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Posted at 7:03 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Weekend question

By Ezra Klein

I've liked this feature over at Jon Bernstein's blog, so I'm going to, uh, steal it. So: Which of the potential candidates testing the waters at CPAC would you feel most comfortable seeing as president? If you need a list of the candidates at CPAC, you can find one here.

By Ezra Klein  | February 11, 2011; 7:03 PM ET
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Romney. Former governor of non-wingnutty state who has proven he can work across the aisle to get reasonable stuff done.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | February 11, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Romney would be ok if he hadn't lost it trying to get nominated. Alas, that's true of every formerly sane republican candidate.

Posted by: fuse | February 11, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

^^ I used to think past performance was an indicator of future success ... but then we had George W do a 180 going from TX (where he reached across the aisle) to Pres (where he didn't).

Daniels because he at least seems reasonable and policy-minded. Or, Johnson because it would scramble the politics of the right, which is *desperately* needed.

(btw is Huntsman a Manchurian Candidate sent in there for laughs by the Obama team? I really don't get why he's let in the door ....)

Posted by: Chris_ | February 11, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

none of them.
none of them.
we know very little about huntsman, but perhaps he seems more plausible than any of the others.

the appearance of donald trump in this circus,is a disgrace.
another unqualified invention of the media.
and there is a not another name of the list, that i feel has the vision, intellect or ability to take this country forward.

i am getting ready to start campaigning again, for president obama's re-election, as soon as it is time to do so, and i am going to work as hard as i can, because i think he has been doing a wonderful job.

Posted by: jkaren | February 11, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

1. Huntsman
2. Romney

The others I would be very, very uncomfortable with.

Posted by: Castorp1 | February 11, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Commenters so far haven't mentioned Mitch Daniels. Sure, I don't especially like him because he's, well, conservative - but at least he also seems to have a brain and to (mostly) say what he believes, which puts him above the other candidates.

Posted by: madjoy | February 11, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

None of the above.

Failing that, it would be Huntsman, Daniels, Thune, or Romney, in roughly that order.

Posted by: mkarns | February 11, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Huntsman even though he's the least likely.

Otherwise I mean Romney or Daniels would be the least awful thing to happen to the country.

Actually not mentioned in the "Sweet 16" but Jeb Bush would probably be the best of the plausible candidates.

Posted by: benmbrennan | February 11, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually maybe a Sarah Palin presidency, although possibly ruining the country would also ruin the Republican party for decades too (or force it to the left).

Posted by: benmbrennan | February 11, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Judging from Nate Silver's graph, I'd have to say Mitch Daniels.

Graph here:

Posted by: bcbulger | February 11, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse

[Insert trailing edge of belly laugh here.]

Oh my...
Ezra, you are joking, right?
Which loon would I most feel comfortable with?

Good one Old Man...
I needed a long Friday chortle, like I needed short Friday...


Posted by: AgaBey | February 11, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels. Maybe Christie or Huntsman. Those 3 seem fairly reasonable.

And could we not litter the thread with "none of them" and "they're all crazy" comments? He didn't ask if we were going to vote for them, he asked who we'd prefer. Unless you're a total lunatic, you can fathom the difference between a Palin/Gingrich presidency and a Daniels/Christie/Huntsman presidency. If you can't, you're not really adding much to the discussion here.

Posted by: eflynt | February 11, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Why has the media written so positively and abundantly if Huntsman?

Seems like the media has annointed someone with little national exposure or experience.

It's like the media is trying to point out to conservatives that they have a candidate who hasn't quit his/her elected job, or enacted health care, or was caught by investigators selling influence, or doesn't look ugly, or isn't a Mormon, or isn't too old, or hasn't demanded fascist investigations of all Democrats, or used violent rhetoric.

What gives with him that he is singled out from a crowd of many other unknowns and gets so much traction without spending money or trying to make headlines?

He is obviously the media's choice.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 11, 2011 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Unless you're a total lunatic, you can fathom the difference between a Palin/Gingrich presidency and a Daniels/Christie/Huntsman presidency.

Your teacup is running over as you sweat the small stuff.
And you are howling at the moon:
Huntsman and Christie aren't even at CPAC.

Posted by: AgaBey | February 11, 2011 8:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: lauren2010 | February 11, 2011 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Nice variety of posts today Ezra. It looked very good in a wonkish way!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 11, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Oh just shoot me.

Posted by: gingles | February 11, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Palin, cause her presidency would only last 1/2 a term.

Posted by: CarlosXL | February 11, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Ron Paul, the man most likely to prove (to himself also, I think) that the libertarian idea is as hollow and fragile as a sucked egg.

