I like to be brutally honest about certain things. It saves me time and effort.
My opinions in handicapping the 2012 Presidential Race will not make certain people happy.
(I'm prepared for the rage of the Paulistas...)
But let's start with one simple fact.
There are only about ten people who can be the next President of the United States.
And we know who 7 or 8 of them are, already. But, there are a few we don't know.
And that is the exciting part. It is possible the next President may be someone we aren't even talking about right now. Barack Obama looked like a real longshot against Hillary Clinton in 2008. But good luck and fortune rolled his way.
History can be funny like that, sometimes.
The overall favorite in 2012 is the current President, Barack Obama.
With the bully pulpit and almost unlimited television exposure, he will be difficult to beat.
If the economy recovers, and things start getting better, he will be almost impossible to beat.
However, Obamas lack of experience and poor decisions are heading this country into a dangerous area of staggering deficits, heavy job losses and over-reliance on foreign oil.
He just might end up being Jimmy Carter, part II.
I'm surprised that no big GOP names have announced against him yet.
THE GOP TOP 4: Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Paul
There is a clear distinction between the top 4 candidates for the Republicans and the others. These are candidates who have already run in a national race before, and are well known by the voters. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee actually won several contests in the 2008 Republican Presidential primaries, and if they choose to run, they will be the favorites in those states again. Congressman Ron Paul and his Paulistas will get him into the race, but much like in 2008, he will have a bunch of fourth and fifth place finishes, and he will not win the nomination.
All three of these men are tainted by the same stigma: They couldn't beat John McCain.
How could voters ever expect them to beat Barack Obama?
Romney is also damaged by the stink over "Romneycare", and I expect it to kill his chances. I think he will finish in the top 3 in the race, but I don't expect him to win. Huckabee actually has been expressing reservations about the cost of the 2012 campaign, and he has also mentioned how happy he is with his current set up at Fox right now. In a surprise move, I expect him to announce that he isn't going to run.
Sarah Palin is the most charismatic and instantly recognizable figure in the Republican Party right now.
However, she does have her critics, and it is historically difficult for a woman to achieve high elected office.
But Sarah Palin is fearless, and she will run for President and drive many contestants out of the race immediately. In fact, after the results in Iowa and New Hampshire, there will probably be less than five people left. Sarah will be one of them.
WAITING IN THE WINGS: Barbour, Bush, Christie, Daniels, Gingrich, Perry, Pawlenty
There is a long list of former and current Governors who are waiting to see what will happen in the next few months. Some of them will enter the race, some of them will come close, but drop out at the last minute.
Governors bring executive experience and also an established fundraising base to the contests.
Chris Christie of New Jersey seems to be a rising star in the party who believes in his chances to win the White House, but he also says he doesn't feel as if he's ready. Rick Perry of Texas is my personal favorite, and he has been Governor of Texas for 10 years, so I think, career-wise, there is nowhere else for him to go except to run for President. At CPAC, I met several big GOP players at the dinner where Mitch Daniels spoke, but they weren't talking about Daniels. They were talking about Jeb Bush. Smart, talented, a Spanish speaker, and a former Governor of Florida... they all wanted him to run. Some people are afraid that a third Bush would be an overdose for the American voting public. I don't. I think Bush is a legitimate threat to win it all if he runs.
THE LONGSHOTS: Bachmann, Bloomberg, De Mint, Johnson, Rubio, Santorum, Trump
I purposely didn't list people like Herman Cain, Jon Huntsmann, and John Bolton. While they might be interesting, you generally have to run for and win an elected office before running for President. They didn't, and as such, they have zero chance.
Bloomberg and Trump are businessmen who are threatening to spend their own fortunes running for President. However, I think they know that they probably wouldn't win, and that it would be a bad idea to waste that type of money. Trump won't run. He just likes the attention.
Johnson and Santorum are not good candidates. They won't beat all the people in front of them.
I love Michele Bachmann and Jim De Mint for their solid Conservatism, but in a crowded field, it will be difficult for them to get past the bigger, established names in this race.
Marco Rubio is a real wild card for 2012. Even though he has shown no interest in running, some pretty big names in Conservative circles have been urging him to run. If he does, he immediately jumps into the top 10.
In fact, Marco Rubio would help lock up Floridas electoral votes for the GOP.
That would be a serious blow to Barack Obamas chances.
ODDS ON BEING ELECTED PRESIDENT IN 2012
Barack Obama 6/5
Mitt Romney 3/1
Chris Christie 4/1
Mike Huckabee 5/1
Sarah Palin 7/1
Rick Perry 10/1
Jeb Bush 10/1
Marco Rubio 12/1
Tim Pawlenty 15/1
Ron Paul 15/1
Newt Gingrich 20/1
Haley Barbour 20/1
Mitch Daniels 30/1
Michele Bachmann 30/1
Jim De Mint 35/1