It’s never too early

The times they are a-changin’.

President Obama has a 44.5 percent approval rating and a 51.2 disapproval rating according to a RCP average. Gallup says that 77 percent disapprove of the Democratically-controlled Congress, with only 18 percent approving. And, in perhaps the biggest indicator of how Americans are feeling, 66 percent of voters feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction, says Rasmussen Reports.

All of this adds up to a predictable Republican victory in the 2010 off-year election. Charlie Cook, perhaps the most trusted tracker of Congressional elections, says as much, predicting the Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives and put a dent in the Democrats lead in the Senate.

But this is not what I want to talk about—I want to talk about the 2012 presidential election.

I know, I know, it’s early. But it’s never too early for presidential talk.

The Democrats will almost certainly nominate President Barack Obama again. So all the drama is on the Republican side. And drama there is.

Here are the players:

The Big Three

Mitt Romney: The former Gov. of Massachusetts is setting himself up for a presidential run. He came excruciatingly close to winning the Republican nod in 2008 and is relatively popular among both establishment and grassroot-types. The downside? The health care bill he signed into law in Massachusetts looks eerily like the Obamacare—which Republicans vying for the nomination will most assuredly bring up during the campaign. But he is the frontrunner.

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee actually finished ahead of Romney in terms of votes in 2008, and with his Fox News television show, he is a force to be reckoned with. Being a former Baptist minister, he is very popular among the GOP evangelical base. He has a very high profile and is likely to run. The downside? His voter base is basically limited to evangelical Christians. He probably does not have enough widespread Republican support to win the nomination.

Sarah Palin: Let’s face it—she would have no chance in the general election. She is too polarizing a figure, and I think she knows it. If she has presidential ambitions, she needs to wait at least a couple more election cycles. But the power is alluring. And she certainly does have popularity within the base. But she is unelectable.

The Rest

Newt Gingrich: The former House speaker talks a big game, and is one of the more imaginative ideas men in the Republican Party. Alas, his baggage is too great for him to make a serious run at the presidency: He’s divorced twice (both under dubious circumstances), and insists on making unnecessarily ridiculous comments (he recently accused President Obama of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview”). Even Republican Sen. Tom Coburn recently said that Gingrich was “the last person” he’d vote for. He has no chance—but he may run and take conservative support away from any of the main candidates.

Ron Paul: Dr. No (as he is known in Congress) sure got the Republican establishment talking in 2008 with his contrarian views on foreign policy, the drug war and monetary policy. But, at his age, he is not likely to run in 2012. But he does have a band of devoted followers who would do just about anything to convince him to run. (Full disclosure: I voted for him in 2008). He does not look very strong right now, but has a solid fundraising base and, with this electoral climate, you just never know.

Mike Pence: The congressman from Indiana is on this list only because he recently won the Values Voter straw poll—defeating Palin, Huckabee and Romney in the process. Members of the House don’t have a very good track record of entering the White House, but Pence may get enough of the GOP base to make a run at it.

John Thune: Thune has earned the support of New York Times columnist David Brooks and was recently the subject of a The Weekly Standard cover story. His Achilles’ heel, though, is that he voted for TARP, the contentious legislation that is a thorn in the side of the conservative movement. This may make it tough on Thune in the primary, no matter what else he brings to the table.

Tim Pawlenty: Some have said he is a serious candidate for president. The reason he won’t be: He’s boring!

Others that have either hinted at running or have been encouraged to run include former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

But, realistically, the nomination will most likely be won by Romney. Which means a likely Obama victory in 2012. Will he campaign on replacing Obamacare with Romneycare? He simply is not a great candidate.

Anyways, this is getting pretty long, so let’s end it with this: Republicans, be excited for 2010 because you have a chance to take back control of Congress; Democrats, don’t fret because Obama will win in 2012 and likely take back a few congressional seats as well.

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