Good News: The 2012 Campaign for President Is Underway

The presidential election results are barely in and some Senate seats are still undecided. Americans have voted for "change," even if all of those who did so may not quite understand the full consequences of "change." But many are already looking ahead to 2012. We can now begin to consider those names that might appear on our 2012 ballots -- and offer some advice to improve their prospects.

The contest for 2012 really began before the 2008 contest was completed. On the Democratic side it was clear that, despite her comments to the contrary, Senator Hillary Clinton almost assuredly would have considered another run in '12 if Barack Obama had been unsuccessful.

With his success and the likelihood that Obama will not have a cataclysmic first term with a Democratic Congress, it is likely that the political left who put him in the White House will, with a wave of adulation and applause, ensure that Obama is once again the Democrat nominee in 2012.

Republicans have shown a tendency to go back to the bench looking for the next star player after the team captain retires or ends up in the infirmary. It is with an understanding of history from the contenders that we saw the 2012 race for the White House on the Republican side begin almost before the dust settled on this year's primary.

Mike Huckabee, who continued his quest for the nomination long after it appeared dead, not only started a PAC but signed a contract with Fox News that has allowed him to hold mini presidential-style town hall meetings right over the air.

To be successful in a potential 2012 nomination fight Huckabee will need to keep himself in front of the faithful, mainly using the airways as he did in the primaries. Still, that may not be enough for Huckabee to outrun what many in the GOP found to be a liberal economic record as governor, when he raised some taxes and offered education benefits to the children of non-citizens. He will need to more clearly articulate a conservative economic agenda and improve his national security credentials.

Mitt Romney has been a constant presence on the campaign trail this fall, talking up John McCain's positive traits while appearing knowledgeable and presidential on the screen. Looking back, it is easy to see reasons why Romney may have stumbled in the nomination contest. Romney ran away from his governorship in Massachusetts, assailing the state as liberal. What he did not do was spend as much time pointing out his accomplishments in the state. He appeared stiff on the trail, rarely showing a personal side.

For the future, Romney should spend even more time with local community leaders of early states, allowing them to get to know the man as much as they now know the politician. He should offer fewer platitudes on conservative issues. Instead, he should give more personal insights on his political philosophy and concrete examples of where he stands from his time as governor, when he ran the Olympics. If voters thought they knew the real Romney he might have a leg up in the next primary season.

Governor Sarah Palin came out of nowhere, at least to some in the national media who were caught sleeping, with her pick by McCain for the vice-presidential slot. As running mate, she was allowed to sweep up valuable airtime from other GOP surrogates including Huckabee and Romney. She delivered a solid overall performance, especially at the convention and debate, despite her tendency to mull over questions from the media after she already started answering them. Her lengthy answers to questions allowed creative media staff in editing suites to make her look less intelligent than she clearly is.

Palin will need to hone her media skills, learning that one always needs to be cautious around those that buy ink by the barrel or, in this day and age, own racks of servers or recording devices. Short answers result in more accurate coverage even with a documented media bias. She will need to demonstrate that she has a wide understanding of the issues and a broad record of accomplishments before the next contest begins.

Add to these names candidate X. That is someone who comes from behind the curtain to emerge as the GOP's answer to Obama.

Although history has shown that Republicans rarely go to those who have yet to play the game, an outsider who did not participate in the 2008 contest may be exactly where the party goes.

Governor Bobby Jindal appears to be an obvious choice, if not in 2012 then in 2016. Jindal is one of the most intelligent political figures in our nation, a fact to which anyone who has met him will attest. He is articulate and rarely gets off message. He has a true record of accomplishment on both the state and federal level prior to his time as governor. And, although he had a slight misstep over the Louisiana legislature's push to give itself a pay raise this year, he already has a record of, among other things, successfully implementing needed ethics reforms. He only needs to raise his national profile to be in position for a future presidential run.

There will be other names that rise to the top as the 2012 nominating contests approach. Pay close attention to who is speaking at small county gatherings and the upcoming Iowa and New Hampshire annual Republican Lincoln Day dinners and we will get a window into who is mulling a run.

Regardless of who emerges from the Republican locker room, they will face a President Obama who will either have delivered on the agenda many Americans who voted for him thought they heard in his speeches or a far left agenda (seen in aspects of his past voting record and out of the Congressional Democrats' playbook).

The size of Obama's rhetoric vs. reality divide will likely dictate the fortunes of the future GOP 2012 nominee.