Trying to uncover the frontrunner

Contributed by Shell Suber

Re-posted from The Political Entrepreneur

I have been puzzled lately by the lack of a clear early frontrunner in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary. After all, in seven weeks it will be 2011 and we will be one year away from the first primaries. The GOP usually has one by now.

And given that the candidate who was perceived to be the early frontrunner has eventually won the nomination in every primary of the last 30 years, you would think the major GOP aspirants would be knocking each other down in an attempt to assume the title. 

But since polls indicate no perceived frontrunner has emerged, I went looking for one. Using my Facebook profile and emails to friends, I listed the names of those considered most likely to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

I asked respondents to rank the possible candidates in order starting with the one they feel is most likely to win the nomination. (Not necessarily their favorite, mind you, although it usually tends to work out that way, doesn’t it?) I offered the names of Barbour, Christie, Gingrich, Huckabee, Jindal, Palin, Pawlenty, and Romney and invited respondents to add other names if they wished.

While any result derived this way is about as unscientific as you can get, my goal was to get a general sense of who my friends see as the frontrunner – not the best loved or even most well-respected – just the one most people consider most likely to end up with the nomination after all is said and done.

Respondents were a cross section of Facebook friends, college buddies, family, friends, political insiders, casual observers, etc. – mostly from South Carolina. Given my profession, I run in a relatively politically astute and generally conservative circle.

My results were as follows:

1st Place: MITT ROMNEY. With the exception of a small number of “only if he was the last guy on earth” haters, nearly all other respondents ranked him in either1st or 2nd place.

2nd Place: JOHN THUNE. Not as many respondents mentioned him, but those who did, did so without my having even listed his name in the survey question and they ranked very high.

3rd Place: CHRIS CHRISTIE received a surprising number of 1st place votes. Republicans can’t resist the thought of potentially stealing New Jersey’s 15 electoral votes from Democrats, it seems.

4th Place: SARAH PALIN: While Hurricane Sarah’s star power may be a Category 5, respondents seem to think of her chances in terms of a tropical depression, ranking her between 3rd and 4th on average with a few 1st place votes. That being said, no other candidate received more mentions than Mama Grizzly.

5th Place: MIKE HUCKABEE. He got the 2nd most mentions behind SP but his average rank by my respondents was between 4th and 5th, even with some 1st place votes. I wonder if overexposure plays a role here. (Sarah, are you listening?)

6th Place: (9-way Tie) MIKE PENCE, PAUL RYAN, MICHAEL BLOOMBURG, MITCH DANIELS, HALEY BARBOUR, NEWT GINGRICH, BOBBY JINDAL, TIM PAWLENTY and RICK SANTORUM. Some of these got only a few mentions, others got a lot, but they all averaged noticeably lower than those mentioned previously. If any of them want to move up the ladder, they have a LOT of work to do. (Read: $$$) I gotta say, I was surprised to see Jindal, Barbour and Pawlenty this low after two years on just about every pundit’s “Watch List.” That said, you can expect one or more of those bunched up down here to rocket into the upper echelon closer to the primaries.

No Love: JEB BUSH, JOHN CORNYN, RUDY GIULIANI, DAVID PATRAEUS, JOHN BOLTON. None of my respondents even mentioned them.

Honorable Mention: MARCO RUBIO and JIM DeMINT. Both got some nice VP shout-outs from respondents. Marco even got a few sighs from the ladies because, well, he’s dreamy.

Now usually I would agree with those who say all this isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit; that a general perception of frontrunner status among my friends 21 months before the Republicans gather for their Tampa convention is as useless as a parachute at a spelling bee.

But I keep coming back to this thought: Since 1980, every candidate who was perceived to be the frontrunner one year prior to the South Carolina primary has gone on to win the South Carolina primary and eventually the GOP nomination. Since we are only one year and 13 weeks away from that South Carolina primary, you gotta wonder.


2 Comments to “Trying to uncover the frontrunner”

  1. Since writing this, a poll has been posted on Carolina Soapbox so you can vote too. Please vote for who you think will eventually win the nomination, not necessarily who you would LIKE to win, but who you think will. Thanks! – Shell

  2. This is a good thing – the issues will get a thorough and complete airing and no accusations of letting the “party bosses” (whoever they are) make the decision. However, we do run the risk as in a couple of Senate races of nominating a clinker when the race is eminently winnable (Obama down to 39% now). Not a prediction, by any means, just a possibility.

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