Why the GOP field for 2012 may be stronger than you think

Earlier this week, I asked y’all whether there was a candidate in the current GOP field who could beat President Obama next year. While 60 percent of you so far (in the poll accompanying that post) said a Republican could beat Obama, only 30 percent of you thought that candidate was already in the race.

Writing at the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost tells the less confident 30 percent to buck up. He argues that the primary contest among the three “main contenders” — whom he identifies as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, most interestingly, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — should produce a highly competitive GOP nominee.

Read the whole thing, as they say, but here are his four reasons:

1. Crossover appeal. Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Romney all won statewide elections by performing better than the party normally does in each state. In 2008 Jon Huntsman won 64 percent of the gubernatorial vote in Utah (an improvement on his performance relative to 2004), while John McCain won 62 percent of the presidential vote that same year. Tim Pawlenty won reelection in Minnesota in 2006 narrowly, but this was still an impressive feat considering that Minnesota retains a blue tilt and 2006 was a terrible year for Republicans in general. … In 2002, Mitt Romney won a comfortable, five point victory in Massachusetts, despite the fact that his party is so weak in the Bay State that it ran just 4 candidates in the 10 House districts that year. …

2. Records as governors. All three of these candidates earned a national reputation as governors, which will give them all an opportunity to point to their executive records in contrast to President Obama’s. This is preferable to coming up through the ranks via the House and Senate, where people don’t really “run” anything. …

3. No “gotcha votes.” There’s a second advantage that comes from not having been in Congress. When you’re in the House or the Senate, you end up having to vote on pretty much every divisive issue that the country deals with. … Governors don’t have that problem, at least not nearly to the same degree. While some laws with controversial items might get signed or vetoed, the state legislature regularly works as a buffer for governors. And furthermore state governments do not have to deal with nearly as many divisive subjects as the U.S. Congress does.

4. No bloodbath. I’ve been pointing out for a while that it’s unlikely that the GOP will have to go through the kind of war that nearly destroyed the Democrats in 2008 — in large part because the Republican party is much more homogenous. If this is the final field (and it might not be), the chances of an extended and bloody primary fight are now even smaller. In fact, there is a growing chance that the nominee could be set by mid- or even early February. The three top candidates are very similar to each other in terms of their background and the nature of their appeal, being as they all are center-right governors who plan to emphasize their abilities to get things done. … (links and italics original throughout)

Point 1 is a good one, with the caveat that a candidate with “crossover appeal” must always walk the line between attracting independents and keeping the base happy. But that’s pretty well true of any candidate for any party in any election.

Point 2, I think, is the strongest: In my mind, a candidate with executive experience always stands a far better shot of unseating an incumbent president — think of former California Gov. Reagan against Carter and former Arkansas Gov. Clinton against Bush, compared to Sen. Dole against Clinton and Sen. Kerry against Bush. This year is no different.

Point 3? A fair one, but not so sure how far it goes. Opposition researchers will find something in anyone’s record. And about Point 4 we can only wait and see at this juncture.

So, did Cost change anyone’s mind?

– By Kyle Wingfield

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73 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

May 26th, 2011
12:36 pm

If the house don’t wise up about medicare, they will be voted out. Don’t you just love this balance of power act that is played out. Mad kids say no, happy kids want to play together.

Cobbian

May 26th, 2011
12:42 pm

Sounds good but Pawlenty probably couldn’t win his own home state again. Not after what he did. [quotes from AP article dated 5-25-11] “Minnesota lurched from one deficit to another under his eight-year tenure. The state’s books technically balanced when he left office in January, but by then a mammoth deficit was forecast for the first budget his successor would need to craft.”

“Property taxes shot up in the Pawlenty years, mostly those enacted by city, county or school governments as they coped with stagnant or falling state aid. The year he entered the governor’s office, Minnesota land owners paid about $5.1 billion in property taxes; the total take topped $8 billion when he departed.”

“Schools are owed more than $1.4 billion in state IOUs, one-time stimulus dollars used to prop up ongoing state expenses are drying up and short-lived spending curbs Pawlenty first enacted using his executive powers are expiring.”

