2012 GOP Presidential Rankings, Updated!

In the new issue of the Boston Phoenix – in print tomorrow, online now – I provide my first in-print rankings of the 2012 GOP Presidential candidates’ chances. You can read that here: The GOP’s Top Dog? It’s T-Paw, Not Mitt.

            But that only has room for the Top 10, and my blog readers know that I’ve been ranking the Top 25 for over two years now. So below are my full, new, updated rankings.

            There’s quite a bit of shake-up, because with only a year until Iowa and New Hampshire I’m shifting my calculus a little.

            Up to now, I’ve leaned considerably toward candidates who I thought had a realistic path to the nomination if they ran, over candidates more likely to run, but in my opinion more unlikely to win.

            I’m now shifting the balance a bit the other way. So, you’ll see likely candidates such as Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum moving up, even though I think they are tilting at windmills, while folks like Jim DeMint and Rick Perry, who I think have the potential to win, shift downward a little until I see some sign of life, and the Pat Toomeys and Marco Rubios of the world start dropping off the board completely.

            And, yes, my long-time dark horse fave Mike Pence is out, as he announced he won’t run for President.

            At this point, I honestly don’t see much chance of anyone below my top five – Pawlenty, Barbour, Romney, Thune, and Perry – getting the nomination. But what do I know?

            So, here are the new rankings, with last month’s rankings in parentheses.


1. Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota. His new book positions him perfectly for the Iowa conservatives, and beyond. As it looks more likely (to me anyway) that a lot of the potential candidates aren’t running, Pawlenty will get a lot more attention from fundraisers, media, and voters. So far, so good. (1)


2. Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi. Don’t underestimate the value of being really, really, personally liked throughout the national party establishment. Also, he’ll be far and away the media favorite. (2)


3. Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Quite the media blitz this week, ostensibly to promote the paperback release of No Apology. I remain highly skeptical of his chances, but he moves up by virtue of Pence dropping out, and Perry and DeMint making no move toward running. (6)


4. John Thune, US Senator from South Dakota. We should find out this month if he’s running. Some of my New Hampshire contacts still say they haven’t heard from him since before the mid-term elections, but there are some signs that he may be renewing his interest as others drop out. (8)


5. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. Okay, there’s been no peep from him at all. But he is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, which might be his coming-out. (4)


6. Jon Huntsman, US Ambassador to China. The former Utah governor has resigned his post, and is apparently serious about running. I’m obviously expecting that he’ll return to the US with a great conversion story about realizing the sanctity of unborn human life, because otherwise this is really a way-too-optimistic ranking. (17)


7. Mitch Daniels, former Governor of Indiana. The sense I’m getting is that he doesn’t have the fire in the belly to run. But maybe his fellow Hoosier Pence ducking out will refire it. I think he stays on the sidelines. (7)


8. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. Other than Perry, he’s one of the few that could realistically get in late. (9)


9. Jim DeMint, US Senator from South Carolina. I’m still not convinced he’s not running, despite his insistence. But at some point I suppose I have to start believing him. (5)


10. Sarah Palin¸former Governor of Alaska. I’m finally sensing a shift, where Republican insiders are starting to believe she’s not running. It’s like they're tentatively emerging from their bunkers, ready to start playing in the 2012 process without that terror hanging above them. (11)


11. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas. Currently in Israel, saying things that ensure he is only viable among rabid evangelical conservatives. I don’t think he has any intention of running; I hear that even his some of his Iowa people are candidate-shopping. (10)


12. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives. From the get-go, I said there was the chance that Gingrich could bluff running so long that he ends up forgetting to stop. I am now convinced, by his most recent activity, that this has happened. I also said there was the possibility that nobody else would run, and he would win by default. That remote possibility still exists, I suppose. (19)


13. Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania. The only one running, as of now, so I suppose he could somehow end up as the nominee. (24)


14. Donald Trump, businessman. He says he might announce his candidacy on the Apprentice finale. It’s not the single craziest scenario I can imagine. For instance, it’s crazier to think that an obscure and slightly nuts New Mexican pro-choice libertarian running on a platform of drug legalization could win the Republican nomination (all you Gary Johnson fans out there). (--)


15. Bob McDonnell, Governor of Virginia. Getting awfully late, but he could still realistically do it. (13)


16. John Cornyn, US Senator from Texas. Could raise the Texas-sized money if Perry is out. (23)


17. Jon Kyl, US Senator from Arizona. He’s been on this list forever, because he could combine his solid reputation among conservatives with his friend John McCain’s network. Now there’s speculation in his hometown paper that he might not run for re-election in 2012. Does that mean he’s retiring, or is it possible he’s getting into the big game? Probably retiring, but it earns him an upward move. (22)


18. Paul Ryan, US Representative from Wisconsin. He’s the hot movement-conservative darling of the moment; the Pence-lovers should be trying to recruit him. (21)


19. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey. Could happen. (16)


20. Michelle Bachmann, US Representative from Minnesota. I think she’s running; I’m told that someone polled Republicans last weekend asking a lot of questions about her. I don’t see how she wins the nomination, but she makes it back onto the list at least. (--)


21. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. Helped by once again not delivering the GOP State-of-the-Union response. (18)


22. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio. Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. (12)


23. Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State. Again, one of the few who could start late. (20)


24. Herman Cain, talk-show host. He’s running, I’ll give him that. (25)


25. Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York. He's getting word out there that he's thinking about running again. After careful deliberation, I have decided that his chances are slightly less far-fetched than those of his fellow pro-choice Republican New Yorker with Presidential aspirations, George Pataki. (--)


Dropping off the list: Pence, Toomey, Rubio


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