2012 Republican Party presidential nomination

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The Republican race to choose a candidate to challenge President Barack Obama clearly, firmly, and irrevocably proved, for everyone to see, that the Republicans are utterly batshit insane and need to be put down.

This was largely a clown show, with Mitt Romney, former 2008 candidate, as the frontrunner, and everyone else rising as alternatives shortly before crashing utterly. The race for all intents and purposes ended on April 10, 2012 when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign, finally making Mitt Romney the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

In to the end[edit]

Candidates who officially declared their candidacy or formed exploratory committees, but had an effectively zero chance of winning.

Ron Paul, official 109th Congress photo.jpg
Ron Paul
Age: 88
Representative from Texas' 14th District
Advantages: He has a very loyal base of support, particularly within the libertarian branch of the Tea Party. He's an anti-establishment candidate in an anti-establishment climate, who has remained relatively consistent in his political views (i.e. has not had the problem of criticizing Obama for doing things he praised Bush for doing, as he was critical of Bush all along). He came in a close second place in the Ames Iowa straw poll, finishing only 152 votes behind the winner. Much better known than in 2008.
Disadvantages: His loyal followers tend to scare the crap out of people. The highest office he's attained is Congressman (the last President to emerge from the House was Gerald Ford in 1974, Ford was never actually elected; Nixon named him Vice President in 1973), and he has accomplished little of note during his tenure. He is very old for a candidate — if elected, he would start his first term at roughly the same age Reagan, the oldest President, was when he completed his second. His libertarian stances are opposed by key components of the Republican Party — the pro-military wing opposes his foreign policy, the Christian Right is dead-set against his libertarian social views, and some of his more radical anti-regulatory stances would alienate some moderates if they became aware of them. His old newsletters published a number of... unfortunate articles under his watch, and he has a history of expressing sympathy for far-right fringe groups (the militia movement, neo-Confederates, et cetera). Despite the claims of his supporters, he creates the very definition of a wingnut. He is not going to win.

Minor candidates[edit]

The rest of the field; a bunch of long-shots who officially declared their candidacies but lacked both the resources and the media attention to be effective contenders.

Andy Martin
Age: 79
Perennial candidate without public office[1]
Advantages: He may garner a few votes from the the birther crowd.
Disadvantages: Racism, belligerence, inexperience, questionable sanity, lack of coherent policies. Relatively obscure and largely ignored, despite regular media stunts. All in all, a nut.
Jimmy McMillan Blue 2 2011 Shankbone.jpg
Jimmy McMillan
Age: 77
Perennial candidate from New York
Advantages: He's funny, he has an awesome beard, and he could appeal to urban moderates and liberals living in overpriced housing.
Disadvantages: He's a joke candidate (but didn't they say the same thing about Bush 43?) with only a single issue ("the rent's too damn high!") that somehow became a catchphrase in some quarters.
Roy Moore
Age: 77
Alabama judge (best known for being dismissed when he wouldn't remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse)
Advantages: Might be popular with the extreme fringe of Dominionists.
Disadvantages: He was removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court, and he failed twice in getting his party's nomination for the governorship of his home state —someone who's too far right for Alabama Republicans won't be popular in the rest of the country.

Dropped out[edit]

Candidates who dropped out.

Michele Bachmann by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Michele Bachmann
Age: 68
Representative from Minnesota's 6th District
Advantages: She's a Tea Party darling and semi-official leader of the respective faction within the Republican caucus, and is comparatively well-known for a Congressman. Since Palin isn't running, she could galvanize teabaggers and social conservatives. She had strong fundraising in her 2010 re-election campaign. She has performed far beyond expectations in debates so far, and won the Ames Iowa straw poll.[2]
Disadvantages: She's distinctly crazy even by Republican standards. She's gaffe-prone and has a history of spectacularly ignorant and inflammatory statements, and has no establishment support (as evidenced in her failed bid for a House leadership position). She struggles in a field crowded with right-wingers and religious conservatives. She has never successfully sponsored any legislation, despite three terms in the House. Conventional wisdom holds that Representatives have a much harder road to nomination compared to Governors or Senators, given that nobody has gone directly from the House to the White House in over 130 years.