But, he kept his word and did not “raise taxes”, just fees. Like a 75 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes, which he justified by saying research backs up the tax as needed to cover health problems of smokers. Now, does anyone really believe that the tax will be set aside to pay for those health problems?

Jefferson

May 26th, 2011
12:56 pm

If that is true about the former MN gov, he has NO credibility, like most of his kind.

Finn McCool

May 26th, 2011
1:10 pm

Strong is a strong word. Republicans got nobody. I heard Hannity was trying to get Netanyahu to run the other night.

mwuahahahahaha

jconservative

May 26th, 2011
1:11 pm

Jefferson at 12:36 has a point re Medicare. Republicans sat through the Labor Day recess of 2009 watching irate voters demand that Obama and the Democrats “…keep their measley hands off my Medicare”.

So what do they immediately do when they take over control of the House? They “threaten” to take away those same voters Medicare.

Doing the budget is a political process, always has been. Ryan turned it into an ideological process.
That dog won’t hunt.

Why not start with a simple recommendation to allow Medicare to have the same illegibility dates as Social Security? It would get bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.

reebok

May 26th, 2011
1:22 pm

“strong?” seriously? sure, the GOP can nominate a candiate that will get 95% of the tea party vote, but it pretty much ends there. unless there is a total game-changer (terrorist attack, gas at $7 per gallon, massive scandal), obama will win re-election in a walk.

Point 4 is Way off

May 26th, 2011
1:25 pm

I definetly don’t agree with Point 4 – with the Tea Party on one side -and the traditional Republican party on the other, you will see a bloodbath when the field starts to narrow..

Logical Dude

May 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

Quoting: a candidate with “crossover appeal” must always walk the line between attracting independents and keeping the base happy. But that’s pretty well true of any candidate for any party in any election.

Now this does NOT work in some places like Georgia, where Karen Handel had full cross-over appeal, but couldn’t get enough of the base. And we got a raw Deal out of it.

How could Georgians elect the most crooked person from DC to lead the state???? Oh yeah, he had an “R” next to his name.

stands for decibels

May 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

did Cost change anyone’s mind?

not especially, but I probably didn’t need to have my mind changed; as an Obama supporter, I’m pretty clear-eyed about the likely fight he’ll have on his hands next year. I think the current Intrade odds (they have him at a 62% probability of re-election) are probably about right.

As to specifics: Items 2 &3 are pretty conventional-wisdomish. I think people like to claim that the “executive experience” of governors somehow better qualifies them for the Presidency, although I don’t think the actual historical record of ex-Govs vs. ex-Senators really shows an advantage either way.

Item 1? I don’t think past crossover appeal is much of an indicator of future performance, particularly after all the fealty is expressed to hard-right primary voters, but it’s an interesting thing to keep in mind. And as for Item 4, like you say, we’ll see.

carlosgvv

May 26th, 2011
1:49 pm

You are whistling past the graveyard if you think any of the current Republican candidates can beat Obama. Obama is not much of a president but the Republicans are even worse.

dmb

May 26th, 2011
1:50 pm

Give it up.. Obama has this one in the bag.. unfortunately. GOP is just too fragmented and weak.

ATLBadger

May 26th, 2011
1:58 pm

Crossover appeal could very well be a bad thing for the GOP this year….I don’t see the Tea Party faction, right wing religious faction, and moderate independent faction coming together on one candidate to excite them all…In the end it very well could lead to a third party candidate taking a big chunk of their vote.

Hair of Newt

May 26th, 2011
2:00 pm

The GOP candidate will be running against an incumbent POTUS with 4 years of experience in the toughest, most demanding position on the planet. They will NOT be running against a junior Senator from Illinois. If the GOP plans to ignore the last 4 years and treat Obama like a 2008 candidate, they will look as outdated as a VCR. I think a sitting POTUS would gladly have a discussion about executive experience, especially when debating someone who has run one of those square states.

Lou

May 26th, 2011
2:00 pm

Obama is elected on the basis of “change” and in my opinion he will be re elected because the same voting public will be afraid to make a change. Most of the people I speak with will vote for Obama again because they fear the Repiblican candidates as “unknowns”. If Obama wins again, the Repulicans should be ashamed of the fact that they did not start grooming an exciting candidate in public 3 years ago.

