It's a Short List of Realistic GOP 2012 Hopefuls

Interesting prediction from RCP’s Scott Conroy:

As the last presidential cycle began to kick into high gear in December of 2006, the race was already becoming defined by the unusually intriguing backgrounds of the likely contenders. From a Sept. 11 icon to a war hero to the nation’s first serious female and African-American candidates, the 2008 Republican and Democratic primary battles were shaping up as a contest of big personalities and fascinating life stories.

But as the 2012 Republican primary season begins to take shape more slowly, early indications suggest a race that may be defined by more prosaic questions of competence and proven accomplishments.

A “competence primary,” he calls it. Well, that should thin out the herd pretty quickly. All snark aside, let’s put on our thinking caps and see how Conroy’s prediction might apply.

First off, I think we can safely eliminate any sitting Senator or Congresscritter. An institution so universally loathed for its wind-sucking incompetence is unlikely to provide the nominee of a competence primary. So go on and say buh-bye to my two favorite House members, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. Although either one would make a tremendous Veep selection in a “competence general election.” That also rules out Michele Bachmann, which is fine with me. She’s no Sharron Angle, but her firebrand role is best played in the House, I think.

On the Senate side, the pickings are even slimmer — and that’s probably a good thing. Remember what happened the last time the GOP nominated a sitting Senator? And we’ll be cleaning up the wreckage of Obama’s all-too-sudden promotion for generations. Rubio? Too young. Brown? Too liberal. A bunch of Republican senators have already tried and failed to get the GOP nod — and that, I think, violates Conroy’s competence prediction. And the rest are just too damn “senatorial” to be palatable.

Been out of office a while? Then you’re out of luck. Sorry, Newt and Sarah and Mitt and Mike — but selling lots of books and doing lots of talking heads shows isn’t what the public wants right now, if Conroy is right. We don’t want to see how you perform in Iowa next winter; we want to see how you perform in office right now.

And that leaves us with the Republican governors. And if I had to put money down right now, I’d bet that the next GOP presidential nominee right now sleeps in a governor’s mansion — somewhere. Which one? Hah. If I were that smart, I would be putting money down, and I’d also be fabulously wealthy. But we can narrow it down some.

None of the incoming Republican governors will have the time to demonstrate enough competence before the campaign begins in earnest. Nor will they have the time or money or exposure to campaign effectively. So we need a sitting, or just retired, GOP governor known for competence.

Riley, Parnell, Rell, Perdue, Lingle, Otter, Heineman, Gibbons, Carcieri, Rounds, Herbert, and Douglas aren’t much known outside their home states for competence or anything else. Scratch’em all. Brewer? Too controversial for the general election. Perry? I said last year that his “little joke” about seceding from the Union automatically disqualifies him from the Oval Office, and I still believe that. It’s a shame, too — he’s been a pretty good governor, otherwise. I’m leaving out Haley Barbour, too, for no reason other than that’s what my gut tells me.

So we’re left with Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell. If you have an extra $100 lying around this holiday season, you might think about going over to Intrade and plopping down 20 bucks on each of them. This early, the return could be very nice — and not just on the winning bet.

CORRECTED: Do not ask me how Sanford slipped through the screen on the first go around. But as Jimmie Bise correctly pointed out, his “Argentinian Adventure” eliminates him from consideration.