Mitt before the horse? GOP elite forecasts 2012 nod

Via The Page: A National Journal poll of Republican “political insiders” finds Mitt Romney is the clear favorite for the GOP nomination — in 2012. The poll comes with a big hypothetical: if McCain loses the election. Still, looks like Romney has won over the organizers and fundraisers he’ll need to start running the day after election day.

The former governor of Massachusetts ran far ahead of the pack. In fact, at 55 percent, he received more votes than everyone else combined. “Nobody” was second, with just 15 percent, and was followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (8 percent), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (6 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (6 percent), and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (3 percent).

An Insider who chose Romney said, “He’ll have money, an organizational head start, and the advantage of having gone all-out for the guy who beat him — and didn’t pick him as a running mate.” Another said of him, “He had won their heads before. He is now making progress on their hearts.”

Romney also wins a companion survey of right-wing bloggers, though he only polls barely ahead of Palin and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

A blogger who picked Jindal said, “I think the field would be quite wide-open in 2012, but the base will demand a ‘fresh face,’ someone with a record of accomplishment, and someone who’s not identified as an old Washington hand.”

Of course, anything could happen between now and 2012 — there is, after all, an election in two months — but Republicans tend to reward candidates who have tried a run for president before finally getting the brass ring. Going back 40 years, only George W. Bush secured the nomination without having tried an earlier run (except for Gerald Ford, who was an unelected incumbent). Nixon, Reagan, the first Bush, Dole and McCain each won the nomination on their second or third try.

Contrast that with the Democrats, who nominated rookie presidential candidates Humphrey, McGovern (though he flirted with a draft at the ’68 convention), Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Kerry and Obama. (Gore, who ran as a sitting vice president in 2000, had earlier tried a run in ’88.)

So Romney, having fought the good fight and stepped aside gracefully, or at least quietly, has both history and, according to the Journal poll, the GOP establishment on his side. A gambler might want to place an early bet on his 2012 prospects — assuming, of course, McCain stays in the Senate.

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