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Magazine / Political Insiders Poll

Political Insiders Poll: Who is Most Likely to Capture the 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination?

Rating the White House hopefuls.

June 2, 2011

Rank the top five candidates, 1 through 5, in terms of who you think is most likely to capture the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Republicans (103 votes)

Candidate and Rank: 1. Mitt Romney
Index Score: 88

Candidate and Rank: 2. Tim Pawlenty
Index Score: 76


Candidate and Rank: 3. Jon Huntsman
Index Score: 35

Candidate and Rank: 4. Rick Perry
Index Score: 26

Candidate and Rank: 5. Michele Bachmann
Index Score: 13

Candidate and Rank: 5. Sarah Palin
Index Score: 13

Candidate and Rank: 7. Newt Gingrich
Index Score: 12

Candidate and Rank: 8. Chris Christie
Index Score: 11

Candidate and Rank: 9. Herman Cain
Index Score: 7

Candidate and Rank: 10. Rudy Giuliani
Index Score: 4


Mitt Romney

“Based on GOP history: The guy closest last time gets the nomination this time.”

“We seem unable to get beyond putting the front-runner at the head of the ticket, even if the candidate is as weak as this one is—simply amazing.”

“A very well thought-out opening to his campaign that will benefit him down the road.”

“Campaigns from the front porch while rivals can’t get in gear. Last six months have gone better than he could have hoped.”

“Daniels’s departure moves Mitt closer to [GOP] establishment support. Why have so many Romney 2008 backers defected this time?”

“GOP primary voters have a precedent for handing the nomination to the guy who has been waiting the longest. Romney fills that bill but won’t win the general.”

“Has a political and fundraising machine unmatched by any other candidate.”

“I wish there were five top candidates. Alas, it’s really a choice between Mitt and Tim. Thank heavens we have a Senate takeover to get excited about.”

“It’s his to lose at this point with his financial and organizational advantages, but health care remains a dark cloud over him.”

“Race is Mitt Romney’s to lose, and Team Romney is highly capable of losing it.”

“Looking a lot like John Kerry. He got nominated.”


Tim Pawlenty

“The most conservative candidate who could get elected: Sooner or later, Republicans will see it, and he’ll win the nod.”

“Because I don’t see Romney getting it done. Pawlenty doesn’t have to be flashy. He has to be himself: a capable, conservative Midwestern governor.”

“The default ‘conservative-who-can-win’ alternative to Romney. But which state gives him an early victory?”

“Needs Romney to implode and then must grab the space left vacant, but he has to survive long enough to see if that happens.”

“This pathetic party will nominate the person who is the least objectionable, which is Pawlenty unless someone steps into the breach.”

“Quietly hanging around and building a good team.”

“The fight to watch is who becomes the ‘not-Romney’ candidate—either a mainstream candidate, T-paw, or fringe candidate, Bachmann.”

“He is the least unacceptable candidate—a good choice to lose respectably to Obama.”


Jon Huntsman

“Unless our party nominates someone whose tone is civil and respectful, we have no chance in a general election.”

“With fewer and fewer mainstream alternatives to Romney, his odds of filling that slot rise.”

“In the mini-primary within a primary, he’s behind T-paw organizationally, but his ability to self-fund may give him longer legs.”

“Will be the national media darling but will ultimately go nowhere fast.”


Rick Perry

“He brings all the positives of Sarah Palin and none of the negatives.”

“Too bad GWB was governor of Texas.”

“If he got in, he’d immediately coalesce the tea party energy and be a major force.”

“Perry has emerged as the newest noncandidate to stir the hearts of those uninspired by Romney and Pawlenty.”


Michele Bachmann

“If she catches fire in Iowa, survives South Carolina, and hangs around, she is going to be both formidable and a player for years to come.”

“Her foster-parenting story and lack of family embarrassment makes her a competitor for the Christian vote.”

“ ‘Crazy’ sells in primaries, and she has plenty to put up for sale.”


Sarah Palin

“Her celebrity is a real advantage in fundraising and media coverage. She can be the Christian candidate, which gives her a formidable base.”

“Electable? No. Nominatable? Sadly, yes.”


Newt Gingrich

“Lightning could strike, but very doubtful.”

“But if he gets it, we are really desperate!”


Chris Christie

“It is really a two-man race between Romney and Pawlenty unless Christie gets in.”