Hair of Newt

May 26th, 2011
2:08 pm

The advantage that was NOT stated to having a governor rep the GOP is that they will not be associated with the GOP Congress which has essentially said “NO” to virtually everything from Obama’s office. At least they can claim to have their own ideas about how to improve things unlike the guys in DC who simply are playing to the crowd while providing no help to the average American. It would suggest to me that the GOP recognizes that the best chance to win is someone who did not support the “let’s ensure his failure” policy that fueled the agenda since 2008. Doing nothing is never a good political agenda.

Truth Be Told

May 26th, 2011
2:09 pm

Obama will beat the pants off of Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

I say – BRING IT ON!!!!!

Herman Cain

May 26th, 2011
2:18 pm

little boy barry will go home cring to mama, I mean, hate preacher wright after I spank that butt in the election. Can’t wait to hear the bedwetters screaming something besides “racists” about the Republicans after next November. Unlike the joke of a president we have now who was ready to rule from day one, I will be ready to lead from day one. urkle can start packing cause he’s just keeping the big office warm for a man to take over.

Jack

May 26th, 2011
2:29 pm

IF any of these three can win the nomination, republicans will have nominated a pragmatic businessman who will focus on the economy and the nation’s finances rather than radical social issues. All three are proven leaders who know how (and the importance of) to work with both sides of the aisle.

I just don’t see how any of the three can get through the primaries that will be dominated by the hard right wing of the party. Even if one could, I fear the radical right wingers would either sit on their hands in November or possibly move toward a third party folly.

If any one of the three can get win the nomination, I would be one happy businessman.

I don’t care what they say to get nominated, they may be good but they are still politicians and will have to pander to the right wingers but I am absolute certain any of the three will govern from the center-right with a focus on business issues.

ByteMe

May 26th, 2011
2:29 pm

Point-by-point:

1. Let’s see how far “crossover appeal” goes in a primaries where even the whiff of compromise with Democrats is considered a deal-breaker for the tea party animals.

2. Romney is running from his record as governor. Pawlenty should be running from his record. And Huntsman did a good job as governor and then did the unpardonable and went to work for Obama. The record is mixed.

3. Let’s ask Romney about “no gotcha votes”, hmmm? Sometimes a good vote still gets you spanked if you run into a rip tide (to screw up the metaphors).

4. Wishful thinking with a mix of tea party purists, fiscal conservatives who loathe the social conservatives, and social conservatives who think fiscal conservatives need to spend more time with Jesus. The bloodletting will start with the tea partiers when they don’t get their way.

The problem with the entire article is that Cost is annointing the “establishment candidates” and poo-pooing the rest. That’s gonna annoy a bunch of the marginal-but-loud folks.

Michael

May 26th, 2011
2:33 pm

Maybe, it’s a long shot, but just barely possible, if you could restrict the field to the three adults. But you’ve already got Gingrich, Cain, and Santorum to contend with. Plus a likely entry by Bachmann, and even Palin. Sucking up media attention, diverting attention from the adults, making the whole party look like knuckle draggers. I wouldn’t advise getting too excited just yet.

DollarDawg43

May 26th, 2011
2:35 pm

The Tea Party holds the (wild) cards in the GOP race but I fear their involvement will, alluding to point 4, cause a bloodbath.

Tea Party supporters will never vote for President Obama anyway so he loses nothing that he hasn’t already lost there. However, their continued and increasing unreasonable demands will fracture the Republican Party. No candidate that has any appeal to the vast number of conservative and/or moderately conservative voters nationwide will satisfy their demands.

A lot can change between now and election day but, in a statement I never thought I would write, President Obama has to be considered a favorite for re-election. The Tea Party has the Republican Party backed into a very tight, inflexible, uncomfortable box.