Besides, he'd be a hoot.

Posted by: pmcgann | February 12, 2011 3:41 AM | Report abuse

I am comfortable with none of them, and I don't have much of a basis for telling any of them apart, but my gut says Romney or (holding my nose) Huckabee might be slightly less insane than the others on economic issues, and that's what I care about the most, not cashing in the entire country and shipping it to China the way the Teabaggers want to do. Romney, in hopes that under the ugly rhetoric he still retains a sliver of the fiscal sense that allowed him to do health care reform in Massachusetts, and Huckabee because (although doesn't he support some ridiculous flat tax or something, and let's not get started on his religious extremism) he seems to have some awareness that there are poor people struggling out there and is inclined to do something for them beyond grinding them up for Soylent Green, and he seems to be slightly less of a jerk on a personal level than the rest, what with his endearing little guitar band and all that.

Posted by: csdiego | February 12, 2011 4:44 AM | Report abuse

Why thank you Ezra. With that list of "illustrious" candidates, you've just inspired me to donate the maximum I can to the Obama re-election campaign.

My bank account just made a sad, whimpering sound...

The only one, and I mean ONLY one, I might find palatable is Huntsman. Or anyone who doesn't seem like a freak infected with ideological rabies.

On a more serious note, I'm hoping progressive, liberals and moderates who are happy or ok with Obama will go all out on the re-election campaign. When faced with a choice between an ultra-partisan conservative tea party ideologue and Obama, whom most non-Republicans/Tea Partiers consider rational and intelligent, the contrast will be too stark for folks to stay in the sidelines. So hey, here's hoping Palin, Bachmann or Ron Paul is the GOP candidate for 2012!

Posted by: JERiv | February 12, 2011 6:33 AM | Report abuse

All Progressives should fight to balance the budget.

It is the only way to stop our wars and pull back US bases from overseas.

It is the only way to stop trillions from going to the banks and wallstreet.

It is the only way to get the Fed under control because we will be forced to audit them and ensure they act in the people's interest instead of the banks interest.

It is the only way to reconsider carbon taxes, which itself can solve numerous US fiscal and environmental problems.

It is the only way to force recognition that we can not afford to send all our money to OPEC et al for oil, and instead we will be forced to adopt clean and renewable energy.

It is the only way to prune corruption from the fed budget; corruption that is almost entirely based on corporate welfare and greed.

It is the only way to re-test all consumers of SS and medicare & medicaid benefits to ensure they are not ripping the system off.

It is the only way to force higher, proper taxes on blllionaires.

It is the only way to force realignment of destructive free trade policies that do not benefit America.

It is the only way to intelligently look at corporate taxes and incentives and tariffs, to keep them in America. It is obvious the current system is not keeping them here.

The US can not sustain itself with multi-trillion annual deficits. The US is able, however, to absorb another 14 trillion in debt and will do so in a decade or less under current trends and this will cause the US to be permanently indebted to vulture investors in US debt as a significant portion of our annual budgets will then be dedicated to interest on the debt instead of paying for essential services.

WIthout change NOW, we will be totally drained of wealth and capacity to rebound from debt in another decade and we will be stuck in a 100 year mud of austerity as we become the economic slaves of a small number of billionaires like Murdoch, the Koch brothers, oil barons, and greedy politicians in it only for the money.

The US can NOT grow our way out of 14 trillion debt any time soon. With current spending trends, the moment that growth stalls, we will again be accumulating debt and all advances will be erased. Almost all that debt goes to the wealthy and rich execs of transnational corporations and oil barons/shieks.

Just as happened in the mid 90s, the moment we balance our budget, large amounts of capital will be freed for use by true entrepeneurs, and THEN the floodgates of innovation will be opened and the economy will respond in miraculous ways.

In a system such as exists now where corruption is flagrant and deep and where every dollar of investment contains perhaps 50% fraud, waste and abuse and another 25% lost for wars, little can be accomplished by keynesian polices. Once we balance the budget though, tax revenues will soar and the gvmt and private enterprise will engage in new partnerships, as they did in the 90s to create the hi-tech revolution, and we all will prosper.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 12, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels would be better than Obama any day.

Posted by: GopalSapparapu | February 12, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Romney. The real one, not this fake conservative one that he feels he has to be in order to win the Republican primaries.

Posted by: Faedrus | February 12, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels by a landslide - former OMB director, smart guy, pretty strong governor. Clearly, he's going to have to start saying some crazy things to make it through a Republican primary, but at least I can be pretty sure that he doesn't actually believe them.

Mitt Romney as the runner-up.

Posted by: ldavidadler | February 12, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Jon Huntsman, far and away the best of the bunch.