She suspended her campaign on January 4th, 2012, after a "dismal" showing in the Iowa caucus.[3]

Herman Cain at Hannity - Boortz event-1b.jpg
Herman Cain
Age: 78
CEO, radio talk-show host
Advantages: Got an early start by being the first person to form an exploratory comittee.[4] He is African-American, which makes it easier to deflect accusations that the Tea Party is racist. He has a great deal of arguably successful business experience, a distinct plus to an electorate concerned with the economy above all. He's had a recent surge in polls and name recognition, and may be an alternative to the moderate Romney.
Disadvantages: Every other thing about him. He's never held public office, he has little name recognition, he writes columns for WorldNetDaily, and wants to base his presidency on Chile 30 years ago.[5] His "9-9-9" tax plan has not survived serious scrutiny, as even conservative economists recognize that it would be a massive tax hike for the poor and middle class, massive tax cut for the rich and corporations, and would be impossible to get through Congress in any case. Plus, he makes Anthony Weiner look like an expert at handling sex scandals. Dropped out December 3rd, 2011.[6]
Newt Gingrich.jpg
Newt Gingrich
Age: 80
Former Speaker of the House and Representative from Georgia's 6th District
Advantages: He's always been more of an "ideas man" than a platitude shouter (which could actually work to his disadvantage). He has high name recognition, having been the architect of the 1994 Republican takeover of the House, and he can take some credit for the "fiscal discipline" and budget surpluses of the 1990s. He hasn't had to worry about fundraising thanks to friend Sheldon Adelson, who has written him two checks for $10 million when the money was required.

He had a surge in polls in November 2011,[7] but has since slipped to 3rd.[8]

Disadvantages: He has had high disapproval numbers and a fair bit of baggage from when he was Speaker, including some major issues with conservative Christians, women, and many people in general over his multiple divorces and the pretty nasty circumstances under which they happened. He has not held an elected office outside of Georgia's 6th (though Speaker of the House is a very important office), and his greatest successes were more than a decade ago. Talk radio host Michael Savage offered Gingrich $1 million to drop out. His appeal to moderates has been pretty much spoiled, as he's been into the culture wars for decades and has appealed to the Tea Party on various issues. He's as gaffe-prone as Palin or Bachmann in his own way (orphanages![9]), and at one point almost his entire campaign staff has resigned en masse. There are no debates left, a venue that has almost single-handedly given Gingrich what support he managed to garner.