Max

May 26th, 2011
2:50 pm

You cannot be “homogenous” and have “cross-over appeal”….these things are almost the exact opposite of each other. Look at it this way – any candidate who has “cross-over appeal” is going to have to have made decisions that are anathema to the Tea Party types (for example, RomneyCare and/or Pawlenty budget decisions) and they will have to publicly lurch hard right just to win the nomination. Then, during the general election, they will have to spend a lot of time and money walking it back. This is what McCain had to do and we know how well that worked for him.

The GOP, no matter if you love’em or hate’em, is screwed this cycle. There is nobody with the intestinal fortitude to get nominated that’d get more than 45% of the nationwide vote when the general election comes around. Their policy messaging is going to suck and they don’t (yet, at least) have a compelling wrapper around it.

retired early

May 26th, 2011
2:54 pm

It is mind boggling to hear those Obama haters suggesting he is not a fit for the job. When I watch the Europeans greet him with adulation and hold him in the highest esteem, like allowing him to be the first American President to address both parties of the British government…I just have to shake my head. The man is BY FAR the most intelligent, capable leader we have had since FDR. But you haters certainly did not bother to witness his leadership…it would get in the way of your unjustified hatred.
I can’t imagine any of the current GOP candidates walking in his shoes the last few days. They are no where near Obama intellectually or otherwise and it will be obvious once the debates begin…at least to those of us who haven’t already prejudged the man. Yes, he will win the next election giving me great satisfaction each time I picture the torment it causes each of you racist un-American morons.

Real Talk

May 26th, 2011
2:55 pm

@Herman Cain,
You have as much of a chance of beating President Obama as you would be delieveing me a GodFather’s Pizza in SW Atlanta at 1am on a Saturday night..The rethuglicans always support black leaders of their party, just ask Michael Steele

Pete

May 26th, 2011
3:03 pm

Huntsman is probably the best choice, but will probably not be forgiven by the right wing for working with Obama. Romney would also be a good choice, but the right wing will not forgive him for RomneyCare, even though it’s working and popular in Massachusetts. That leaves Pawlenty, the weakest of the three, but the one who may end up with the nomination because he doesn’t seem to have done anything yet to anger the right wing. Palin and Bachman, though not electable, are darlings of the Tea Party and could muddy up the waters. It’s hard to see how either of them could even win the nomination.

handi

May 26th, 2011
3:06 pm

Obama in a Reagan-esque landslide

Ignorant Conservatives Rule

May 26th, 2011
3:13 pm

Let’s see. The net jobs created (jobs added less jobs lost) in 2010 was 613,000, which is over half of the 1,080,000 net jobs created during the 8 years Bush was in office. The overall fact remains Democratic presidents have a consistent pattern of greater job creation than their Republican counterparts. Obama brought the troops home from Iraq. And there was one more thing I can’t quite remember. Oh yeah, that’s right. He gave the orders that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. HELLO?!?! Obama WILL win again.

You gotta love Georgia conservatives. Not a critical thinker in the bunch. After reading all these blogs, I rest my case.

T

May 26th, 2011
3:16 pm

Keep drinking the KoolAid Wingnut!

Kurt

May 26th, 2011
3:19 pm

retired early — nothing but another race card pulling thug. What a joke. Just like your sorry excuse for a president.

JP

May 26th, 2011
3:26 pm

I am a Dem, but think Huntsman, Romney, or Pawlenty have the best chance, as long as they don’t have to tack too far to the right to win the primary.

Linda

May 26th, 2011
3:31 pm

The Labor Dept. began calculating monthly unemployment rates on Jan. 1, 1948. June of this year will be the 68th month since 1948 with an unemployment rate at 8% or higher–the 29th such month under Obama. So, 43% of the most severe unemployment in the last 63 years has occurred in the last 2 1/2 years.
Furthermore, no postwar president has even bothered to seek re-election with an 8% unemployment rate.
According to the Labor Dept., the annual unemployment rate was 5.8% in 2008 & 9.3% in 2009.

retired early

May 26th, 2011
3:35 pm

I predict that the already fractured GOP, will soon see yet another split…among the Tea Party.
How can they explain to their children, under 55, that they are for Ryan’s proposal to change Medicare. The perfect generational divide…between their own families.
It just keeps getting better.