I wouldn't want him to win in '12 so I hope he doesn't run but in '16 I might accept his winning the White House as the necessary price to pay to nudge the republican party back toward sanity.

Posted by: chadde | February 12, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Donald Thrump -- because Bozo has better things to do.

Posted by: leoklein | February 12, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I like Daniels, for all the reasons already stated. I have no idea what his foreign policy philosophy is, other than how it affects the budget. He seems to talk about everything through the lens of the DEBT, which is fine as far as it goes. But I need to see more.

Posted by: matthat121 | February 12, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

As for Huntsman, should he actually run, I'm a little disturbed by the notion of working for a President you then run against. Smells a bit...what's the word...classless? Not unpatriotic, of course, but it would seem to mark a pretty bad precedent for our federal government.

Posted by: matthat121 | February 12, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Gary Johnson: see the Salon or Reason profile for more on his background.

Posted by: skoozdag | February 12, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Gary Johnson: see the Salon or Reason profile for more on his background.

Posted by: skoozdag | February 12, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

i wonder if there would be similarities between huntsman and meg whitman.
who knows what his real commitment is, to public service.
it seems that resigning from the ambassadorship from china gives a strange message.
he could really grow in that position, and make a contribution, and be well prepared to run in 2016.
leaving that position may not speak so well of him.
also, like meg whitman, he could create the best campaign that his money could buy.
i dont think it speaks that well of him, that he is resigning from the ambassadorship.

Posted by: jkaren | February 12, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

"As for Huntsman, should he actually run, I'm a little disturbed by the notion of working for a President you then run against. Smells a bit...what's the word...classless? Not unpatriotic, of course, but it would seem to mark a pretty bad precedent for our federal government."

i also agree with this comment.
and with ron paul winning the straw poll, and remembering his newsletters, explains a lot to me, about the mindset of those who would embrace him.
considering this entire list, i sincerely believe that every person concerned about the fate of our country, should have more than enough incentive to work as hard as they can, for the re-election of president obama.

imagine the kind of thinking that might be legitimized,...the voices that might be considered as credible and authoritative,in a worst case scenario with this list.
we need to start preparing to work and support the re-election of barack obama. there is not a moment to spare, when reflecting on this list.
that list should give us all of the encouragement that we need.

Posted by: jkaren | February 12, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Huntsman, then Daniels, then Romney. I've said this before in another set of comments. The problem is, is Huntsman actually testing the waters at CPAC?

Mitch Daniels' screed in the WSJ struck me as more classless than Huntsman running against Obama. Unless, of course, Huntsman has to start repeating the usual far right tropes in order to win the conservative base. Until that happens, my list of conservative candidates I could live with will start with Jon Huntsman.

Posted by: weiwentg | February 13, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels of Indiana. But one never knows what kind of President one becomes...until too late.

Posted by: denim39 | February 13, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I've lived with a Daniels administration for 6 years. Yes, he means what he says, and what he says has little to do with what people want. He forced Indiana into Eastern Daylight Time against a strong majority, to align business interests with the capitalist Meccas of New York and Detroit (and we've seen how they've done for 6 years). He said he would gut public education and is in the process of doing so by rescinding teacher labor rights, pushing standardized testing and school evaluation even beyond NCLB, and taking public money away from public schools and giving it to private/parochial schools and charter schools.
His fiscal bones were made by leasing the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years and then using an outsize portion of the proceeds up front to balance the budget. Hocus-pocus.
Basically, anything the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants would be a priority in a Daniels Administration.

Posted by: hoosierdren | February 13, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Every candidate at cpac should disassociate themselves from coulter's comments there that more journalists should be jailed.

Her comments were apparently well applauded there.

She in the past has expressed admiration for McCarthy.

The people of Iran elected a leader who then took away their freedoms.

Every time we elect people who applaud people like coulter we too run similar risks.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 13, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It is hard to say this early into the season. I know that Christie, Huntsman, and Romney are all moderates, but during the GOP primaries they are all going to McCain. What is the definition of the new word "McCain?" Well, it is when a former moderate of the GOP realizes that they have no chance of winning unless they embrace the position of their parties more right-wing base which makes them drop their previous convictions faster than 9th period gym class.

Is it unfair to coin the term "McCain?" Perhaps, but at least I didn't go as far as Dan Savage's definition of Santorum:


Posted by: chrisgaun | February 13, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

ugh, "party's" not "parties"

me fail english.


