Welcome to the first edition of the Gundy Power Rankings for the GOP Presidential Race – compiled by myself (Nate) along with my brothers Luke and Aaron. Yes, this is mostly for fun as we don’t consider ourselves as expert pundits. We’re just average Joes with an opinion and we’re going to lay it out for you. You can agree or disagree with us all you want – just remember we’re entitled to our own opinions. Here goes…
December GOP Presidential Power Rankings
1. Mitt Romney – To the casual observer it may seem that Romney had disappeared for portions of 2009 and 2010, but to political junkies, it seems like Mitt never stopped running since dropping out of the race in early February of 2008. He has remained extremely loyal to the Republican party purposefully avoiding any opportunity to speak critically of fellow GOPers. Despite the bitter 2008 race and bad blood between he and McCain, Romney quickly and forcefully backed his previous opponent, showing he can put the past behind him for the good of the party. His team intact, he will hit the ground running with his expanded network and increased fundraising prowess.
Strengths: Fundraising, network, 2008 experience, favorability among independents and moderates. More than any other candidate Romney will be able to compete in nearly every state due to an extremely organized ground game and sheer fundraising power. Unlike 2008 Romney won’t have to launch an early monstrously enormous campaign to get his 2% name recognition raised. And as is the case with any good businessman you learn from past failures; Team Romney already seems keen on avoiding some missteps of the last run around.
Weaknesses: RomneyCare. The passing of ObamaCare has been the single greatest detriment to Romney’s potential to win the 2012 nomination. Team Romney must have a comprehensive plan to respond to critics on this issue. As of yet Romney has only defended his plan when specifically asked about it in interviews – perhaps to avoid speculation of him running in 2012. Our guess is when he announces they will have a battle plan ready to attempt to squelch concerns. Critical opinion of RomneyCare is a hurdle for Romney right now, but not an insurmountable one. As a note we’d like to add that the “Mormon issue” did not make Romney lose in 2008 (though it had moderate effect); it will not have “game-changing” effect this time around either.
Previous Rank: n/a
Momentum: edging downward
Odds of running: 99% – Only thing stopping Romney from running is if the health of his wife deteriorates, or his own for that matter.
Probable announcement date: Early April
2. Sarah Palin – Until recently we would have Palin in 3rd behind Huckabee, but currently her national polling has improved, as well as the fundraising for her PAC. Palin’s unconventional methods of “running” make her difficult to place in the power rankings; she has been all over the board on other lists. She has the following and energy necessary to mount a serious primary campaign, but often neglects those things that typical candidates-in-waiting do – ie. ground-game formation in early primary states, though there has been an uptick of this activity recently. She is on her way to various foreign destinations, a move that is likely to burnish her foreign policy credentials. Palin also just finished a promotional tour for her second book since running on the national GOP ticket: America by Heart. All these recent moves (book, travel, fundraising, polls) force us to believe she will certainly run, whereas a few months ago we were doubtful.
Strengths: Star power. Palin dominates the airwaves, headlines, and google searches. Her message gets out there loud and clear at any time of her choosing, employing her Facebook and Twitter accounts to great advantage. She also has very energetic, loyal, and vocal fans. They could push any close race to her advantage simply by overwhelming the turnout.
Weaknesses: Over-exposure. Some folks won’t react well to the all-Palin-all-the-time atmosphere that currently pervades the national news cycle. There is already evidence of push-back within both the liberal and conservative communities. Extended all-out exposure will force everyone to either really like her, or seriously dislike her. This divisiveness amongst voters does not bode well for a national campaign, should she advance to that stage. Naysayers will certainly bring up the fact she left office early as Governor of Alaska. As with Romney’s weaknesses, these are not insurmountable. We suggest she avoid over-exposure by simply not responding to negative comments directed at her. Media, and the consumers of gossip, feed off of such drama.
Previous Rank: n/a
Momentum: ticking upward
Odds of running: 95% – Who can resist the prodding of millions of fans?
Probable announcement date: Early July
3. Mike Huckabee – A strong showing in 2008, coupled with a popular weekend talk show on FOX keeps Mike Huckabee in the public eye. Huckabee maintains a spot in the top-tier mainly due to his positive national polling amongst GOP, as well as versus Obama. Huck has great speaking skills that that keep give him an advantageous likability factor, proven also by his favorability ratings. With a good ol’ southern demeanor and high-standing amongst evangelicals he is sure to be a force reckoned with in 2012. In 2008, Huckabee had to climb onto the national stage of nowhere just as Romney had done several months earlier. But, again like Romney, he will not have the same name ID struggles that he had in 2008. This time it’s a whole different game plan. Look for a very late entry as Huck continues to benefit financially, politically, and legally from his FOX contract.