“But it’s hard to walk back his own statement that ‘I’m not ready to be president.’ ”


Herman Cain

“His boldness and blackness excites Republicans. Could be the outsider who does surprisingly well. Has some money of his own, too.”


Rudy Giuliani

“Learned a lot from 2007-08 about national campaigns and issues. No one else has gravitas and heroism on their side.”


Methodology: In tallying the rankings, a first-place vote was worth 5 points, a second-place vote was worth 4 points, and so on. The Insiders index reflects the percentage of points that each contender received out of the maximum possible. For example, Mitt Romney scored an index rating of 88, meaning he received 88 percent of the possible 515 points, the number he would have if all 103 participants in the poll this week had ranked him first.

Also receiving an index rating: Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush, 2 percent each; Ron Paul and Paul Ryan, 1 percent each; Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and “none,” less than 1 percent each.



Who would be the Republicans’ strongest presidential nominee in 2012?

Democrats (100 votes)

June 2011: 27%
Jan. 2011: 24%

June 2011: 25%
Jan. 2011: 1%

June 2011: 20%
Jan. 2011: 9%

June 2011: 11%
Jan. 2011:  2%

June 2011: 5%
Jan. 2011: 4%

Also receiving votes: Rudy Giuliani, “someone not in the race,” Sarah Palin, 2% each; Michael Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, Tom Coburn, Bobby Jindal, David Petraeus, Colin Powell, 1% each.



“Romney remains the strongest because frankly he looks presidential, knows business, and, out of the bunch, sounds reasonable. If America can elect JFK and Obama, the tent is big enough to fit a Mormon in it.”

“Republican establishment will need to grit their teeth and recognize it’s Romney or four more years of Obama.”

“He’s the only one with economic credentials.”

“He’s relatively road-tested, compared with most of the list. That’s useful to him as a candidate and may be a strong selling point in the campaign.”

“The strongest nominee may have the hardest time getting the nomination. Weak list, though: Looks like the [college prep] English class list at a small suburban high school.”

“Mitt Romney is their best alternative—they don’t have a good alternative.”



“He is the best natural pol, and he can appeal to moderates. Fortunately for President Obama, I don’t think he can make it through the primaries.”

“Although I think his time with Obama will stop him from being nominated, I think Huntsman would appeal to independents and conservative Democrats and could beat Obama.”

“All the positives of Romney without Massachusetts health care, and strong diplomatic credentials. Only downside is how his religion can break through the GOP Southern primary calendar.”

“Serving as Obama’s ambassador to China would be a big plus in the general.”

“He seems to be staking out ground as the ‘most electable,’ meaning least ideological. That may be bad primary politics, but it’s smart positioning if they intend to actually try to beat Obama.”

“He is a charismatic candidate who has yet to have his ideas hijacked by the tea party.”



“Has a story to tell, both as a middle-class upbringing and as a successful governor; light baggage.”

“Comes from a pure swing state; has potential appeal throughout the battleground Midwest states; can run as a D.C. outsider.”

“In a close election, Pawlenty would probably carry Minnesota. Romney can’t say the same about Massachusetts.”

“He’s bland enough so he won’t distract voters from the main GOP issue, which is the economy.”

“But it’s a bit like choosing between Larry, Curly, and Mo. This is by far the worst presidential field in my lifetime—Obama is leading a charmed life.”



“He’s strong, decisive, and eminently likable, especially with swing and independents voters who will decide the election.”

“Like a Democrat from the South, [he’s] a Republican from the Northeast who is not Mitt Romney, knows how to get things done in complex political environments, and [knows] how to frame issues in ways that voters can relate to and care about.”

“Christie gets Democratic votes and can help in Pennsylvania and some other blue states. He could get the nomination if he can placate the Hezbollah wing of the GOP enough by continuing to move to the right on social issues.”



“If someone new gets in late, he or she needs to have a strong donor base and come with a big state excited to get behind him, and that would be Texas.”



“May not enter the race, and even if he does, he will have a hard time convincing conservatives to win the nomination, but that is exactly why he would be the strongest nominee.”


Someone not in the race

“The person to look out for is the generic Republican—someone who isn’t yet in the race. The current group is very weak.”



“Hate to say it, but the media’s obsession with her is remarkable. Anyone else getting D.C. elite reporters to chase them through New Jersey?”


Democratic Political Insiders Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bob Maloney, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O’Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Ed Rendell, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Wendy Sherman, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Katrina Swett, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.

GOP Political Insiders Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Steve Duprey, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lozmbardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Tom Wilson, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.


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