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Posted at 8:35 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

What GOP field?

By Jennifer Rubin

Not a day goes by without a new poll on the prospective presidential primary race. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll told us that Mike Huckabee "leads" with 25%, followed by Mitt Romney (21%), Newt Gingrich (13%), and Sarah Palin (12%). Other contenders are in single digits. Aside from the fact we've had no debates, none of these people have declared their candidacy, Palin likely will never declare, the Iowa caucuses are 11 months away, and the poll samples American adults (not even registered voters) it's a vital piece of data. No, it really isn't.

Given Gingrich's false start, blamed on the legal and financial difficulties of unwinding his network of enterprises (the very factor that prevented him from running in 2008), we presently have a Republican field that consists of former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. That's it.

In fact, it may be all there is for quite some time. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has rediscovered the requirements of his current job and sounds like he's not so keen on running, according to the Associated Press:

Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels says he'll stay focused on getting his Statehouse agenda passed, even if the legislative session drags on so long that it precludes him for running for president.

An ongoing standoff caused by boycotting House Democrats has the potential to cause the legislative session to drag on past its scheduled end in late April. Daniels told The Associated Press Wednesday that his legislative agenda remains his top priority. He said a long-term impasse "could well get in the way of any national participation. If it does, it does."

It's hard to believe Daniels just figured out the legislative schedule. But the criticism he's faced of late may have given him and his family (who are reportedly reluctant to undergo a national campaign) a taste of what it would be like in the national spotlight. Yes, if he ran, he would have to make amends with social conservatives, learn foreign policy, articulate a world vision and compete with candidates who will fly-speck his record and grill him on his willingness to raise taxes. Could he have decided that's not all that appealing? Sometimes we overthink these things. A smart Republican insider says, "Maybe he just really does not want to do it, sees the road ahead, knows he'd probably lose and maybe thinks there's a better candidate."

That better candidate probably isn't Mike Huckabee, whose fondness for his current income is matched by his propensity for saying appalling things. If Palin and Gingrich were not problematic enough for Republican voters, there is Huckabee, now turned sociologist. Monday he posited Obama growing up in Kenya (a spokesman tried to walk that back) and Tuesday he came up with this:

Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas. And I just do think that there is -- again, I am not saying he's not a citizen, I've never said that, I've said the opposite. I've never said he's a Muslim. ... I wish [reporters] would ask, though, does this president have a different worldview than any other president in the history of the United States.

Good grief.

Meanwhile, in the search of a viable candidate, attention turns to the cozy field of two (Romney and Pawlenty). Now it's not only conservatives who have figured out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn't really closed the door permanently to a presidential run. Democrat Taegan Goddard reminds us:

To those who think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) declaration that he's "not ready" to be president means he can't run, it's worth noting Barack Obama said something similar after he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Said Obama: "You know, I am a believer in ... in knowing what you're doing when you apply for a job. Uh, and I think that... if I were seriously to consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now there may be some people who are comfortable doing that, but I am not one of those people."

Besides, it's not every candidate who inspires poetry.

And the other favorite non-candidate of conservatives, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took time yesterday to observe that Romneycare does look an awful lot like Obamacare. ("It's not that dissimilar to Obamacare, and you probably know I'm not a big fan of Obamacare. I just don't think the mandates work ... all the regulation they've put on it.") Hmm. That sure sounds like a good line for a debate.

If we take a step back, it is obvious we are no closer to defining the field of Republican presidential candidates than we were in December 2010. Perhaps in another three months we will have a better idea, but for now forget the polls and disregard pleas of non-interest from viable candidates. Instead, watch who is sounding and looking presidential. Sooner or later, one of them may rise to the top of the heap.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 3, 2011; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: An off-topic White House


Instead, watch who is sounding and looking presidential.

*stares to the sound of tumbleweeds*

Posted by: RandomAnon | March 3, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"Sarah Palin likely will never declare?" That's a strong statement. Where's the evidence? Sarah herself has said that she would run if "nobody else steps up." As of this moment, no one has stepped up to the plate. Maybe you're right, Jennifer, and she won't run, but she has shown that she can raise lots of money and inspire lots of people. Don't rule her out yet.

Posted by: John9826 | March 3, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

From Rove's playbook:

"Americans today want to know what STEPS Republicans will take to create more jobs, bigger paychecks and greater prosperity. A good starting point for the GOP would be to outline a comprehensive tax reform that scrapes preferences out of the tax code and makes it simpler, flatter and fairer.
A Feb. 2-5 Gallup poll (its most recent on the issue) gave Mr. Obama a 27% approval rating on the deficit and 37% approval on his handling of the economy, making the president politically vulnerable. But as the incumbent, Mr. Obama has plenty of advantages and his West Wing political wizards will exploit them.
"To prevail in 2012, the GOP needs a pro-growth candidate who represents a pro-growth party. Republicans must put front and center political leaders who can speak in compelling terms about OPPORTUNITY as well as sacrifice. A message of austerity and prosperity is far more powerful than either one alone"

One problem here/The Master Class in America/the top 2%,despises the idea of higher wages and additional properity for Americans in any context. American workers aren't competitive in terms of cost,productivity with the 3RD world masses.So,what leverage do we have over those that could create jobs HERE,but are choosing to create jobs THERE? The political leverage is The Public Sector,who can hire someone to dig a hole and refill it for eight hours,pay $15 Dollars an hour,and tack on HealthCare and a Pension to boot. Rove is right,unless the Conservatives can outline the steps to a recovery,Obama/Government Hiring wins in 2012.

