Jacob Heilbrunn

A Strong 2012 GOP Presidential Field?

It seems that potential candidates for the Republican nomination keep announcing that they're not running. Mick Huckabee turned it down. So did Donald Trump. And Mitch Daniels?

He looks to be the great hope of the GOP in 2012. If he runs. Which depends upon his wife. Wives are becoming increasingly important. Maria Shriver just dumped Arnold, peeved at his fathering a child with a member of the household staff about a decade ago. Does Sarah Palin's decision about whether to run or not depend upon what Todd thinks? He's no Dennis Thatcher, hiding from the spotlight. Instead, he appears to play an integral role in her career.The odds are that, like Huckabee, she won't run.

But could it be that the GOP field is actually benefitting from the absence of Huckabee and others? Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg is jubilant. OK, maybe jubilation is an exaggeration. But Goldberg is fairly sanguine. He appears to believe that the prevailing belief that the GOP is stuck in the far right breakdown lane is nonsense. Instead, a vigorous and healthy debate may take place over what constitutes conservative policies. As Goldberg puts it, the ferment that is taking place, with Newt Gingrich first denouncing the House GOP Medicare plan, then retreating,

 

does hint that this year's primary season won't be a replay of the dreadful 2008 debates in which the candidates auditioned to play the part of Ronald Reagan in the school play.

It also suggests that the front-runners — a group that includes former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — might be ahead of the rank and file of the GOP.Come November, it is very unlikely that conservative voters will stay home. So, barring a truly fringe GOP nominee, they will vote against Obama no matter what. Already, the conversation on the right is moving toward the all-important question of "electability" — i.e., which candidate can peel off the handful of moderates and independents needed to win in an election that will be a referendum on Obama and his record.

 

Both Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty look like the strongest potential candidates because they have the ability, or at least the potential, to perform that kind of depilatory act. So far, Obama has been busily collecting his $1 billion for the 2012 race, while the GOP has been floundering. But if Goldberg is right, then he could be in for a tougher race than he may expect.