Gingrich has run out of money completely, and has announced his campaign will be "right-sized." This effectively means an end to it until the convention. One of his campaign's checks (which was for only 500 dollars) to Utah bounced. He no longer has any assigned reporters. He suspended his campaign on May 1, 2012.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman.jpg
Jon Huntsman
Age: 64
Former Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah
Advantages: He has good foreign policy experience. In addition to being the former Ambassador to China, he was also Ambassador to Singapore under Bush Senior. He's moderate on social issues, and took progressive stances on climate change, gay rights and immigration during his time as governor, which could attract a lot of independents. The media loves him.
Disadvantages: This election is not being decided on foreign policy. His social liberalism and his being appointed to a senior ambassadorial role by Obama will undoubtedly hurt his standing with the Tea Party, while his connections with China may put off a few crazies. Being the son of a billionaire doesn't exactly scream "man of the people." Being a Mormon will hurt him among conservative Christian voters. Quit on January 16, 2012.[10]
Fred Karger by IowaPolitics.jpg
Fred Karger
Age: 74
Political consultant
Advantages: None.
Disadvantages: He's an openly gay Republican. Need we say more? Quit June 29, 2012.[11]
Thaddeus McCotter by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Thaddeus McCotter
Age: 58
Representative from Michigan's 11th District
Advantages: Uuummm... well, he beats Karger in the "unknowns" category by not being gay, which is important for Republicans. Other than that...
Disadvantages: Admit it. You hadn't even heard of him till you read this page. He really was running for President, though.[12]
Tim Pawlenty.jpg
Tim Pawlenty
Age: 63
Former Governor of Minnesota
Advantages: He has executive experience and moderate stances. He appeals to fiscal conservatives due to his unallotments (this strange word = "wrecking") of the Minnesota state budget, could deliver Minnesota's 10 electoral votes to the Republicans — a state they have not won since 1972. He was on the shortlist for VP in 2008, giving him some credibility. He is a most dedicated campaigner, having started working on his candidacy months before other possibilities.
Disadvantages: Not too well known nationally, and is perceived widely as "boring." He has alienated conservatives by supporting clean energy. He performed badly in the Ames Iowa straw poll, finishing in a distant third place.
Rick Perry photo portrait, August 28, 2004.jpg
Rick Perry
Age: 74
Governor of Texas
Advantages: He has executive experience as a long-serving governor in the state of Texas, which is great fundraising territory for Republicans.[13] Under his leadership (and thanks to gargantuan amounts of oil), Texas avoided many of the worst aspects of the Great Recession, with strong job growth driven by a strong influx of new residents and a paucity of regulation. As a Texan and a staunch social conservative, he can connect with both the Southern and Western electorates — Perry is very much "one of us" for a majority of the country.
Disadvantages: He has made some seemingly pro-secession statements which are likely to hurt him outside of Texas and parts of the South. As an inarticulate and highly gaffe-prone Texas governor, he reminds people of still-unpopular former President George W. Bush, while nonetheless being reviled by former members of the Bush administration like Karl Rove. He's jumped on the third rail of politics with both feet, performing very poorly in debates and calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme which should be eliminated, which will not play well with the critical demographic of older voters. And those jobs he created? Many of them are close to minimum wage.
Charles "Buddy" Roemer
Age: 80
Former Governor of Louisiana
Advantages: Upheld Roe v. Wade while governor, despite his friends' and allies' opposition. Normally this would be an ideological disadvantage, but it can also be seen as a sign of independence and could make him appeal to moderates. He was one of the first to declare his candidacy[14] and already selected who he wanted for his running mate, former Democrat/Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.[15]
Disadvantages: His support for abortion rights and legal gambling will alienate social conservatives. While governor, his proposals were usually rejected, and he only lasted one term. He hasn't held office since 1992, and he has a serious lack of name recognition. He was elected as a Democrat and switched parties mid-term. Dropped out to seek the Americans Elect/Reform Party ticket.[16]
Rick Santorum official photo.jpg
Rick Santorum
Age: 66
Former Senator from Pennsylvania
Advantages: His home state has 20 electoral votes, and though it hasn't been won by a Republican since 1988 it is considered a swing state. He polled as high as #2 for a while.[17] He's staunchly conservative on social issues, which has made him a darling of Christian voters.
Disadvantages: His name recognition is for all the wrong reasons. He lost badly when he ran for a third term in the Senate in 2006. His anti-gay statements were fodder for the comedians and could hurt him among moderates and pro-gay rights voters. It might also be an issue that he is bugshit crazy. While for a time he gained momentum from concentrating in a few states and ratcheting up excitement, he shortly became his own victim as he was unable to stop speaking about social issues. Polling badly behind Romney even in his home state of Pennsylvania, he gamely kept on yelling for attention to anyone who will listen. He suspended his campaign in mid-April mainly to help tend to his young daughter's ill health.

Looked like they were going to, but declined[edit]