Strengths: Huckabee is the SoCon man. Anyone with religious and social conservative leanings will naturally gravitate to Huckabee, and these types of voters exist en masse in practically every state, but particularly in the South. They’ve shown in Iowa that they can organize and show up at the polls in numbers. Plus, as Huckabee has highlighted recently, he consistently polls well against Obama.
Weaknesses: Fundraising. We view this as a must for Huckabee and he still hasn’t learned quite how to do it. It will be of vital importance if there is not a clear leader in the race after the initial primary contests. Team Huck will be out of gas if it goes into extra-innings. Huck will need to sew up the nomination quickly, or learn to do some serious fundraising if he wants to avoid this danger. The problem is that if he does sew it up early, he’ll face the same problem in the general election.
Previous Rank: n/a
Momentum: edging upward
Odds of running: 90% – Can he afford to run and pay the mortgage on his new $3 million house?
Probable announcement date: Mid July
4. Newt Gingrich – The man of ideas has constantly toyed with the idea of running for the GOP nomination. We believe him when he says he’ll only run if he feels the support is there and if we has a good shot of winning – but we are inclined to believe that that full support is not there. Gingrich may realize this as he weighs his options, but even so may continue to flirt with a run because its good business – it helps him sell books and make more media appearances. We aren’t the only ones to note that his tweets and other public comments typically contain some form of self promotion; ie, “come visit me at this book signing” or “watch me on this program at this time”. This behavior makes us think that an actual run may not be 1st priority on Newt’s list.
Strengths: Widely known as the guy with the best new ideas – the GOP policy man. He’s an eloquent speaker and has years of experience and plenty of star power to boot.
Weaknesses: Baggage. There are number items in the closet that aren’t often discussed, but will certainly come out if Newt makes the leap into candidacy. Also, Newt has never run a national campaign and currently has no organization from which to mount a run. He’d have to rely on his star power to get a successful campaign launched.
Previous Rank: n/a
Odds of running: 40%
Probable announcement date: late March (he has stated he would make the decision about this time)
5. Tim Pawlenty – T-Paw has taken all the steps to indicate he is most definitely running for President: not seeking another term in MN, formed a PAC and continues aggressive fundraising, multiple trips to Iowa, new book, etc, and etc. One will note that his recently announced book tour has 11 stops which includes 2 stops in Iowa and 2 stops in New Hampshire. Though Pawlenty lacks national name ID, he is practically in the same position Mitt Romney was in 4 years ago. Pawlenty has been a formidable fundraiser, but still falls behind Romney and Palin. It will be vital for Pawlenty to have extremely successful appearances at debates or his campaign will simply not gain the traction needed to win some primaries.
Strengths: Ability to raise funds with little national notoriety. Charismatic and likable.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t seem to instill excitement in a large following. He needs to find some way to give his campaign serious traction.
Previous Rank: n/a
Odds of running: 99%
Probable announcement date: Late January (needs to announce early to his name out there)
The Dark Horses:
Mike Pence: Says all the right things and appeals to many types of voters. Given successful appearances in the debates, he is our top pick to most likely break into the ranks of the top tier. All signs point to a run unless he chooses to run for Governor of Indiana instead.
John Thune: Seems to have a lot going for him, but will he get traction given the competition? We’re not confident he is running.
Haley Barbour: A very powerful and respected force in the GOP. We think the fact that he was a lobbyist for the tobacco industry may put dampers on voter support should he run. Also not sure he is in the race.
Ron Paul: Still has no chance of winning, but he will run to get his agenda out on the national stage. He stayed in the race last time until the last moment, far beyond the point where it was known he had no chance of a comeback. He will have the same 10% of support he had last time, but not much more.
Mitch Daniels: Recent comments regarding a “truce on social issues” make him a non-starter for many SoCons, which in great likelihood makes his campaign a non-starter as well, despite his excellent record as IN Governor.
Rick Santorum: Will need to do a lot of work, build a lot of support, and have a lot of luck to come close to winning. He is a strong candidate to pick up momentum from SoCons after the debates start.
There it is. Let us know where we’re wrong, and be sure to give us your list as well. Until next time…
~The Gunderson Bros., Nate, Luke and Aaron.