How big GOP 2012 field could boil down to three
Three top-tier GOP presidential hopefuls are likely to emerge, and neither Sarah Palin nor Donald Trump are among them.
Flip through any list of Republicans running for president or probably running or maybe thinking of running, and you'll find at least a couple dozen names. From Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to Michele Bachmann, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump, it's a potentially vast field peppered with outsize personalities and also folks who make you say, "who?"Skip to next paragraph
Why so many?
"Because people perceive vulnerability in President Obama," says Darrell West, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. "We have high unemployment, we have 2-1/2 wars, and there's a lot of contentiousness surrounding health care. So nobody's afraid to take on a sitting president."
By the time the Iowa caucuses roll around early next year, the GOP could easily field 10 to 12 candidates. The latest to say “I’m in” is Congresswoman Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party firebrand and born-again Christian who could shake up the race by doing well in her native Iowa. She stole the show at last weekend’s Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa.
But it’s easy to see how a Bachmann candidacy fades in early states that are less friendly to evangelicals, such as New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida. When all is said and done, the race for the 2012 GOP nomination may boil down to just three serious contenders: former Governor Romney of Massachusetts, former Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota, and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Pawlenty announced his exploratory committee on March 20; Romney and Governor Barbour are expected to do so within the next several weeks.
For months, all three have been assembling campaign-level staffs, raising money for their political-action committees, traveling to early primary states, and building goodwill among local politicians and party activists. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also clearly preparing to run, might have squeaked into the top tier if he hadn't botched his rollout in early March. Mixed signals from aides revived all the old stories of Mr. Gingrich's organizational shortcomings from his days as speaker.