2012 GOP Dark Horses

In a piece by David Renmick in the New Yorker there's an interesting quote by David Plouffe, the Obama Campaign manager, about perhaps a dark horse candidate emerging to  win the GOP Presidential nomination. Mr. Plouffe suggests that "we ought to learn from the Obama experience that someone can come out, not someone you've never heard of but someone who you just didn't think would run for President."

Clearly, the front-runners are the runners up from 2008 - Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee - and the all but announced Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. But who might emerge à la Obama on the GOP side for 2012?

Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana. He represents the Sixth Congressional District. Current  House GOP Conference Chair. Bills himself as "Christian, Conservative, Republican, in that order." Negatives for the GOP base: Seen as lenient on immigration.

Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico.  Johnson, who was governor from 1995 to 2003, is releasing a book entitled Seven Principles Of Good Government that will be published by The Heartland Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank. He's also launching a political action committee called Our America PAC to promote his libertarian, small-government ideas. He's was popular and he connects with the under 30 crowd. Negatives for the GOP base: He's a Ron Paul libertarian. Thinks the war of drugs is a failure. He's pro-choice.

Senator John Thune from South Dakota. Best known for being the man who ousted Tom Daschle. David Brooks recently described him as a "down-the-line conservative on social, economic and foreign policy matters" and "conservative at the roots but pragmatic at the surface." Negative for the GOP base: Endorsed by David Brooks.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana.  A populist conservative who worked in the Bush OMB before returning to run for governor. Re-elected in 2008 by a large margin even as Obama carried the Hoosier state. Daniels won the under 24 vote by a whopping 38 points. Negatives for the GOP Base: Ties to the Bush White House and their budgets.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Running for re-election but first has to get past a primary challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Has tacked right and embraced the Tea Party set. One of the most critical voices of President Obama in the GOP today and on the front lines of the sovereignty movement. Negatives for the GOP Base: Seen as an opportunist with no real convictions.

Any others?

Tags: David Plouffe, GOP, US Election 2012 (all tags)



a dark horse needs a signature issue

especially since none of the above are highly charismatic media darlings able to raise big money like Obama.

Huckabee broke through in Iowa during the summer of 2007 in large part because he was the only GOP candidate to embrace the "fair tax" (a horrible idea that is nonetheless popular among wingnuts).

I would think a long-shot Republican candidate for 2012 needs to come out for something crazy, Ron Paul-esque, like abolishing the Fed. Otherwise there will be no oxygen in the room.

by desmoinesdem 2009-11-17 03:15AM | 0 recs
Ron Paul may be back

I don't think he'll ever get serious traction because of his anti-war stance, but he was in Iowa over the weekend to headline a fundraiser for one of the Republicans' Iowa Senate candidates, Kent Sorenson. Paul also packed a hall full of students in Ames (where Iowa State U is).

by desmoinesdem 2009-11-17 03:21AM | 0 recs
But Obama doesn't meet Plouffe's definition

If you're comparing apples-to-apples in looking at "dark horses" who we "never thought would run for President" in 2012, then Obama doesn't fit that definition regarding 2008.  Everyone at this time 4 years ago DID think Obama SOMEDAY would run for President, even though not as soon as 2008.

So I don't know what Plouffe has in mind for 2012.

I think if you're looking for someone who fits for 2012 what Obama was for 2008 in Plouffe's stated conception, you look at people we think might someday run for President, but not before 2016.  The first name that comes to my mind that fits that description is Bobby Jindal.  We don't think he'll run so soon because the calendar is prohibitive, forcing him to choose between running for reelection in 2011 or running for President in 2012.  It seems impossible to do both, since he'd have to campaign for two offices at once, and for now he's geared toward reelection.  But he could change his mind.

Ultimately I think whether a dark horse or a known figure, the Republicans are likely to pick the strongest candidate who chooses to run because that's what they always do.  They're really pretty good about that, even in down years when they can't win with anyone like last year.  Really, Democrats are almost as good.  I think the 80s were the big exception with Mondale an obviously poor choice and Dukakis very questionable.

