15 for 2012: A first set of ‘power rankings’ for GOP hopefuls

You knew it would be here before long. The momentum that Republicans gained last week means the talk about the 2012 GOP presidential primary is already well under way.

On Tuesday, National Journal’s Hotline released its inaugural “2012 Presidential Power Rankings.” There are 15 candidates in four descending tiers, based on money, campaign infrastructure, strengths and weaknesses:

The A-List Tier

1. Mitt Romney

2. Tim Pawlenty

3. John Thune

4. Haley Barbour

The Fox News Tier

5. Mike Huckabee

6. Sarah Palin

7. Newt Gingrich

8. Mike Pence

The Governor/VP/’16 Tier

9. Mitch Daniels

10. Chris Christie

11. Rick Perry

12. Bobby Jindal

The Tea Party Tier

13. Rick Santorum

14. Jim DeMint

15. R. Paul (left ambiguous on purpose to leave an opening for Ron or his son, Rand)

What do I make of such a list? Beyond the fact that it’s way too long?

I think Romney is definitely in the top tier (for now, let’s ignore Hotline’s names for the tiers), and Pawlenty probably is as well. Where they’ll shake out in the end, I don’t know. I still think Romney’s five-minute explanation for how his health reform in Massachusetts is different from ObamaCare takes about four minutes, 55 seconds too long.

John Thune? I know some people in these parts who really like the guy; they have yet to convince me he’s something more than the right’s version of Barack Obama. I know that’s kind of the standard knock on the guy, but I think it’s pretty much true. The GOP has to nominate someone with significant executive experience to run against Obama.

Barbour: I know he’s one of the strongest in terms of organization and fund-raising prowess, and call me shallow, but I just don’t think it’s in the cards for a white man with a Southern drawl in 2012. At the very most, I’ll believe it when I see it. So, let’s go ahead and take Huckabee (who would delight social conservatives but make fiscal conservatives rather nervous) and Perry (anyone who’s used the S-word — secession — is not going to win the presidency imo) down a couple of pegs as well.

Palin: Obviously, she’s the wild card: Will she win? And what will that mean? For all the attempts to portray her as an intellectual lightweight, this week she had my very serious former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page praising her approach to monetary policy and the need for a sound dollar. In the end, I think she’s too polarizing; the GOP doesn’t need a candidate who fires up the Democratic base the way Nancy Pelosi fired up the Republican base this year.

Gingrich: He’s trying to position himself as a health-reform guru, which will prove either brilliant or a couple of years too late. A lot of people think he carries too much baggage from his time as speaker of the House, and that sounds about right to me.

Pence: He’d be a darling of the tea partiers, and he has had practice taking on Obama. But can he go straight from the House to the White House? I’m skeptical. But hey, I was skeptical that Obama could go from the Illinois legislature to the White House so quickly.

Daniels: He’s made a couple of perceived gaffes, talking about calling a truce on social issues and expressing a willingness to explore a value-added tax, or VAT. The good news for him: He made those statements very early in the process, which means he has time to make people forget them; and even though they are perceived as gaffes, he may be able to explain them in a way that brings people on board rather than turning them away. His track record as Indiana’s governor is impressive. I’ll be watching him.

Christie: He says he’s not running. The subsequent mini-scandal about his overpaying for travel expenses by about $2,000 while serving as a U.S. Attorney suggests not everyone believes him. He would be a stark contrast with Obama on dealings with public-sector unions, and he will probably have a leg up on him and most of this field in terms of dealing with our looming pensions disaster. He certainly needs a couple of more years in his track record to prove he’s the genuine article, and he’d probably benefit greatly from staying out of the national fray until 2016 or later. But as a VP candidate? Or if the front-runners fail to impress? We’ll see.

Jindal: He’d draw a strong contrast with Obama on the handling of the Gulf oil spill. Take everything I said about Christie, beginning with “He certainly needs a couple of more years,” and apply it here.

I don’t see anyone in the last tier as a serious challenger in 2012. The only omitted name I can think of at this time is Marco Rubio, whom I’d put alongside Christie and Jindal. Maybe Rep. Paul Ryan, although I think he’s probably better suited for the House.

There’s my very, very early handicap of the race. Your thoughts?

96 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

November 10th, 2010
6:28 am

If Palin runs and wins, will she serve the whole first term or quit and run back to talk tv? She makes more money there, and she has no fallout from what she says/does.

