are busy people: they reveal extramarital affairs; take jobs halfway around the world for the Democratic administration; get in fights with late-night talk-show hosts.... two months can be a long time.

So, there have been some shake-ups in the rankings. But the top dog remains the same: Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Here's my current top 25, with previous rank in parentheses. Enjoy, and discuss!

1) Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota. As I suspected, he announced that he will not run for re-election in 2010. I assume that for the remaining 18 months of his term, he will govern remotely from Iowa. (1)

2) Jim DeMint, US Senator from South Carolina. He's now indisputedly the most likely South Carolinian to get the nomination. Plus, who do you suppose the movement conservatives will adopt as their new darling, with Sanford out (see below).... perhaps the guy with the new book out titled: "Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide Into Socialism"? Ya think? (2)

3) Mike Pence, US Representative from Indiana. As Republican Conference Chairman, Pence has rolled out the House GOP's "alternative bills" on energy, budget, and health care. Those plans haven't impressed critics like me, but they've solidified his reputation as the conservatives' idea man in Washington -- something the Party Of No is desperately looking for. Think of him as the new Newt, but with fewer wives. (4)

4) John Thune, US Senator from South Dakota. Thune moved into the Senate leadership position vacated by John Ensign (see below), which doesn't help much. He authored an anti-TARP bill, which helps a little. He didn't get caught philandering, which helps a lot. (5)

5) Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. He's everywhere, all the time, talking about everything -- he must be running for something, right? He got a little good news, from a Pew poll indicating that he's not quite as generally disliked as he had been. It's a start. (6)

6) Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi. Barbour had already been seen taking meetings with Important GOP Insiders, and then when Sanford imploded he took the opportunity to further advance himself as the responsible grown-up in the party. He replaced Stanford as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which, as Romney can attest, is a terrific platform for a Presidential run. If Barbour runs, the safe, insider GOP money is likely to go with him -- which could be a problem for Pawlenty, who needs a bite of that apple. (15)

7) Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. I've said all along that if Perry wins re-election -- a big if, with Kay Bailey Hutchison challenging him (see below) -- he's one of the top contenders. Early polls have not been kind to him, but a new one showed him in the lead. Maybe the wild ranting about secession is helping; he'll get a chance to reprise that rhetoric at a July 4 "Tea Party" protest. (10)

8) Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana. Daniels has stated emphatically that he will not run for President. Whatevs. (12)

9)  Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. Old assessment: a fresh face to make people forget that they can't stand Republicans. Re-assessment: overshadowed by a new crop of untainted Republicans. New re-assessment: a fresh face to make people forget that they can't stand the new crop of Republicans either. (11)

10) Kay Bailey Hutchison, US Senator from Texas. She's expected to resign from the Senate this fall to concentrate on her gubernatorial run. Still unknown whether she can beat Perry without alienating herself from the movement conservatives. (8)

11) Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House from Georgia. Remember when he believed in combatting climate change? That was so last year: now he's totally against it. Also totally against health-care reform. But he's not just saying No; headlining a huge GOP fundraiser, he called for a 50% cut in the Social Security and Medicaid tax; elimination of the capital gains tax; and slashing the corporate tax rate by 60%. Then the next day he went on Hannity and bashed Obama and the Democrats for increasing the deficit. Odd, that Hannity didn't call him on the contradiction.... (17)

12) Jon Kyl, Senator from Arizona. Kyl has been keeping busy opposing the Democrats at every turn, which is good for him in conservative circles while not making a ripple in the general public. The upcoming Sotomayor confirmation hearings will be interesting: the rabid right will expect him to be their lead pit bull on the Judiciary Committee, but is he willing to publicly beat up on a woman most people -- including most Republicans, according to a recent poll -- think should be confirmed? (14)

13) Eric Cantor, US Representative from Virginia. He's been just as noisy as ever berating Obama and House Democrats on Iran, energy, the economy, and everything else under the sun. So why does it feel like he's fading from the public spotlight? (13)

14) Lindsey Graham, US Senator from South Carolina. Graham had fallen off my list -- but he springs back, to become the second-ranked South Carolinian! His Meet The Press appearance this week -- in which he practically begged to be taken seriously as a party leader -- was well-received. And don't forget that as John McCain's best bud, he stands to inherit a lot of the '08 national organization if he wants it. Still a long-shot, but not impossible. (--)

15) Bob Corker, US Senator from Tennessee. He's been stepping up his game a little, but to be a serious contender he needs a few more boring conservative white guys on this list to self-destruct. (16)

16) Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska. She's convinced that the New York/Hollywood media/celebrity crowd are out to get her. Most of the core conservatives hate the New York/Hollywood media/celebrity crowd. Ergo, they are Palinites. I wasn't sure she could keep playing that card effectively from Alaska for the interim part of the election cycle, but now I see that she can. (23)

17) Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas. I think it's time to launch an official Belly Watch on Huck (as for Al Gore in the last cycle): if we see some gut shrinkage, that means he's getting in shape to run; as long as the paunch remains, we'll assume he's not. Current Belly Watch status: not running. (19)

18) Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. He's suddenly getting a lot of talk. It's not the most improbable thing that could possibly ever happen in the universe. (21)

19) Dirk Kempthorne, former Interior Secretary. He's mostly been out of the public eye, but he's been getting a little attention as the guy who put in place certain anti-environmental policies at Interior that are now being overturned. That's WAY better than admitting to marital infidelity. (24)

20) Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander. He dropped off the list for a while, but the idea is back in vogue in Republican circles -- where they're dying for a candidate who makes them feel good about being Republicans. (--)

21) John Ensign, US Senator from Nevada. He's got a chance to come back, because his wife's standing with him -- as long as nothing substantial sticks about payoffs and patronage with the other woman and her hubby. On the other hand, how do you claim to be capable of being President, if you weren't capable of serving as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee? (9)

22) Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida. After my last rankings, he confirmed rumors that he'll run for Senate in 2010 -- which I take as a concession that the 2012 Presidential nomination is not a realistic goal for a relative moderate like him. Still, I'm not sure he was expecting Marco Rubio's primary race against him to become the cause celebre of the movement conservatives. (See below.) I could have warned him. (22)

23) Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah. After my last rankings, he accepted a nomination to be Obama's ambassador to China -- which I take as a concession that the 2012 Presidential nomination is not a realistic goal for a relative moderate like him. Some are saying he can still do it, but it's awfully hard to swing by Ames on the way from Tianjin to Shanghai. (7)

24) Marc[Oops! Mark] Sanford, Governor of South Carolina. In the weird world of Republican politics, it's possible to come back from admitting an affair. But being revealed as a wacko is tough. (You have to start with a public image as a wacko to run as a wacko -- See: Perot, Ross.) If he's forced to resign, he's done; if he manages to keep his job, he might recover. (3)

25) Marc Rubio, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. A lot of Republicans are hoping that a star will emerge from the 2010 election cycle. Some point to Meg Whitman, running for Governor of California, but she's too moderate to run in the 2012 primaries. I think that if Rubio beats Crist in the primary, he becomes the conservative fresh face -- who, like Obama, should go for the top immediately if at all. (--)

(Dropping off the list: Tom Ridge, Paul Ryan, Asa Hutchison)

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