GOP 2012 Rankings, Post-Midterm Update

Pop Quiz: What is Peter Bragdon's phone number?

Don't have it? Don't know who Peter Bragdon is? Guess you're not a Republican running for President.

Bragdon will be Senate President following the Republican takeover in New Hampshire this week. Bragdon also chaired the Republican Senate Majority Committee, which helped elect a stunning 19 GOP candidates to the 24 state senate seats.

Bragdon is just one of the new BMOCs in key early-voting states -- especially New Hampshire, which saw an Republican takeover of almost everything other than Governor. (Iowa was sort of the reverse: Leonard Boswell won back the Governor's office, but Democrats held onto their US House seats and control of the state senate.)

Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and others contributed not just money but live bodies to some of the New Hampshire GOP efforts this year, hoping to get people elected who would then owe them some chits. That includes the obvious names, like new US Senator Kelly Ayotte, new Congressman Frank Giunta, and returning Congressman Charlie Bass. But there are also the newly influential state senate and house members and other officials -- plus the key consultants and third-party groups who played a big role in the state. You can bet Kevin Smith, president of Cornerstone Action, will be getting a lot of nice Christmas presents this year.

The big national victory for the GOP presumably has boosted party optimism for beating Obama in 2012, which should mean there's more money and volunteers seeking out candidates, which should mean more candidates able to take a shot. 

Anyway, on to the new rankings! Previous ranking (from September 20 post-primary update) in parentheses.

1) Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota. He continues to do absolutely everything right so far. We'll see whether it pays off in institutional backing when he kicks off the campaign. (1)

2) Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association (which he took over from Mark Sanford) Barbour raised a ton of money -- I mean a ton of money -- and, while the gubernatorial elections weren't the super-success on the US House scale, it put a bunch of key Republican governors in charge in some important states. Did I mention the Republican won in Iowa? Barbour also gave a lot of money through his own PAC. He clearly intends to run unless he gets convinced he can't win, and he's in a great position to straddle the conservative base and the business elites. (3)

3) Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. I've long, long said that he's in my Top 5 if he wins re-election, and he sure did. And then he immediately jetted to New York for a round of national media hits, kicking off his promotional tour for his new book about, you guessed it, saving America from Washington. Do not underestimate this guy. (8)

4) Mike Pence, Congressman from Indiana. After the GOP gained control of the House, Pence announced that he is stepping down as chairman of the House Republican Conference -- which is kind of like a ballplayer, as his team clinches a playoff spot, choosing not to be in the lineup during the playoffs. There are three possibilities: A) he's running for President; B) he's running for Governor; C) he's running for President but if he loses the August '11 Ames Straw Poll he's switching to running for Governor. I still think it's C, but increasing speculation of B have convinced me to move him down from his elite #2 perch. (2)

5) John Thune, US Senator from South Dakota. Staying largely under the radar, but this guy's got the skillz for Iowa campaigning, and potential fundraising ability. I still like his chances. (4)

6) Jim DeMint, US Senator from South Carolina. Comes out of this election cycle as the hero of the conservative base, a national fundraising network... and a semi-endorsement from Michael Savage! Plus he's got his next book, dripping with praise of Tea Partiers, dropping on July 4 (does this guy love America or what?). (5)

7) Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Everything went well for him, with a lot of candidates he supported winning. But I think the ensuing optimism and enthusiasm in the party may prove bad for him. For one thing, the more optimistic Republicans are about beating Obama in 2012, the less they'll be looking for a safe choice like Mitt -- they'll be looking for who they really want. More enthusiasm also means more fundraising and more attention for other candidates, potentially blunting his hopes to use his money and name-recognition advantages to roll over the competition. The big question has to do with turnout: if 2012 contests are going to generate very large turnout, does that help Romney, by bringing in more moderates, or does it hurt him, because the enthusiasm is mostly among the conservative base? (6)

8) Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana. It always made sense that Pence and Daniels couldn't both run for President. So, if Pence really is focussing on replacing Daniels in 2012, maybe that's because Daniels is in. (7)

9) Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. He's not exactly burying the rumors. (10)

10) John Kasich, Governor-elect from Ohio. I've said for a while that Kasich would be a great candidate if he won, and goldarned it he won. Yes, he'd have to start stumping almost immediately after swearing in -- but seriously, who actually wants to try to run Ohio these days? (14)

11) Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey. OK, I really don't think he's running, despite all the buzz -- but then why is he participating in FOX News's "12 in '12" series? Huh? Anyone? (--)

12) Marco Rubio, US Senator-elect from Florida. My guess is he hangs around angling to be the VP pick. But I wouldn't be stunned to see him run. (9)

13) Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas. I'm still highly skeptical, but he really did a nice job helping candidates in this cycle. (18)

14) Pat Toomey, Senator-elect from Pennsylvania. He's like Jim Gilmore, except he got elected Senator so you have to take him seriously. Oh yeah, and the group he used to run, Club for Growth, is a freakin' powerhouse. Absolutely no indicators or rumors of him running for Prez, but if DeMint and Pence aren't in, I think he goes. (24)

15) Jon Kyl, US Senator from Arizona. Loved by the right, and a potential heir to the McCain machinery. (11)

16) John Cornyn, US Senator from Texas. He's gotten a lot of play lately, most notably Mel Martinez dropping his name as a '12 contender. He could raise the money, and would be a major-league campaigner -- but as head of the National Republican Senate Committee he got on the wrong side of a lot of the conservative base (who beat his prefered pick in several states' primaries). (--)

17) Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska. Well, honestly I don't know what goes on in her mind. But you gotta love that post-midterm victory ad she ran, implying that this was somehow her own national victory. And with a big bear. (17)

18) Bob McDonnell, Governor of Virginia. Being a Republican who managed to get elected seemed like something noteworthy 12 months ago. Now? Pfff, dime a dozen. Still, more likely to run than other newly-electeds, because of Virginia's one-term limit. (13)

19) Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State. Let's say Palin doesn't run. What woman can mount a serious campaign? Meg Whitman and Kay Bailey Hutchison both popped onto my rankings before getting squashed. The other Senators are too moderate. New Guvs Haley, Fallon, & Martinez aren't ready yet. Jan Brewer or Michelle Bachmann would likely just be novelty acts. Gale Norton? Elaine Chou? I'm just saying, there's room for one. (22)

20) Dan Quayle, former Vice President. Junior won his House race after all. Is Dad looking to jump in as senior statesman type? Why not? (19)

21) Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. Seems like he's running for re-elect in '11. (16)

22) Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives. You hear a lot of comparisons to Gingrich's 1994 "Revolution" these days. You also hear a lot of warnings for the GOP not to piss it away like Newt did. I bet he doesn't like when they talk about that part. (15)

23) Paul Ryan, US Congressman from Wisconsin. He's like the younger Newt, but without saying crazy-ass things every day. (23)

24) Scott Brown, US Senator from Massachusetts. First of all, if Romney, Thune and Brown all run, would that be the best-looking group of candidates or what? Anyway, it's possible that if Romney decides he can't win, he decides to champion young phenom Scotto. He's got a better chance than Santorum. (--)

25) Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania. His grasp on the bottom spot is very, very tenuous. (25)

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