I think Barbour would be a strong candidate.


November 10th, 2010
6:37 am

You left out Sonny Perdue. Just like Carter in 1974, he’s got time on his hands and more experience than everyone on your list except Romney . . . and he’s got Nick Ayers.

Tom E. Gunn

November 10th, 2010
6:37 am

The ONLY people I see myself or my neighbors voting for is Barbour or Huckabee. I don’t see a winner on that list. That is the problem. Love’em or hate’em, the Dems have Obama. The Republicans don’t have that “personality” person to step up and run. To be honest, and don’t laugh, I’d vote for JEB Bush ahead of any of these guys. I don’t know the answer, but it is not on that list.


November 10th, 2010
6:38 am

Romney gets fed to the machine in 2012. Obama crusies to victory.

Christie/Jindal 2016.


November 10th, 2010
6:39 am

Barbour would be a strong candidate in the south. He would get crushed in about 40 other states.


November 10th, 2010
6:41 am

I’d rate Barbour over Thune. Thune has a little more Senate experience than Obama, but he hasn’t held a major Senate leadership position. Also, Barbour has been RNC Chair and is a current governor. In fact, I’m almost tempted to put him before Pawlenty, too, but Pawlenty made his intentions to run known months before Barbour.

Vinny D

November 10th, 2010
6:56 am

Don’t sleep on Ron Paul. I don’t think Rand would run yet but when has the time been better for Ron? The guy has been preaching the same thing since the 70s and now America actually wants those things. He would be the anti Obama. However, how would America feel about getting rid of the IRS, ending all war and closing military bases around the world, giving the states more rights and the federal govt less? Don’t sleep on ol Ron.


November 10th, 2010
7:08 am

Ron Paul will be incredibly successful in 2012. Why? Because everything he spoke of in the campaign of 08 has come or is in the process of coming to pass. He was the only one willing to sperak the truth and actually stand by the Constitution. The rest are just shrills. two side of the same coin.

DemoRat’s / republiCon’s – same sh**different pile.

Joel Edge

November 10th, 2010
7:08 am

Who I would like to see: Barbour or Jindal.
Who it will be: Romney or Huckabee

Bring back "Babe Alley" to the Georgia Capitol!

November 10th, 2010
7:10 am

Sarah Palin’s got my vote!


November 10th, 2010
7:14 am

Marco Rubio can’t be President….he is NOT native born…as is required by the Constitution. Huckabee and Barbour — not gonna happen!! Pawlenty has made too many enemies in Minnesota…and Palin’s a quitter!! The country won’t think about putting ANOTHER Bush in the White House….so the most plausible candidate would be Mitch Daniels!! As long as conservatives LEAVE the social and racial issues at the door and focus solely on fiscal matters…the possibility exists!!

Bring back "Babe Alley" to the Georgia Capitol!

November 10th, 2010
7:25 am

Road Scholar

November 10th, 2010
6:28 am
“If Palin runs and wins, will she serve the whole first term or quit and run back to talk tv? She makes more money there, and she has no fallout from what she says/does”

Palin had no choice but to quit the Governor’s office or end up in a jail cell like her predecessor. If you were in that situation, which would you do, sit around and wait for the wolves to zap all of your personal finances or get the hell out of dodge, be a political superstar as America’s conservative sweetheart, make a mega boatload of cold, hard cash and instantly become the Presidential frontrunner in 2012 as the 800-pound gorilla in a full room of GOP hopefuls? I know, it’s a very tough decision that requires alot of deep thought! Although, Sarah Palin behind bars in womens’ prison makes a superhot jailbreak fantasy as she would be subjected to lots of hot showers, fights in tubs of baby oil, jell-o and mudfights with hot, sweaty female cons like herself.


November 10th, 2010
7:27 am


I am really starting to think that Chris Christie might have what it takes to be a great President.
Ofcourse we all know that it gets to be a big “beauty” contest at a certain level.
But look at what he is doing in New Jersey of all places.
I like his “no nonsense” approach to slashing spending and using common sense in governing.
At first thought, he doesn’t have the style points of an Obama, which I think we all saw through before the 2008 election, but maybe a no nonsense, yes, “fat guy” can run on his record of cleaning house in New Jersey.
I do like Sarah Palin, but is she electable?
Romney has always seemed like a safe bet, but how far can he go?
Huckabee would be good. I would have to hear his stand on a few of the issues
Newt would be my “number one”, but is he electable
Ron Paul: I really like Ron Paul. Is he electable?


