The GOP field jockeys for position
The potential Republican presidential candidates are beginning to throw out hints, make their final decisions to run (or not) and give a sense of their strategies for 2012. Three in particular are drawing attention.
Sarah Palin is not going to speak at CPAC but is going to sponsor a reception at the conservative confab next week. She might be miffed at David Keene, an organizer, who criticized her "whining" about the press. Once again her staff doesn't help matters:
A Palin source bashed CPAC and its leader David Keene in an interview last year with Politico, announcing that the former governor wouldn't be attending - even though CPAC had listed her as an invited guest for the second year in a row. The source called the annual gathering an example "special interests over core beliefs" and "pocketbook over policy."
"That's not what CPAC should be about and people are tiring," the source said. "Palin is taking a stance against this just as she did in Alaska
What special interests is she referring to -- the gay rights group GOProud? (But I thought she tweeted some approval for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell.") She doesn't say, but bringing up her resignation from Alaska isn't helpful if the aim still is (and I think it quite possibly is not) to make her look like a serious contender. Her unwillingness to face off against 2012 contenders, and possibly lose a straw poll, will only fuel critics who say she can't compete in the major leagues.
Meanwhile, "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Wednesday he would campaign for the Iowa caucuses, should he seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination." I now owe a certain Politico journalist a beer, having bet that Romney would not risk a loss in a state he did not win last time. Perhaps he needs a knockout blow early on in a state in which health care may not be the only issue that matters. It's a high-risk strategy, if he follows through. A lose would be crippling; a win and poor showing by another serious competitor (e.g. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour) might knock one or more from the race. And while Romney might be happy to have a state in which social issues, more than ObamaCare, are front-and-center, he's not exactly a crowd-pleaser with evangelicals.
And then there is Sen. John Thune (S.D.), who is pondering a run. He will speak at CPAC and he has an opportunity to surprise those who don't know him and to carve that niche identity I've written about.
From all of this, do we know much more than we did a week ago? Well, perhaps Romney is more nervous than ever because of the spotlight shining on ObamaCare, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the plan he fathered in Massachusetts. And, I would suggest, the field isn't going to include all of the names we have seen in polls. Moreover, because there so plainly is no front-runner, those on the sidelines can bide their time to consider that maybe, come summer (when the Republican House budget proposal represents a bold statement of principles), another candidate -- or two -- will step forward. It could well happen.
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