BehindEnemyLines

May 26th, 2011
3:37 pm

Doesn’t change my mind in the least, although he’s welcome to his opinion I suppose. A “strong” field would have multiple candidates that you’d _want_ to see win, not just a couple you think might have a chance at winning. Romney, and especially not Huntsman, don’t strike me as notable improvements over what’s there already. Pawlenty has at least some potential to be interesting although he’s certainly not motivating me up to this point. We went through lukewarm last time & saw how that ended up, I’m not really interested in going through the same charade again. So far I see a few decent possibilities mentioned in the field but not nearly enough to call this a “strong” field.

The Anti-Wooten

May 26th, 2011
3:37 pm

It’s gonna be Palin, she’s kicking off a nationwide tour. If elected, the Halfenator has promised to serve at least 18 months before she quits in a snit.

Linda

May 26th, 2011
3:39 pm

Obama got OBL, but what’s so strange is that this man predicted on 11/12/08, 2 1/2 years ago, that in 2011, Obama would start bringing the troops home from Afghanistan In June, get OBL & give the Jews to the Muslims.

http://www.patriotactionnetwork.com/video/give-me-osama-ill-give-you-the

jt

May 26th, 2011
3:41 pm

On Point 3—————-Any decent person is not ashamed of his voting record…………………Hence, every sorry-arse Republican candidate is adept at tap-dancing………………………except Ron Paul.
Dr. Paul is proud of his voting record and can stand behind every one.It is called being principled.
Voting “present” is NOT principled.
.
Pawlenty,Obama,Romney, or Huntsman……………..they are all the same.They all will fold with anything over a 3 mph wind.

Doesn’t take much to fool sheep.

retired early

May 26th, 2011
3:41 pm

Kurt

Tell the truth…did you even bother to watch Obama in Europe. I know you couldn’t have because you label him “a sorry excuse for a President”. Try using your own judgment for a change and quit letting Limbaugh & company think for you. BTW, you and your kind don’t deserve him.

The Anti-Wooten

May 26th, 2011
3:41 pm

@retired early, those over 55 also understand that if the Ryan Medicare dismemberment plan is enacted the in a couple of years some Republic will come back and say that since it’s saving so much money it will be extended to those of all ages. I’m hoping that they improve the taste of cat food.

Saint Joan

May 26th, 2011
3:46 pm

Please give us Palin and/or Newt. The SNL skits would be great.

Junior Samples

May 26th, 2011
3:47 pm

I’m guessing the kool aid being handed out by the Weekly Standard is pretty sweet…
Cost is delusional to think there are no gotcha votes. Especially concerning Romney. His views on Healthcare depends upon which direction the wind is blowing. Put the kool aid down Kyle, it’s a trick.

Anti-Wooten,
diggin’ the Halfenator tag!

Linda

May 26th, 2011
3:53 pm

Obama introduced his budget in Feb. & the Democratic senators called it a “serious attempt,” a “responsible proposal,” “applaud the President” & a “credible blueprint.”
Harry Reid introduced Obama’s budget in the senate today. It was a rare occassion that all the senators were in agreement & voted 97 to 0 AGAINST it.

SaveOurRepublic

May 26th, 2011
4:09 pm

If by “strong”, you mean packed full of NeoCON Globalist shills, you’d be correct. Pawlenty, Romney, Rudy “Ghouliani” (9/11 profiteer) & Gingrich would be good puppets for the Elite (just as the current POTUS…& his recent predecessors). The only current candidate (on either side of the coin…DNC or GOP) worth a vote is Constitutionalist Dr.Ron Paul.

First Sergeant

May 26th, 2011
4:10 pm

Kurt said:

May 26th, 2011
3:19 pm
retired early — nothing but another race card pulling thug. What a joke. Just like your sorry excuse for a president.

Kurt, the truth hurts, doesn’t it? You know what Kurt? You can continue claiming that those who approve of the President’s performance, uses rece as a motive. The truth is, “that is the only reason you dislike the President, his skin color”. You my man, are a racist without the sheets. Everyone on this blog knows that President Obama has done well, especially when compared to previous Presidents. I know; It’s soooo difficult for someone with your background to acknowledge. That would be too much like right.