November 10th, 2010
7:31 am

15. R. Paul (left ambiguous on purpose to leave an opening for Ron or his son, Rand)

Or RuPaul, in case Senator Craig has a say in it.


November 10th, 2010
7:36 am

gop power rankings:

1) hate
2) fear
3) ignorance

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 10th, 2010
7:42 am

Dear HDB @ 7:14, while many nativists agree with you, Miami is still technically part of the United States.

Otherwise, Kyle, your analysis looks pretty good. I keep thinking Barbour is unlikely, but his resume is about as strong as Romney’s, and Barbour has that Palin-esque ability to connect with normal people, still a majority in this country. He may be misunderestimated on your list. I think, coupled with either Jindal, Rubio, Palin, or Bachmann – he will need a protected-class running mate – Barbour would win, simply on the issue of competence.

In the jbmlaw perfect world, however, we would see a Ryan-Rubio ticket.


November 10th, 2010
7:53 am

As a democrat voter, I am hopeful that republicans nominate Sarah Palin but worried that republicans will nominate Mitt Romney and he will pick someone like Rubio as his running mate.

African-Americans will turn out in numbers even exceeding 2008 to better ensure that the first African-American elected President is re-elected.

Significant numbers of independents and moderate republicans will either sit on their hands or vote for the President if the choice is Sarah Palin.

Hispanic voters, especially after the expected hateful tone set by the anti-immigrant wing of the republican party relating to immigration reform materializes, will turn out in significant numbers for the President.

I think that Romney, a pragmatic businessman with little interest in hot-topic social issues, could be a winner but am pretty certain he can never get past the Tea Party/christian wing of the republican party to get the nomination. He could win, just as Senator McCain did, if the republican right wing splits its primary vote betwen Palin, Huckabee, and other like-minded candidates.

Finally, if I were the President, I would write off all the southern states with the exception of Virginia and would not spend a dime on the campaign down here. African-American voters will keep Georgia democrat totals above 40% but the almost complete collaspe of white democrat voters in Georgia makes it impossible for democrats to win in Georgia. Although Georgia’s statewide office holders will not be up for re-election in 2012, if they were, I would not anticipate a single well-funded challenge by democrats.

Finally, with President Obama on the ballot and an African-American as the nominee in Jim Marshall’s congressional district, this might be worth the challenge to Austin Scott. Although Jim was the overwhelming favorite among African-Americans in this district, he could not turn out that vote they way an African-American nominee could. Since this doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, I am certain the Georgia republican Georgia General Assembly will re-draw this district to better protect Scott. After all, just like the democrats when they ran things, electing and protecting partisans trumps all.


November 10th, 2010
8:01 am

The only candidate that would help turn America around is Dr. Ron Paul. He has predicted every financial crisis since 1970s and no one would listen, although I think many knew he was right but had a lot to gain under the current status quo system and didn’t want change. His voting record consistantly honors the Constitution which is his only true job as a memeber of Congress (read their oath when sworn in).

I have one question for you Mr. Wingfield and everyone else. 95% of all these candidates are the same GOP Neocon rehashes we have seen for 20 years and all helped get us in this situation. Do you really believe they are going to get us out of this mess? Hell most of them want another unaffordable war with Iran. Why do people in this country keep voting for more of the the same thing? If you want change then you are going to have to vote for a NON TRADITIONAL candidate to get real change or your going to get more of the same.

Someone in this blog asked is Ron Paul electable? Well besides having the biggest presidential fundraising day in American history in Dec. 16 2007(The anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and birth of the modern Tea Party)and getting more contributions from active duty military personel than all the other 2008 candidates combined I would say he is electable. Anyone can be elected. All you have to do is actually vote for them, its pretty simple actually.


November 10th, 2010
8:05 am

To diehard – Sonny Perdue? what are you smoking in that pipe?


November 10th, 2010
8:09 am

Romney has absolutely no chance of gettng the GOP nomination, but would probably win if he did. He’ll have to run as an independent which lessens his chances. Newt missed his chance. Why didn’t he challenge Bush in 2004? Christie might be headed for a scandal regarding lavish spending while AG.


