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Politics / CAMPAIGN 2012

Let's Get This Party Started

The candidates are arriving fashionably late, but are the voters' eyes still wandering?

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee(Richard A. Bloom)

photo of Beth Reinhard
May 13, 2011

Some of the fashionably late Republican presidential candidates are finally showing up, though the race still has the feel of a cocktail party jammed with people looking over their shoulders for a better catch.

Fox News announced that former-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will reveal his presidential intentions Saturday night on the show he does for the network, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., began polling supporters to see whether they think she should run for higher office. Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich rolled out his first major economic program Friday morning at the same hour Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, formally launched his third presidential campaign on ABC's Good Morning America.

Wait, there's more:

 

Mitt Romney gave the first major policy speech of his campaign on Thursday. Later that evening, in what could be the prequel to a campaign launch, Mitch Daniels on Thursday introduced his wife as the keynote speaker at a major Republican gathering.

Perhaps the fence-sitters were listening last week when Tim Pawlenty—the only heavyweight contender to take part in the first GOP debate last week—roared that it’s time to “get off the sidelines.’’

“The field is getting closer to being set,’’ said David Kochel, a top Romney adviser in Iowa who locked down his candidate’s first appearance this year for May 27. “Some candidates who have been laying low are starting to pick up the pace.’’

Still, the race has not gelled. Just look at the hype surrounding the speech by Daniels’ wife, even though she didn't give any clues to her husband’s plans. Every move by Jon Huntsman, who just returned from his ambassadorship in China, is being similarly scrutinized.

Still unsatisfied, several big Iowa donors are slated to trek to New Jersey on May 31 to beg Gov. Chris Christie to consider the presidential race, according to the Associated Press.

All of the handwringing is frustrating some Republicans, who fret that President Obama—now with Osama bin Laden’s death under his belt—is getting a head start. They are ready to crash the figurative GOP cocktail party, seize control of the turntable, and spin Stephen Stills’ 1970 hit "Love the One You’re With."

Ranted National Review Online contributing editor Stanley Kurtz this week, in a column praising Pawlenty as a perfectly respectable presidential candidate: “Wake up, Republicans! The answer to your prayers is already running. And if all the pundits would just stop fantasizing for a minute about everyone who’s not running, maybe they’d pay more attention to who actually is.”

Rick Santorum, for one, made his 16th trip to New Hampshire on Thursday. Pawlenty is stumping in Iowa on Friday and Saturday.  And Gingrich heads to Iowa next week for a major campaign swing.

Signs seem to point to Huntsman jumping into the race. Since his first post-China public appearance in South Carolina on Sunday, he has huddled with donors in Florida and let word slip of a four-day trip to New Hampshire later this month.

It's definitely progress since the anemic GOP debate in South Carolina last week. By June 7, when the next primary debate will be televised from New Hampshire, voters may finally see a crowded stage.

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