Posted by: chrisgaun | February 13, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

"Every candidate at cpac should disassociate themselves from coulter's comments there that more journalists should be jailed."

half of the republican party supports the insidiousness, and the other half is afraid to speak out against it
the worst elements of racism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism are now under the umbrella of the republican party....and those that may not share their beliefs are victims of the worst moral cowardice, since they universally remain silent.
whatever differences may exist between democrats, and rational independents and concerned, intelligent republicans...must be transcended, and for the sake of our future, our country....we have to do everything we can to re-elect president obama.
it cannot be said enough times.
also, the more i think about huntsman, resigning from the ambassadorship, and possibly running somewhat unexpectedly in 2012, against barack obama...the more i perceive that as a character trait of disloyalty. which makes me acutely aware, that we really know very little about huntsman....but it would make me trust him less, and question his opportunism, and make me feel less amenable toward him, at the outset.
well, after this cpac meeting, ann coulter, paul winning the straw poll, donald trump, and the moral spinelessness of the more rational candidates...(which makes them even more frightening, because they may appear credible, and the mad dogs are sheltered under their umbrella..) i am ready right now, to start campaigning for president obama...."fired up, and ready to go."
i am sincerely hoping, with all of my heart, that everyone else is, also.
unite now, so we can start working when the time comes.

Posted by: jkaren | February 13, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

There are no moderates, no leaders, at cpac, if they willingly associate with menaces such as coulter.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 13, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels.

I would be tempted to vote him over Obama too. The guy is talking some sense, we really need to wake up to the budgetary 'red ink' here, especially entitlement programs. Thorough Leadership is there with Mitch. Obama - he is shouting 'chicken' and is not putting forward any 'game changer'. Who are Obama's political advisers? Fire them all, if Obama truly wants to contribute to this country in 'lasting' manner. Else the game over for Obama even if he wins the second term.

Posted by: umesh409 | February 13, 2011 11:47 PM | Report abuse

None of the GOP candidate plans can solve our deficit problems without raising taxes or significant cuts in DoD spending and foreign wars and foreign bases. And none of them want that. THE MATH PROVES IT.

Even with the most draconian GOP plans, we would still be running trillion+ deficits.

Obama's plan will not balance the budget any time soon, but it will result in lower deficits that any GOP plan. That's because Obama wants to cut DoD spending and end the wars and gitmo, and raise taxes on the wealthy, and invest in areas where it will help reduce costs even more than the investments (cut oil costs, create more jobs, etc).

And ACA is the first and only entitlement oriented law designed and enacted to actually lower the deficit and build a foundation on which to lower more costs later, if only the GOP would assist in this.

The GOP may very well want to cut SS and medicare and medicaid, but it is impractical because Americans don't want them cut. Ergo, they need a plan that instead reforms entitlements and not attempts to sabotage them.

So, until the GOP makes the paradigm shift to be willing to cut DoD budgets, raise high-end taxes, and reform (not gut) entitlements, they will achieve nothing except in securing their legacy as the party of debt and disaster.

The Dems on the other hand, have balanced budgets, and they have been willing to take risks by reforming wasteful areas of their darling program (Medicare). Where they fall short though, is having the courage to end the wars and our unneeded (not all) foreign bases.

I'd go with a credible third party if it existed, but not these GOP debt fools, and that means I am left with Obama (sigh).

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 14, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

The problem with any Republican is that the party itself has largely abandoned core values like honesty, integrity, etc. as a political strategy -- while the elite are mostly in on the game and able to keep what they say separate from what they believe, their constituents are, in varying degrees, not. This is no different from an otherwise honorable, reasonable Southerner siding with his state in the 1860s. It's still a choice to abandon your country in the process of maintaining your relationships with people who are committed to toxic political ends.

Its like the nice family members who stay neutral in the "dispute" between an abusive spouse and his/her "partner."

Having said that, Palin would be best for America because she'd drive the Republicans bulldozer into the ditch.

Huntsman, Daniels, and Romney would probably be best in terms of actual governance -- but they would probably leave the Republican party in a stronger position for the future and that's not good for America.

Posted by: jefft1225 | February 14, 2011 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Only in an alternative universe with a ray gun to my head would I vote for any of the Republican possibilities, but if I was unfortunate enough to be beamed up (or down more likely) I would touch the screen for Daniels. Why? Because he is the WONKIEST of the bunch. Anyone who can survive a stint as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget has to have developed some appreciation for tempering ideology with a strong dose of reality and pragmatism. Even David Stockman, an ideologue of the first order, admitted that reality bluntly with his "rose-colored glasses" assessment of his first Reagan budget as OMB head.

Posted by: Cubsbusiness | February 14, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Can we persuade them to nominate McCain/Palin again? We'll take 'em again! Mary Floyd, Tampa

Posted by: MaryFloyd | February 15, 2011 3:43 AM | Report abuse

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