November 10th, 2010
8:15 am

“Marco Rubio can’t be President….he is NOT native born”

I thought he was born in Miami?

Name (required)

November 10th, 2010
8:16 am

GOP will shoot itself in the foot if they nominate Suckabee. Palin would probably be an epic failure, as well.


November 10th, 2010
8:16 am

Rand Paul is impressive but doesn’t understand, like many others, you can’t change things overnight or in one or two years. Just ask Obama. It will take at least a decade to get the spending and revenue balanced. He more or less said he and others would vote against raising the national debt ceiling knowing that it would pass. But you’ve got to give him credit for being willing to cut the Pentagon’s bloated budget.


November 10th, 2010
8:18 am

I was a Haley Barbour fan until last week when I caught him in a blatant lie on the economuc history of the last 10 years. Either a lie of he is totally ignorant, which is worse than a lie.

My early vote goes to John Kasich. He is just elected governor of Ohio, a must state for a presidential victory, and he has the credentials for the debate over the attempt to rein in spending. I still find his work as chairman of the House budget committee remarkable.

Vinny D

November 10th, 2010
8:18 am

If we go back to a Romney or someone similar, we are pretty much going back to what got us in this situation. America told us we are ready for a real conservative leader who wants to do the right things to get us on track. The neocons got SMOKED in 2008 and if the GOP elects another one, the same will probably happen. Is Ron electable? In 2008, No because the GOP wasn’t buying his message. Now, the nation is buying his message and he IS electable. The man has little charisma and is not a fantastic speaker but by God, he speaks the truth and doesn’t stray from his beliefs. This is the man who had the balls to say that we are partially responsible for 9/11 at a republican debate. Ya know what, if China had military bases right here in Georgia, we probably wouldn’t be too happy about it either. We need to stop trying to be the world police!


November 10th, 2010
8:27 am

Marco Antonio Rubio born May 28, 1971 in Miami Florida is the second son and third child of Cuban exiles Mario Rubio (1927–2010)[5] and Oria Garcia (born 1931).

While he might or might not be worthy he is eligible.


November 10th, 2010
8:36 am

Smaller government and more individual liberty.

There is only one of the above mentioned who has the record to prove that these are his principles.

Everyone else is just a big-government statist gas-bag.

It doesn’t really matter to frightened sheep though.

Ron Paul 2012.


November 10th, 2010
8:37 am

Ever noticed how the Left attacks the person, and not the idea? Odd, isn’t it?


November 10th, 2010
8:39 am

No way we win with Mit Romney. Even if he wins the election, I think he’d be a repeat of GW. We need to ride the wave of this election and seek new blood. We need a conservative Presidential candidate.


November 10th, 2010
8:46 am

4) xenophobia

Call it like it is

November 10th, 2010
8:50 am

Rubio will pop up more and more, and the Right should pay him due attention. Young and fresh, he will garner attention from the college age and the latino vote.


November 10th, 2010
9:23 am

Why won’t Rubio show his birth certificate? What does he have to hide?


November 10th, 2010
9:26 am

Palin? Seriously? The fact that she is even on the list is amazing. At least having her on the GOP ticket will ensure a DEM victory.

Sorry, but once you have a reality TV show on TLC, not to mention being a paid Fox News Drone, you should be required to withdraw from politics.

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 10th, 2010
9:46 am

It’s been about a week since the election. Don’t we ever get to come up for air?

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 10th, 2010
9:48 am

Ron Paul Is The ONE

November 10th, 2010
10:01 am

Oprah said it and now it’s being said. Thanks to the Paul supporters. As jt stated: “Everyone else is just a big-government statist gas-bag.”

Romney is an uptight A-hole who’d deny a dying cancer victim the courtesy of a joint.

Huckabee is a jesus freak maniac who talks to his god thing on his cell phone.

Palin is just now discovering what sound money is and is better at looking good than thinking well.

Most of these names except perhaps Christie are typical political putzes. Time to wake the F__K Up. Dammmmmmmmm!!!!!

And Lisa, you’re a bafoon. Have fun in the food riots of 2012. Hope you starve. Seriously.


November 10th, 2010
10:02 am

By 2012 your list will change dramatically,but it will be Republican on the winning side, O-ne B-ig A-ss M-istake A-merica has made to many enemies to have a chance again and its only going to get worse as the final year of his regime ends.