My best guess of their actual nominee right now is Pawlenty.  He's obviously gunning hard for it, and he's the only one out there aggressively who has potential for building a broad center-right coalition of support.  The other most high-profile names out there have no ability to win votes outside the wingnut base.

by DCCyclone 2009-11-17 03:49AM | 0 recs
Bob McDonnell (n/t)


by you like it 2009-11-17 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Bob McDonnell (n/t)

nah, he's already taken his name off. he's in office starting with Jan '10, and thats too short a time.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-11-17 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

I think Obama had certain qualities from the start that none of these folks do, and there were Obama '08 movements from the moment he finished his '04 convention speech. That said, of all these names, Thune is the one that wouldn't shock me (though he would surprise me). He's had a quick rise on the Hill, so the man knows what he's doing.

by Nathan Empsall 2009-11-17 03:55AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

I laugh whenever I see Daniels pop up on these lists.  He won in 2008 primarily because we Democrats were unable to get a top-tier challenger.  Had Evan Bayh decided to return to the Governor's office, Democrats would hold it.

by Vox Populi 2009-11-17 04:22AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

The GOP is to regimented and Authoritarian to nominate a Presidential Candidate out of nowhere.  THey will select a vice Presidential candiadate out of nowhere as we all saw with Palin so maybe their grass roots activists combined with the teabaggers will be able to change the party's way of doing business.  But every modern GOP nominee has run before, and run for Presidential nomination, not vice.  They are very invested in the "line of succession" as I call it and I think the only thing that could change that in 2012 is Palin's celebrity status and the possibility that due to McCain's age some of the GOP saw the McCain/Palin ticket as the "Palin with a trigger" ticket, thus making her the "heir apparent".  Just my two cents, but I think the 2012 GOP nominee will be a known quantity.

by goodleh 2009-11-17 05:06AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

Here's a few that just might take the 2012 leap:

Chee-nee:  That Fox News statement by his daughter seems like a major trial balloon.

Kyl:  He's not either crazy or moderate (the two types of R's liked for Governor) enough to run for Governor.  He's going to be the junior senator from AZ until 2018.  He may be kind of a dull guy given the current state of the Republican party but he splits the difference between the sane wing and the crazy wing of the party.

Judd Gregg:  He turned down commerce so he has some Obama hater street cred.  Republicans need to nominate a Northeasterner if they want to mirror the DLC "nominate a Southerner" strategy.

by AZphilosopher 2009-11-17 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

I agree with the idea that the Repubs are going to have to try (as the Dems have had to in the past) to make inroads to a territory where their opponents are strong, but I think they are wasting time in the northeast.  They need someone who appeals to the West/Midwest.  The problem for them is the type that appeals to that part of the country generally alienates southern GOP crazies, but since they'll be running against Obama, they don't have a lot to worry about there.  The Teabagger crowd will be willing to vote for anyone against Obama.

by ArkansasLib 2009-11-17 06:06AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

I think Kyl is probably the best they could wrangle for 2012 in terms of the various factions.

They'll probably go teabagger.  But the establishment is going to be equally split between Mitt and Pawlenty.  Sarah is going to get enough establishment + crazy support to be the early frontrunner.

by AZphilosopher 2009-11-17 07:46AM | 0 recs
Mitch Daniels

has said repeatedly that he's not interested in national office. Granted, history is replete with politicians making this vow and then breaking it, but I have the sense that Daniels is one of the few who means it.

And I'm glad he's not throwing his hat in the ring. Daniels would be one of the stronger opponents I can think of.

by Oly 2009-11-17 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

I agree with Oly that Daniels is the strongest of that bunch. Vox Populi, I don't know what you are laughing about-- Obama won the state and Daniels got more votes then anyone... ever.  Hard to see, given our current deficits and how Daniels did in Indiana, how that would turn out to be a negative. he'd be very difficult to defeat. I'm glad he's sitting out.

Sarah ain't running, though she'll tease it Cuomo-like till the end.

I think Lemos agree's with me that it'll be Gary Johnson. He'll be a natural for the Ron Paul to reorg around, and probably even get the endorsement of the latter.

What's interesting is that Newt Gingrich has fallen off the radar.

If Huckabee can harness the economic populism with his social conservatism, he will likely win the nomination, but I think he falls flat with populist part-- as he really doesn't believe it (or govern it).

Its gonna be really wide open, looks like.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-11-17 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: 2012 GOP Dark Horses

Johnson might enter the race, but he has the same chance as a one legged goat of getting the nomination......My money is still on Romney or Huckabee with Daniels as a darkhorse...

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-11-17 02:00PM | 0 recs


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