Despite the momentum generated from Sarah Palin’s energetic efforts to elect Republicans in the midterm elections, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the Republican Party’s frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination. The main reason isn’t so much that Romney leads in New Hampshire polls by 27 percent Read it’s that to the GOP, it’s Mitt’s turn to run in 2012.
Don’t scoff at that. With one exception (1964) Republicans have been nominating the establishment choice for president for several generations. Romney ran well in 2008, and campaigned hard for McCain and Palin. He has most of the early money from campaign donors. His name recognition will help him against potential challengers Gov. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, or Gov. Tim Pawlenty (The GOP will not lack for qualified presidential candidates in 2012).
Another reason Romney has the potential to do well is he polls better with independents than several conservative activist candidates, that would include Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, or former Sen. Rick Santorum. The reason President Obama’s re-election is uncertain in 2012 is his one-time support from independents is gone. That group is more likely to move toward Romney, who has experience in economic policy that is an asset during tough times that may soon include inflation.
Ah, but the Mormon question, you ask? It certainly killed Romney’s chances in Iowa in 2008. Antipathy to the president, and more so his big-spending agenda, I think will galvanize the GOP base, anti-Mormon evangelicals as well, behind the GOP candidate in 2012, even if it’s Romney. And maybe the bias against Mormons is fading, given that Southern evangelicals are huge fans of talker Glenn Beck.
This is all crystal ball gazing, and it’s possible Romney could fade like Hillary Clinton did among Democrats in 2008. But, as mentioned, Republicans have stubbornly stuck with the candidate whose “time it is” for generations.
Palin will be a very strong candidate; she has earned the top-tier status she enjoys in the party and she’s got my vote if she’s the nominee. She probably polls higher than Romney among the base, but I don’t think she can win over independents against Obama as well as Romney can.