With March Madness and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments approaching, a favorite diversion of mine is ESPN’s Bracketology — a constantly updated guessing of which teams are in, which ones are out, and which ones are on the “bubble”.
Maybe some enterprising sort will do the same for the Republican presidential field — start a list of who’s in for 2012, who’s out and who’s on the fence — and, for kicks, maybe pair them off for strengths and weaknesses.
That’s kind of what Fred Barnes has done over at The Weekly Standard. He’s handicapped the field.
As usual, Barnes has an interesting take. It starts with the assumption that Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s primary romp over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (followed, presumably, by an easy win this fall), puts him in play as a possible contender in 2012. Fred’s reasoning:
“The case for him is pretty simple: Perry is perhaps the most successful governor in the country. Texas has been a job creation machine on his watch. Even in the current recession, Texas has suffered far less than most states. And, by the way, Perry has a tough, tested crew of political advisers who will come in handy if he runs.”
That’s a new wrinkle. But what stands out is Barnes’ interest in two Republicans whose status is less certain — Ohio’s John Kasich and California’s Meg Whitman. Both are running for governor. Both would have to pivot quickly and launch presidential runs (Barnes notes that Woodrow Wilson pulled if off — elected governor of New Jersey in 1910, then President in 1912) if they want to scoop up campaign talent and build organizations in early primary states.
Again, Barnes’ reasoning:
“What if Kasich quickly turned the Ohio economy around, and Whitman’s application of shock therapy to California’s out-of-control government spending and antibusiness climate showed significant signs of working? Again, unlikely. And they have to get elected in the first place, a hard task. But should they win, they’d be governors of big, important states, and at the very least, they’d be Republican stars and touted as future presidential candidates.”
So could Whitman pull this off — head to Sacramento, then head off to Iowa and New Hampshire (the graveyards of previous California guvs)?
If Whitman, in her first six months, brings the kind reform to Sacramento that has eluded California’s past six governors, she shouldn’t run for president. The job should go to her automatically, for she would be a true miracle worker.
Now, for a splash of cold water to the idea of Meg 2012. And that cold water is Mitt Romney, whose new book and heavy media profile make him look every inch the presidential candidate. It’s hard to imagine Whitman jumping into the 2012 field, thus backstabbing her old friend whom she supported in his last presidential run and whose aides populate her gubernatorial campaign.
But a Romney-Whitman ticket? To be continued after November . . .
btw, if you’re wondering how many horses Fred Barnes has at the starting gate, here goes (alphabetically):
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour . . . Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels . . . South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint . . . former House Speaker Newt Gingrich . . . former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee . . . Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal . . . Kasich . . . former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin . . . Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty . . . Texas Rep. Ron Paul . . . Perry . . . Romney . . . Whitman.
And that’s not including Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio and whoever else emerges between now and next year as a Republican rising star.
That’s 17 names. Now we know why the NCAA limits its field to 64 . . .