Archives: Early contenders for 2012 Republican presidential nomination bring strengths, weaknesses

Originally published in April 2011
Simon Nguyen

The Iowa caucuses are still 9 months away, but the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has already started in earnest. Within the last two months, several notable Republicans including Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have formally entered the race. At the same time, prospective candidates like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are positioning themselves for a possible presidential run. Here are the early contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination.

1. Donald Trump
The real estate mogul is the star man in the early going of the Republican presidential race. While Trump has yet to formally enter the race, he has been making appearances on various news channels as well as attending key conservative conferences such as the CPAC. With the current crop of Republican candidates lacking serious star power, a Donald Trump’s candidacy will energize the GOP race and raise its profile. However, Trump’s liberal past could come back and haunt him in the primary.

2. Mitt Romney
The former Massachusetts governor is considered by many as the best GOP candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012. The Michigan native has been quietly building up organization, establishing political relationships, and raising funds. Romney is also the most qualified among the early contenders, having served a full term as a governor of a big state and finished third in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. Moreover, his robust business background lends him credibility when speaking on economic issues.

3. Sarah Palin
When the former vice presidential candidate does decide to join the race for the 2012 GOP nomination, she will immediately become one of the major contenders. Despite a recent drop in favorability rating, Sarah Palin remains hugely popular in the Republican Party with 58% of GOP voters viewing her positively. Being a polarizing figure, her electability will undoubtedly come under the microscope in the primary. As Palin’s political relevance continues to fade, 2012 is likely her best shot at winning the presidency.

4. Tim Pawlenty
The 2-term governor of Minnesota is a rising star in the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, Pawlenty was seriously considered for the Republican vice presidential nod. The father of two is known for his moderate stances, which won’t win him favor with conservatives and tea partiers. Pawlenty announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on March 21.

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