Larry Sabato surveys the 2012 contenders:
The GOP field is not set. The contenders are in various stages of undress as the strip tease proceeds. So we begin with a catch-all listing of those clearly running (such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty); those seriously toying with running (Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, etc.); those who might be persuaded to run (such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio); and those who are running but tilting at windmills (Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and so on). In total, we evaluate nineteen actual or potential candidates here.
There may be more to come. Somewhat inexplicably, Rudy Giuliani is ruminating about another White House bid, though he crashed and burned in 2008–and has the very same problems (such as liberal positions on social issues) for 2012. This time around, Rudy isn’t even assured of being in Tier 2. Reality will dawn at some point and the former New York City mayor will probably stay out. Several state governors, such as Rick Perry of Texas and Bob Riley of Alabama (who just left the executive mansion after eight years), are mentioned here and there, but so far no signs have emerged to suggest a serious effort. And let’s not forget about ex-Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana, who is toying with a candidacy though not by popular demand. He’s been out of office since his reelection defeat in 1991, but the fires of ambition are never extinguished for some politicians until the cold of the grave.
Here’s his take on Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.):
The new senator from Florida is much more likely to end up on the 2012 GOP ticket as vice president. It will be a shock if he is not on the eventual nominee’s shortlist. He’s got it all: high office from one of the premier swing mega–states, good looks and rhetorical flourish, and ethnic membership in arguably the most significant political group of the 21st century, Hispanics. Rubio is new to the national scene, but had a career as speaker of the state House of Representatives–no minor position. And after Barack Obama’s meteoric rise, Democrats would be in no position to question Rubio’s experience. However, similar to the circumstances facing Chris Christie, when you’re hot you’re hot, and it is difficult to keep the griddle warm. Will Rubio find a way to achieve quick prominence in the Senate, and decide the Republicans need him in order to defeat Obama in 2012? Once again, Obama has blazed the trail for very junior senators, so this is not as unthinkable as it once might have been.
Check Sabato’s full report here.