The Snark

November 10th, 2010
10:04 am

Barbour is competent, but the Republicans don’t give much weight to competence. They want entertainment value.

Question Authority

November 10th, 2010
10:09 am

Your A-List tier looks more like something I would leave in the toilet. Talk about the wrong stuff. And the Fox News tier isn’t much better. What a bunch of Neocons who wouldn’t know how to cut spending or restore sound money if their lives depended on it (Sarah can parrot Ron Paul’s speaches on the Fed all she wants, I doubt she really understands).

Ron Paul is the only candidate even deserving of a vote. We’ll have to wait and see on his son, but he looks like a winner too.

America Lost

November 10th, 2010
10:09 am

1. Mitt Romney: look at the health care mess he created in his own state, I’ll never vote for him, heck, we might as well keep Obozo Care if people are planning on voting him in as president.

13. Rick Santorum: I don’t believe this guy is a real Tea Party member, I think he’s just trying to hitch a ride on the the Tea Party popularity.

Even though the list is long, I don’t see a lot of people that I would be comfortable giving my vote.

However, I’m certainly not voting for Obozo. Democrat, Republian or Indepent??? the pickings are slim for 2012 at this time. I don’t really care for any of them.


November 10th, 2010
10:34 am

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is thinking about running–I think he will if Ron Paul doesn’t. He has some interesting positions, sort of a libertarian Republican.


November 10th, 2010
10:34 am

Where are the JOBS Boehner?!
It`s been 2 weeks.


November 10th, 2010
10:39 am

Not that Palin is necessarily my first choice(I’m leaning towards Ron Paul), but isn’t it ironic that Libs who chime in on this blog and say “Palin, really?” are the same people that trash her because:
a) she hits them btwn the eyes on issues and says what most men can’t say
b) she is super popular
c) looks don’t hurt either


November 10th, 2010
10:52 am

Me, Grimlock, no like Mitt Romney.

Me, Grimlock, think Mitt Romney look like New York City upscale restroom attendant.

Me, Grimlock, like Condi Rice. Condi Rice need to run for President. She make much better and smarter President than Bush or Obama Jive Talker.

President Condi need to abolish the TSA perverts at airports and get rid of naked body scanners to help give American citizens back their freedoms. American tax dollars should not pay for private citizens to get molested by high school dropouts with badges.

Condi Rice is pretty, smart and look very HOT to Grimlock in those black leather, thigh-high boots.

Me, Grimlock, stand at attention to salute you, Madam President Condi.

markie mark

November 10th, 2010
11:03 am

@ HDB…..if I recall correctly, Rubio’s parents are Cuban born, but he was born in Miami….


November 10th, 2010
11:03 am

Kyle: “Palin: …For all the attempts to portray her as an intellectual lightweight, this week she had my very serious former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page praising her approach to monetary policy and the need for a sound dollar.

Very serious. Good one.

And her approach to monetary policy? Kyle’s talking about the approach outlined in Palin’s tweets, of course. What is that, 150 characters max? The length of these tweets reflects the depth of Palin’s knowledge and the attention span of her followers.

Anybody who believes that the ethically-challenged, former half-term Governor is anything other than a tool, spewing ghost-written nonsense for the benefit of the corporate media and those who buy her clothes and bottled water with straws that bend, is a sucker. Palin knows less about monetary policy than she knows about foreign policy (Putin flies over my house, or something to that effect).

markie mark

November 10th, 2010
11:04 am

yep….Rubio IS american…

“Rubio is the second son and third child of Cuban exiles Mario Rubio (1927–2010)[5] and Oria Garcia (born 1931), and was born in Miami, Florida.” – wikipedia..


November 10th, 2010
11:05 am

rubio ain’t one of us, deport his illegal arse…..

F. Sinkwich

November 10th, 2010
11:12 am

Any potential candidate without experience as a Governor should be eliminated from the discussion.

Also, any potential candidate receiving favorable reviews / articles from the MSM, especially those which describe the candidate as a “moderate” able to “work across the aisle” should be dismissed as unelectable. Remember McCain.

As a corollary, candidates who receive the most vituperative, personal, and numerous attacks by the MSM should be considered very seriously. The MSM and DC insiders always besmirch those of whom they are most afraid.


November 10th, 2010
11:12 am

Does anyone REALLY belive these folks are serious about the deficit? How about a tax cut?