Tim Pawlenty has spent most of the summer traveling between two primary season hotspots – Iowa and New Hampshire – and speculation that he is ramping up his 2012 presidential bid has invigorated campaign watchers looking beyond November.
The intentions of the rest of the GOP’s potential 2012 bidders are slightly murkier.
Sarah Palin maintains a war chest unmatched by any but Romney and is widely expected to run. However, she has not made any trips to the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. Public Policy Poling released a survey last week that showed Palin running in fifth place in New Hampshire, behind Romney, Gingrich, Huckabee and Ron Paul.
Mitt Romney, who leads in that poll and is widely considered the early frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, has scheduled two fundraisers for August in New Hampshire where he will raise money for House Republican hopefuls.
Mike Huckabee, FOX News host and viable presidential contender, won Iowa in 2008 but has no plans to visit the state any time soon.
Newt Gingrich has been in Iowa this month, campaigning for Congressional Candidate Brad Zaun (R), and increasing his visibility in the state ahead of a presidential bid he says that he is “very serious about.” He got a strange endorsement over the week from former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who said he would bring “intellectual leadership” to a Republican Party that is consumed only with obstructing President Obama’s agenda. When Howard Dean backs a Republican candidate, questions of electability are raised. Gingrich has an extensive background to run against.
There are several dark horses that have not made their intentions clear, but are still considered viable Republican candidates for 2012. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is the Washington Republican’s favorite to mix up the stale 2008 lineup. Haley Barbour, Mississippi Governor and another GOP establishment favorite, may still declare his intentions to run in 2012. Giuliani, having fallen from grace after his failed Florida-only primary strategy, is not expected to seek the nomination, but he is doing the rounds for House candidates in conspicuous places like New Hampshire. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has visited New Hampshirethree times this summer.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of 2012, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder writes in Politico that Obama should be prepared to drop Vice President Joe Biden for Hillary.
It’s not that Biden is a drag on the ticket, although his foreign policy credentials have not been the boon the administration that it was thought they would be. He was tapped to be VP when the Democratic Party needed to show foreign policy experience; all that went out the window when the financial crisis hit. Wilder speculates that Biden’s utility has elapsed and Hilary is well positioned to lend some much needed credibility to the ticket.
She has proven herself a competent Secretary of State. She has stood up to the Chinese and conveyed the UnitedState’s intolerance of expansionism in East Asia, if not the revaluation of their currency. This stalwartness is more than can be said of President Obama’s treatment of the Chinese leadership. She has been a responsible broker of U.S. interests in Pakistan, convincing the post-Musharraf government in Islamabad that the Taliban is as much their enemy as ours, despite the entrenched interests of Pakistan’s intelligence services. On a host of other policy issues, Secretary Clinton has performed admirably abroad while maintaining a low profile at home.
The result is a thoroughly attractive personality at a time when Democrats are facing the likelihood that their brand will be badly tarnished after the 2010 cycle. After Obama, the Democratic Party is without a leader that can mobilize the country. Congressional Democrats are slightly less popular than Dengue fever, and many Democratic governors are set to be replaced by Republicans after the next cycle.
Hillary’s low profile has allowed her to cultivate what Obama artfully utilized in the 2008 presidential campaign, legislative anonymity. She has not campaigned for any of the controversial legislative initiatives of the last 18 months so, while she is a known quantity, she is unsullied for those that oppose healthcare reform, Wall Street reform and “cap-and-trade” legislation but still don’t want to vote for Republicans.
Of course, all these qualities also make her presidential material. A 2012 challenge against Obama is the remotest of possibilities, of course. Sitting presidents are difficult to unseat in a general election, and nearly impossible to challenge successfully in a primary. The only elected president to lose a primary challenge for a second term was Franklin Pierce. Hillary may harbor desires to replace Obama after his second term, or if he is voted out in 2012, to challenge the next Republican president in 2016.
However, if Obama was to take Wilder’s advice, it would be difficult for Hillary to refuse the Vice Presidency. After all, it’s one step closer to the Oval Office.
Noah Rothman is the online editor for C&E. email him at firstname.lastname@example.org