The 2012 presidential race sort-of officially begins Thursday at Navy Pier, when Barack Obama hosts a fundraiser with wait-he’s-not-the-MVP-yet? Bulls guard Derrick Rose. Tickets are $250, the first step towards what advisors are saying is a one billion dollar goal, or about a third more than the $745 million raised in 2008.
On one hand, that’s a lot of money to raise in a crap economy from a less than enthusiastic base. On the other hand… could anyone beat him? With a couple exceptions, his likely competition is less than promising.
Tim Pawlenty (10-1): Former governor of Minnesota, the first Republican to form an presidential exploratory committee.
Pros: Was the Republican governor of a purple state. Genial. Relatively low profile (see also Cons). Wonky, but not intimidatingly so. Not a bottom-feeding birther. Can probably be counted on to run a competent campaign. Appealing personal story.
Cons: To know him may not be to love him. Fiscal record as governor will raise flags for both centrists and conservatives; reliance on taboo stimulus funds puts him in a bind. Has already given the worst speech of the 2012 campaign cycle:
Pawlenty also worked hard to relate to the college audience. Maybe too hard. He referred to Charlie Sheen: “Now we may not in this room have tiger blood like he does. But we do have something else in common with him. There’s going to be a lot of winning on the Republican side.”
Wild Card: He’s the Michael Bay of centrist Republican campaign advertising.
Mitt Romney (3-1): Former Massachusetts governor, the second Republican to have an exploratory committee.
Pros: Looks like the love child of Gary Cooper and a bald eagle. Record as moderate Republican governor of a historically Democratic state will be appealing to fans of centrism, "civility," might even have some appeal to disaffected conservative Dems.
Cons: Terrified of his own moderate shadow. Attempts to burnish his reputation as a doctrinaire conservative have led to much awkwardness and hilarity; he seems as comfortable in a tea party guise as a dog does in a holiday sweater. Only he seems less aware of it than the dog.
Wild Card: Romney : Mormons :: JFK : Catholics.
Mike Huckabee (5-1): Former governor of Arkansas.
Pros: Far and away best public speaker of the lot. Not immoderate. Very Christian.
Cons: Very conservative Christian. Not not-immoderate.
Wild Card: Maurice Clemmons.
Michele Bachmann (75-1): Representative from Minnesota (St. Cloud, St. Paul suburbs), founder of House Tea Party caucus.
Pros: Strong base, exceptional fundraising prowess for a House member.
Cons: Most apt comparisons: Sarah Palin, Bob Dornan.
Wild Card: Public speaking.
Donald Trump (1,000,000-1; no, I don’t care that he’s polling well): Celebrity developer, television host.
Pros: A rich narcissist would probably understand what’s going on in America just as well as anyone.
Cons: Not actually running for president.
Wild Card: Seriously, he’s not actually running for president, right?
Sarah Palin: See Donald Trump.
Rick Santorum (1,000-1): I think he works for Fox News or something.
Pros: Um… more name recognition than Tim Pawlenty?
Cons: I follow politics pretty closely, and I have no idea what Santorum does now.
Wild Card: Dan Savage.
Mitch Daniels (100-1): Governor of Indiana.
Cons: OMB director for George W. Bush. The Republican equivalent of Mike Dukakis.
Wild Card: None; more boring than Pawlenty. May not actually run.
Haley Barbour (500-1): Governor of Mississippi.
Pros: Well-connected former lobbyist.
Cons: Well-connected former lobbyist.
Wild Card: Nathan Bedford Forrest.