Here's the latest:
Mitt Romney-Almost certainly running for President. He's willing to spend quite a bit of money and has extensive contacts throughout the country who are willing to support him. He'll get plenty of primary votes but he'll have to deal with the albatross of the Massachusetts state health care system that he helped put in place in 2006. As it continues to produce horror stories and high rates, Republican primary voters are going to turn away from a man who presents himself as a conservative. Moreover, his Mormonism will cause a lot of evangelical GOP voters to look for an alternative.
Sarah Palin-The hero of conservatives nationwide, she'll get a lot of primary votes and in a winner-take-all set of primaries (if you get the most votes you get all the delegates in that state-the Democrats have a much different system) she'll do well. Especially if there are a lot of people who run against her will probably help her candidacy as they'll split the remaining votes. She'll get a big block of votes (probably at least 35%) which would be a formidable obstacle to any other Republican in the race. I don't know if she could beat the President but if the economy continues to go south she'd have a strong shot.
Newt Gingrich-He certainly sounds like he's running. He's been around a long time and has accumulated a lot of debts from Republicans around the country. Thoughtful, articulate and fairly conservative, he would probably get a large bloc of votes. He's got personal and political skeletons that will haunt him. His divorce while his wife had cancer will, I'm sure, be brought up in a contestable primary. Moroever, a lot of Republicans and Democrats just don't like him-especially with a public that is in such an anti-incumbent mood.
Heley Barbour-The governor of Mississippi will be the choice of some social conservatives. As the former head of the national party he's got contacts throughout the nation but I doubt he can run on a national stage. The pudgy southerner doesn't translate well on camera and would have a hard time finding enough votes in what promises to be a very crowded primary.
Mitch Daniels-If Mitch runs he'll probably win the primary and the presidency. He's done well in Indiana and is acceptable to most voters in the GOP. He'd put the Midwest in play and might be able to carry states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I don't think he really wants to run and his wife certainly doesn't want to go through a national campaign. They actually got divorced and then remarried so they've had a bit of a tough time. He looks like a nerd which I think could actually help him in a year that doesn't like slick politicians. Again, if he decided to run I think many of the players in the GOP would instantly side with him to try to clear the field so he could have straight path to the prsidency.
John Thune-The junior Senator from South Dakota is a telegenic, articulate conservative who will win his reelection this year by 30 points or more. I don't think he can muscle his way in to a crowded primary and he comes from a state that doesn't help the GOP much but he wouldn't be a bad choice for VP.
Tim Pawlenty-The governor of Minnesota is almost a lock to run. He's had two fairly successful terms as governor of a blue state. He calls himself a "WalMart conservative" and has fairly humble roots. He and his wife would make a formidable pair as she is an experienced attorney and, I believe, wants him to jump into the race. Smart and very funny he would have a shot at winning the primary and would put Minnesota and Wisconsin in play-two states that haven't voted for a Republican president in a long time.
Mike Huckabee-The former governor of Arkansas is probably going to run. He's a strict social conservative but a tax raiser and he'll be attacked as soft on crime. His approval to release a hardened felon years ago has led to some violent killings on the West Coast and you can be sure that will be brought up in a primary. If I were the President I'd want to face Huckabee, Romney or Palin as they all have subtantial and visible weaknesses.
Rick Santorum-The ultimate of long shots, this former Pennsylvania senator is already working hard in Iowa to get a higher name ID. He served in the House and Senate and was a dependable conservative and served in the GOP Senate leadership while he was there. A devout Catholic, he's an articulate and conscientious politician. Nobody is looking at him but I actually think he'd be a very good candidate-and certainly one for VP.
For all of you hoping Paul Ryan is running don't get your hopes up. He's only 40 and has little kids. I actually spoke to him and he's focused on taking over the Budget Committee when the GOP takes over the House next January. Certainly he'll be in the mix later on and certainly he should consider taking the VP slot in 2012-there's very few people that can defend the GOP like he can. There are only a handful of transparent politicians who can can make complex issues understandable as he can and would be a tremendous asset to whomever wins the GOP nod in 2012.
What about President Obama? The first thing he'll have to do is kick Joe Biden off his team before he does any additional damage to the Administration. If Obama is smart, he'd ask Hillary to come aboard as VP to try to save his Presidency and get reelected. If he doesn't and the economy continues to tank he'll probably get beaten badly (and his party will take a pounding in Congress) if the GOP puts up an acceptable candidate. If he isn't careful, Hillary may just run for the Democratic nomination herself and challenge him directly, especially if she and her husband determine that he's probably not going to win. It would probably be her last shot as she's getting older and she'll take it if she thinks the timing is right. That would be a primary to watch!