Commentary: Sizing up the GOP 2012 potential nominees

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Brian Baer/Sacramento Bee/MCT

News item: Likely Republican candidates for president are having a difficult time, or at least more difficult than they anticipated, raising early and big money for their campaigns for the GOP nomination. This is of some surprise to them, and doubtless to a few Democrats, who have always portrayed the Republicans as able to open their arms when the mood strikes and just wait for the money to falleth from the sky.

But it appears that donors are playing a little wait and see, not wanting to bundle all those big bucks and send them to someone who will lose and thus be a waste of investment toward that ambassadorship to Slovakia.

There's more than a touch of hypocrisy in Democrats stereotyping the GOP as the rich boys of course, as the Democrats like to soak donors as if the party was a big ol' sponge and the donors were grape juice on a carpet. ("Blot! Don't rub. Blot! Until you have it all!") And one reason for Republican concern is that the very round number of $1 billion is being bantered about as the amount President Obama aims to deposit in the course of his re-election campaign.

Obama steps up with the advantage of being the certain nominee of his party, unlikely to have to engage in a series of embarrassing debates wherein a platoon of candidates are lined up across the stage and looking like an "Our Gang" reunion. This usually is the Democratic way, with some degree of apologies to Spanky and the rest.

And Republicans have tried for some time to follow the Ronald Reagan creed: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." (The Democratic creed is: "Fight amongst yourselves, and don't give up until you're certain you've found a way to lose.")

But your unaffiliated correspondent, having brought together some of the most astute political minds in a four-block area of West Raleigh, has gathered enough information at this point to offer an early campaign report on the prospects and pitfalls of leading Republican candidates, and a prediction as to the eventual nominee to emerge from the primary battles.

Mitt Romney: He's not trusted by tea partyers who fear a hidden liberal agenda, he presided over a health-care reform effort while governor of Massachusetts and his name, the "Mitt" part, while no fault of his, conjures images of touch football at Hyannis with the Kennedys and fellows named "Scooter," "Chas" and "Biff." Nice fellow. But he's done.

Tim Pawlenty: Very conservative, but being from Minnesota, there will be suspicions that he might have a little Hubert Humphrey liberal in him. Also, nobody knows his name, figuratively and literally. He has a nickname problem as well. It's "T-Paw," which sounds like the guy the Sigma Chis would send to the 7-Eleven with a fake I.D. to get the keg. Also a nice fellow. Also, done.

Newt Gingrich: Conservative, but tea partyers don't like a guy who's certain he's the smartest guy in any room, and Gingrich is not afflicted with moments of self doubt. Turbulent personal life, the same in a run as House speaker. And if T-Paw and Mitt are potential name problems, well ... Not a very nice fellow, but done.

Donald Trump: Done. No need to explain.

Mike Huckabee: Baptist preacher and Fox News contributor, good stuff for tea partyers. Plays electric bass, which could indicate Democratic leanings. Affable guy, but when he gets serious the preacher takes over and people don't much like to be sermonized Monday through Saturday. Probably done.

Sarah Palin: Tea party idol, been pounding the Democrats with the same old club a little too long, short on ideas of her own and quit before her term was up in Alaska. Fading, but not done as long as the teapot's on the stove.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota: Favors incandescent lighting over fluorescent and says fluorescent pollutes more, thinks global warming is a hoax and once said she feared that President Obama may have "anti-American" views. Not done and we wouldn't say so even if we thought she was because she scares the daylights out of us.

Herman Cain: Everyone likes pizza, and everyone likes "The Godfather." Cain is the former chairman of Godfather's Pizza, a personal friend of the Pillsbury dough boy, smart enough to stay out of foolish fights, glib and hasn't been in politics long enough to have made enemies. And think about it: Have you ever met a mean Herman?

He will be the 2012 Republican nominee. Unless, of course, there's another Bush we don't know about.

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