Posted by: rcaruth | March 3, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush? He's been pretty quiet lately, but he would be a powerful candidate I think. He's different from Bush 41 & 43 and I don't think he would carry the luggage of their respective political legacies.

He would, however, likely have to fend off the "Bush name" to a certain degree (fairly or not), but the rehabilitation of Bush 43 has already begun as his approval ratings have improved since he left office. I doubt the Bush 41 legacy is something that he'd have to shake off - except to the extent that people feel like we'd be developing a monarchy here in America.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | March 3, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

You know, losing weight is not rocket science. LA people do it all the time. You need a trainer and a nutritionist. (And a physician probably in Christies case). The nutritionists deliver a bunch of little boxes to your home in the morning with little time stamps on them saying when you're supposed to eat them. The trainer gets you out of bed in the morning for cardio before breakfast. The weight trainer gets you for an hour in the afternoon around 4 for some free weights and crunches and stuff.
Three, four months of that and you look presentable on the tube.
If you're serious about governing the country, wouldn't it be a great advertisement to show how effectively you can govern yourself and control your appetites?

Posted by: member8 | March 3, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Face it, plain and simple, the GOP does not have a credible candidate. They should focus on 2016. That should give them time to move to the center. Moving farther Right isolates you to 30% of the vote. No one can win with 30%. Keep shrinking your tent, and you will remain in the wilderness. For good reason.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 3, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Face it, plain and simple, the GOP does not have a credible candidate. They should focus on 2016. That should give them time to move to the center. Moving farther Right isolates you to 30% of the vote. No one can win with 30%. Keep shrinking your tent, and you will remain in the wilderness. For good reason.
Posted by: jckdoors

JD,Here's something to consider,for the popular vote,you are right on target,Obama strolls into this election with 35% of the popular vote locked before Nov 2012. Which means of the remaining 65%,he needs only 1/3 of that to win the popular vote,big. But the fly in the ointment is the Electoral College,my figures show that Obama could win the popular vote by up to 10M votes,and still lose the election in a close electoral contest.

Posted by: rcaruth | March 3, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Of course Daniels knew the legislative schedule but with the Ds leaving town, the schedule might change. The idea that he is using this as a hook to back off of a run is pretty flimsy analysis. Isn’t it more likely that he is letting the INdiana Ds know that he won’t cave if they think they can derail his agenda by decamping to Illinois? It looks more like strong leadership.

And saying that Daniels will have to “learn foreign policy” is completely misleading. Won’t all of the candidates have to do so? I like Christie too but I missed the speech where he articulated his world view or the part of his bio which details any foreign policy experience. Pawlenty and Romney have similar deficits. Daniels actually has more experience than all three – he was a member of the NSC when he was director of OMB. And won’t all candidates have their record “fly-specked?” It will also happen to Romney (in addition to the healthcare albatross he now shoulders), Pawlenty and Christie (if he jumps in).

And the blind quote from a “smart insider” is hilarious. Maybe you could let us know which candidate that “smart” person is already supporting. The more she writes about 2012, the lower her credibility sinks – you said Pence was running (oops) and just last week, you said Gingrich was a “maybe” (oops). Maybe you need “smarter” sources.

Posted by: buster5 | March 3, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

SCOM Sarah Palin (TM) could easily win even with a late start. Remember, a week is a lifetime in politics.

Posted by: scientist1 | March 3, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Mike Huckabee insulted Natalie Portman's out of wedlock pregnancy?
Does Mike Huckabee want to become President of the United States? He doesn't act like it.

Dear Mike Huckabee,

Natalie Portman will sink your career on Fox News, she will ruin your fund raising efforts in Hollywood, and as of your insult to Natalie Portman, you will never be invited by voters to the White House in Washington D.C.

Thomas Chi
Selling Sex with Sarah Palin

Posted by: ThomasChi | March 3, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

colour me surprised! this was the most realistic article about the GOP field that I have read so far, especially one styled on the right side of the aisle.
I'm not saying President Obama isn't human and has made no mistakes, but it seems that anyone on the GOP side that even looks at the centre, is doomed in alot of primaries. I keep thinking if they keep on shrinking that "big" tent, they'll not have enough "shelter" out in the wilderness. With everything going on in Wisconsin, and how the GOP is going to shed 700,000,000 jobs with their budget, and how the GOP wanted to discontinue unemployment benefits right before Xmas, all these unemployed voters are going to have lots of time to help out with Dem campaigns, etc... and certainly vote.

Posted by: katem1 | March 3, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

We'll vote for the lesser of two evils, like we always do.

Posted by: dhenken1 | March 4, 2011 2:12 AM | Report abuse

"watch who is sounding and looking presidential"

That would be Gary Johnson.

Posted by: Wonderingaloud999 | March 4, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

After watching Obama's dismal performance over two years it is safe to say that the Democrats do not have a credible candidate either.

Posted by: genecarr100 | March 4, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin won't run. She doesn't like responsibility, just media attention, but only if it's flattering. She has a terrible political history, and she's shown a flagrant disregard for knowledge. And let's not forget she's completely incapable of taking the high road.

So far the GOP has shown sympathy toward struggling Americans in anti-Obama administration speeches only. When they've gotten into power they've shown their true colors - cutting taxes for the wealthiest people and for big businesses while demanding the average worker tighten his belt, letting them know they can't expect a job, let alone job security, job benefits, or government help in the form of any kind of subsidies, and they've made pretty clear that they firmly believe health care and access to it are privileges.

It'll be another four years for Obama, and the Democrats will regain power as well. The GOP has no one but themselves to thank for that.

Posted by: ktvanw | March 7, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

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