It is time again to rank the odds of candidates running for the GOP nomination for president. I understand some will dissagree, and comments are welcome. However, my ranking is:
1. Perry -- Gov Rick Perry would have had no shot to win the GOP nomination if he ran 4 years ago. This year, he is in a better possition than anyone else to win. Here is why. First, other potential candidates who would compete with him (and crowd out his chances) such as Gov. Haley Barbour, are not running. Second, the political environment has shifted greatly to his advantage. Third, he is the only candidate who does not face competition for his niche of voters. Gov. Perry's core supporters are likely to be people who are looking to win in 2012. They are looking for someone who is not Obama, who has been a consistant conservative, and who cannot be painted as out-of-the-mainstream by the Democrats. They also want someone with an economic message. Gov. Perry has passed conservative budgets and laws in Texas. Texas's economy is doing much better than the nation as a whole. Perry is also broadly acceptable to a wide range of people in the GOP, spanning support from social conservatives, tea partiers, and the establishment. He may not be everyone's first choice, but he remains broadly acceptable. Perry also has the advantage of being viewed as more acceptable than Romney. Also very importaint, he can run on a good message that focuses on the unemployment rate in Texas as compared to the rest of the country. That he is from Texas is not going to hurt him with voters. They care about getting a good job, and their family and friends getting jobs.
2. Romney -- Governor Romney is the default nominee. He has a core group of supporters, and is broadly acceptable to the GOP in much the same way Perry is. He has a few major downsides, though. First, Romney never could inspire great support with social conservatives. He was always ok, but not great. Second, Romneycare remains a major thorn in his side. Romneycare was tolerable in 2008, but now is highly unpopular. If Perry self-destructs, Romney will likely win. As many imperfections as he has, he is still -- compared with the rest of the field -- a golden boy. He is broadly acceptable to a range of voters from social conservatives, to tea partiers, to the establishment. Not a first choice, but he is viewed as better than Obama and someone who could win.
3. Pawlenty -- Governor Pawlenty has not run a good campaign so far. He has also faced stiff competition from Bachmann. Bachmann appears to have more tea party support, which is not the area where Pawlenty should even be competing for votes at. That said, he remains a governor who won election in a blue state and who is conservative. He remains broadly acceptable. His problem, however, is that he lacks a base of support to grow from. He has a narrow path to victory. That path requires him to perform well in the Ames straw poll, and for Bachmann to do poorly.
4. Bachmann - I don't think Rep Bachmann can win. I'd like to start by saying that, generally speaking, congressmen/women need to run for governor (or at-the-least senator) before making a serious white-house bid. That said, specific to her, I do not think she can obtain support from the establishment, nor from moderates. She went too far in opposing the debt deal as activily as she did. She even opposed cut, cap, and balance. That said, I could be wrong. She retains high support with tea partiers, and is ahead in polling for Ames. A victory at Ames (and I am not one who thinks it needs to be a landslide) would result in her moving out of the qualifying round and able to challenge Romney and Perry in Iowa. Iowa, for her, is another must-win. A win there and she will be a serious candidate.
5. Paul - If there is a father of the tea party movement, it is Rep Ron Paul. He is a true believer in the movement and has had a major impact on the GOP over the last 4 years (since his last run). His poll number are rising. That said, I just don't see any path whereby he wins the nomination. A win at Ames would change that. However, I don't see that likely. Also, as with Bachmann, Paul is a member of the House, and thus a very unlikely next president. Generally speaking, Governors and (to a lesser-extent) Senators have a chance to win. House Reps do not have a good chance.
6. Santorum - Senator Santorum would be a broadly acceptable candidate. He stands by his principles and as a consistant conservative. That said, he was a senator in a blue state up for election in 2006. He wasn't just up for election, but up for election against the most popular Democrat in the state -- Sen. Casey. He never had a chance. Frankly, no one in the GOP would have. That said, he still lost. He got blown out. My opinion is Santorum is no longer a serious candidate for the GOP nomination. That said, he is a serious candidate for VP IF a governor wins the nomination. He is not a VP consideration if a non-governor wins. What he offers for a governor candidate for president is (1) ability to pass legislation, (2) conservative bonafides, (3) clearly qualified and solid choice. That said, he would be a better VP consideration for Romney (who needs help with social conservatives), than for someone like Perry (who does well with social conservatives.
7. Huntsman -- No chance. To liberal.
8. Cain -- No chance. Couldn't win general election and lacks experience.
9. Gingrich -- No chance. So many reasons to list that make things hard. Horrible campaign, lack of apparent interest, etc. The reason he is listed below even Cain and Huntsman that he is such a horrible campaigner that he would be listed higher in the polls if he didn't run!
1. Gov. McDonnell - he is the clear choice for any non-governor, but also a consideration for governors. A Perry-McDonnell ticket is a great contrast between the conservative, well managed states of Texas and Virginia -- with balanced budgets and no tax increases; as compared to DC. If I were a betting man, it would be on a Perry-McDonnell ticket. That said, McDonnell would be a better boost to non governors
2,3,4. Barbour, Daniels, and Jindal. In that order. This rounds-out the best of the governor choices.
5. Brownback. Governor and former Senator. He is a good choice for a Romney, or in the unforseeable sitaution where a Hunstman wins. Brownback consistants of a broadly-acceptable candidate who will solidify a presidental candidates standing with social conservatives -- without being the fire-rod that some others are. He brings some level of international experience, help in managing the Senate, and governor experience. Of critical importaince he is not now in the house or Senate.
VP is often someone picked who is not expected. That said, I think there are some groups of people who are unlikely VP choices. The main ones being current Senators and current members of the House of Representatives. The environment in Washington is toxic. It is politically unpopular to pick someone inside the beltway. Governors and ex-Senators remain, now, the viable options. Governors of states doing well (low unemployment) are the best picking grouds. None better than McDonnell. The 2012 GOP message is NOT going to be the debt, spending, social issues, or government. It is going to be about the economy. The best possitioned to argue they can fix it are going to be governors of states that are doing well economically. They will say that they will change washington to make it more like their state. That they did it before and will do it again. The second main qualifier is someone who cannot be pained as extreme. Third, is someone who is broadly acceptable to the GOP. Finally, it is critical that the VP not tick off any part of the country. No need to ignite democrats and make them mad and want to get active. Governors have executive experience. They win state-wide elections. They will be the top choice for VP. (and, as you can see, the top 3 choices I had for president also).