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Posted at 7:10 AM ET, 01/11/2011

The "Haves" and the "Have Nots" of the 2012 GOP presidential race

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

The 2012 Republican presidential race is a contest between the "haves" and the "have nots".

The "haves" boast high name identification scores and favorability ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The "have nots", well, don't.

The "haves" group includes four people: former Govs. Mitt Romney (Mass.), Sarah Palin (Alaska) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The "have not" are everyone else. (Somewhere in between in Texas Rep. Ron Paul who is well known but not regarded as a serious threat for the nomination.)

This chart from Gallup captures the bifurcation of the GOP field nicely.

Screen shot 2011-01-10 at 9.22.24 PM.png

Almost every presidential nominating fight -- regardless of party -- has a candidate (or maybe even two) who are well-known commodities to primary voters.

Typically, as we saw in 2008 Democratic presidential fight, initial name recognition and favorability numbers, while an advantage, are not conclusive. Early states like Iowa and New Hampshire have outsized influence in the process and victories in one or both can fundamentally re-align national polling in a matter of days.

What's different about this field -- and 538's Nate Silver has expertly made this case -- is that there are four potential candidates who are well known and well liked by the Republican primary electorate, meaning that if one (or even several) of the "haves" slip it's likely that one of the other four will benefit rather than one of the "have nots".

True enough. But, there are -- as always -- a few complicating factors.

First, and most importantly, it remains to be seen whether all of the four "haves" actually run. Romney is a certain candidate and Gingrich seems likely to run. Huckabee and Palin are far more difficult to predict as both have enjoyed significant financial success -- and influence -- outside of the world of elected office and may not want to jump back in to the maelstrom.

If Huckabee and Palin take a pass, we could be back to a far more traditional field with two "haves" and a number of "have nots" all trying to make the leap.

Second, the tea party element of the GOP could create chaos between the "haves" and the "have nots" -- particularly if Palin, a tea party favorite, decides against the race.

In the 2010 election, tea party voters showed their willingness to back lesser known candidates against more established foes and it's not difficult to see a similar dynamic playing out in the 2012 race if the "haves" were comprised of Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich.

What is inarguably true is that the 2012 GOP presidential primary is, at the moment, deeply split between a quarter of well known (and liked) candidates and everyone else. Whether the "haves" can hang on to their coveted positions remains to be seen.

Arent Fox snags two senators: Recently departed former Sens. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) are joining the lobbying world, and they're doing it together.

Both men have signed on with Arent Fox LLP, where they will be senior policy advisors to the firm's government relations practice. Dorgan will also serve as co-chairman of the practice, along with former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.).

"At a time when our country is tackling so many big issues of consequence, we are excited to join one of Washington, D.C.'s premier law firms as senior policy advisors," the two said in a statement. "We look forward to providing advice and counsel to the firm's clients on a wide range of issues based on the several decades of experience we have had with the major issues."

Fixbits

A poll from New Jersey GOP pollster Rick Shaftan shows Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee leading the way among Iowa caucus-goers.

The American Future Fund says it has taken ads running against Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) off the air out of respect for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will make an announcement on his 2012 plans by the end of the month.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) gave big to Iowa political candidates in the run-up to November's elections, a sign that she might have been thinking about running for president for a while now.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has formed a bipartisan redistricting panel to advise the state during the process. (Virginia features split control of redistricting.)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R) book tour begins in Washington on Thursday.

Must-reads

"Jeb Bush for President in 2016!" - Mark McKinnon, The Daily Beast

"Pawlenty Touts Minnesota's Lessons on Health Care" - National Public Radio

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | January 11, 2011; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Southern Democrats in dire straits; 2011 looms large

 
 
 
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