First Sergeant

May 26th, 2011
4:14 pm

Linda said:

May 26th, 2011
3:31 pm
The Labor Dept. began calculating monthly unemployment rates on Jan. 1, 1948. June of this year will be the 68th month since 1948 with an unemployment rate at 8% or higher–the 29th such month under Obama. So, 43% of the most severe unemployment in the last 63 years has occurred in the last 2 1/2 years.
Furthermore, no postwar president has even bothered to seek re-election with an 8% unemployment rate.
According to the Labor Dept., the annual unemployment rate was 5.8% in 2008 & 9.3% in 2009.

So Linda, enlighten us as to why Bush ran for a second term?

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
4:15 pm

obumer is definitely beatable. The GOP may have two candidates that could do it but a lot can change in two years.

First Sergeant

May 26th, 2011
4:18 pm

Michael H. Smith said:

May 26th, 2011
4:15 pm
obumer is definitely beatable. The GOP may have two candidates that could do it but a lot can change in two years.

Who are they Mike? And, by the way, please reframe from disrespecting the office of the President! It truly dilute any points you’re trying to make!!

Straight Talk

May 26th, 2011
4:23 pm

Herman Cain is the only logical Republican candidate in 2012. He is a solid conservative, proven leader and has demonstrated repeatedly he knows how to turn around failing organizations – all traits our country sorely needs now to survive. He also has a gracious (but tough when needed) manner and communicates very effectively as he demonstrated in the SC debate on Fox. I would vote for him whether he is black, white, red, green or blue. The fact that he is black will take off the table the race card – which the Democrats now use to label everyone who disagrees with Obama. Forget all the RINOs and frail egos looking for affirmation from voters. Support Herman Cain, the only one who can beat Obama in 2012.

Michael H. Smith

May 26th, 2011
4:31 pm

First of all, First Sergeant, I only give respect to a person when they earn it and secondly, I never give any respect to a person on the truly dilute demands of anyone’s talking points agenda. So re-frame from telling me who to respect or disrespect, I hold a very low regards for those who do.

Stephenson Billings

May 26th, 2011
4:40 pm

I agree with what Shelby Steele recently wrote:

“Here is Barack Obama, evidence of a new and progressive America. Here are the Republicans, a cast of largely white males, looking peculiarly unevolved. Add to this the Republicans’ quite laudable focus on deficit reduction and spending cuts, and they can be made to look like a gaggle of scolding accountants. How can the GOP combat the president’s cultural charisma? It will have to make vivid the yawning gulf between Obama the flattering icon and Obama the confused and often overwhelmed president. Applaud the exceptionalism he represents, but deny him the right to ride on it as a kind of affirmative action.

“A president who is both Democratic and black effectively gives the infamous race card to the entire left: Attack our president and you are a racist. To thwart this, Republicans will have to break through the barrier of political correctness. Mr. McCain let himself be intimidated by Obama’s cultural charisma, threatening to fire any staff member who even used the candidate’s middle name. Donald Trump shot to the head of the [class] by focusing on Mr. Obama as a president, calling him our ‘worst’ president. I carry no brief for Mr. Trump,” writes Shelby Steele, “but his sudden success makes a point: Another kind of charisma redounds to those willing to challenge political correctness — those unwilling to be in thrall to the president’s cultural charisma.”

In other words: GET OVER IT!

Get over it and stop being cowed by political correctness. Treat him as the president, not somebody of affirmative action, not somebody special. He’s the president. It’s sort of like Newt and his reaction to David Gregory on Meet the Press when Gregory came up with this BS question about “food stamp America” being racist, and Newt looked at him and you said (summarized), “You gotta be serious! He’s president of the United States, for crying out loud! He’s got to be accountable! Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps, the majority of them are white. What are you talking about race?” In other words, what Shelby Steele is saying is: Do not be afraid to criticize him as president doing a lousy job.

The Anti-Wooten

May 26th, 2011
4:43 pm

Top,

Every one of the possible Republic candidates carry such loads of baggage that even the esteemed Michael H. Smith can’t come up with anyone in answer to your question. And his disrespect is as much for himself as for the President.