The candidates below were at one point considered possible nominees, but decided not to run in the first place.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Haley Barbour cropped.jpg
Haley Barbour
Age: 76
Governor of Mississippi
Advantages: Probably the most well-connected and powerful Republican as former head of the Republican National Committee and current head of the Republican Governors' Association.
Disadvantages: Not well known outside his home state of Mississippi, which is a safe Republican state already. And Mississippi is dead last in everything for a reason. His actual accomplishments and intentions to run were published in a fake news magazine, whilst being real, and no one noticed. Has a creepy William Shatner-ish look about him (maybe it's just the picture we chose to use).
Jeb Bush
Age: 71
Former Governor of Florida
Advantages: He's the smarter of the Bush brothers (though that may be damning with faint praise). He's well known, and has executive experience as the former Governor of Florida, which is a key state for both parties.
Disadvantages: The Bush name is not as popular a brand as it used to be.
Chris Christie
Age: 61
Governor of New Jersey
Advantages: He's a popular governor of a large, liberal state who can appeal to moderates. He's charismatic and a great communicator, and has been intensively courted by big donors and establishment politicians, indicating solid elite support. New Jersey's electoral votes would be a boon for Republicans.
Disadvantages: Would get in very late. Like Romney, he has frequently taken moderate positions in the past. His billing the state for personal expenditures (such as taking the official helicopter to his son's pee-wee sports game) could hurt him among fiscal conservatives, and his appointment of a Muslim as a Superior Court justice could turn off the Islamophobic wing. Additionally, as the elections for the GOP nominee have progressed and he has been courted for endorsements, his viewpoints on social issues (such as abortion) have become significantly less liberal.
Colbert portrait.jpg
Stephen Colbert
Age: 60
Advantages: He's got name recognition and political experience. He found a cool slogan, "A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow."
Disadvantages: Suspected Democratic deep cover liberal.
Mitch Daniels at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, April 16, 2006.jpg
Mitch Daniels
Age: 75
Governor of Indiana
Advantages: He has extensive executive experience, and is successful and popular in his home state. He's a rare Republican moderate who could lay an unopposed claim to that faction, assuming it still exists.
Disadvantages: He's not too well known, and his moderation on social issues hasn't endeared him with conservatives. He might face another contender from the same state (Mike "If You Like Bumming, This Chair's Humming" Pence).
Rudy Giuliani
Age: 79
Former queen Mayor of New York City
Advantages: He has strong fundraising and name recognition, a healthy media presence, and extensive experience running a Presidential campaign (though the results of his first attempt were hardly encouraging).
Disadvantages: He's too liberal for many Republicans on social issues, and has a lot of messy marital baggage. He floundered in his last presidential campaign, and his narrow emphasis on the War on Terror won't help him in an election being decided on economic issues.
Mike Huckabee speaking at HealthierUS Summit.jpg
Mike Huckabee
Age: 68
Former Governor of Arkansas
Advantages: He's charismatic — his fundamentalism is masked by his demeanor, making him less Falwell-like than his positions would suggest. He has executive experience and strong appeal to the Religious Right, and he cooks a mean deep-fried squirrel. He won RationalWiki's ironic endorsement for the Republican nomination in 2008.
Disadvantages: His appeal to moderates and independents is uncertain. As governor of Arkansas, he freed a convict who later killed four policemen in Washington,[24] which could hurt him with "law and order" Republicans, and would pretty much guarantee Washington State remaining Democrat. His economic populism doesn't make him popular with big donors.
Bobby Jindal, official 109th Congressional photo.jpg
Bobby Jindal
Age: 52
Governor of Louisiana
Advantages: He currently has high approval ratings as governor of Louisiana. As an Indian-American, he can help the Republicans escape the image as being the party of rich white guys and ex-Dixiecrat nostalgics, potentially appealing to ethnic minorities.
Disadvantages: He's not presidential in demeanor — his response to Obama's address to Congress in 2009 reminded everybody of Mr. Rogers (may have been his very early "Dean Scream"). He could be seen as too young (he would narrowly be the youngest person ever to hold the office). He appears to be destroying his state's economy, to the point where even fiscal conservatives are starting to call him on his massive budget cuts.
Sarah Palin
Age: 60
Former Governor of Alaska
Advantages: She's well-known, and a great fundraiser with lots of media attention. She's viewed as a strong social conservative, giving her a very loyal following among the Religious Right and a branch of the Tea Party. She winks at you — yes, you! She is winking at you.
Disadvantages: She's an extremely divisive figure who is not viewed favorably among the general electorate. She's viewed as not very bright (to be generous), and has very poor showings when she goes off-script. She has little experience, having quit her job as governor halfway through one term. Her family life has become something of a soap opera. Her early supporters are now migrating to Perry and Bachmann, and she has definitely decided not to run.[25]
Former governor george pataki new york state photo by christopher peterson.jpg
George Pataki
Age: 78
Former Governor of New York
Advantages: He has plenty of executive experience, and could deliver New York's 29 electoral votes to the Republicans for the first time since Reagan.
Disadvantages: He's boring as hell and too liberal for most Republicans.
Mike Pence, official portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
Mike Pence
Age: 64
Representative from Indiana's 6th District
Advantages: He won the 2010 Value Voters straw poll, indicating strong social conservative support.
Disadvantages: Mike who? Never heard of him... (but who'd heard of Bill Clinton two years before he was elected?[note 1]) The House of Representatives is rarely a direct path to the White House (see Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann above).
General David Petraeus.jpg
David Petraeus
Age: 71
US Army General
Advantages: He's got the best national security credentials on the face of the planet — he's widely credited with 'winning' the Iraq War, and he literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency strategies, giving him bipartisan respect. War heroes have often done well (Washington, Jackson, Grant, Eisenhower).
Disadvantages: He has asserted that he has no political ambitions. In April 2011, he was nominated by President Obama as CIA Director.
Marco Rubio.jpg
Marco Rubio
Age: 52
Junior Senator from Florida
Advantages: He's seen as a young, up-and-coming conservative — a sort of Republicans' answer to Barack Obama. As a Latino, he could potentially bring over members of a key demographic that the Republicans are having a very hard time trying to win over.
Disadvantages: He's inexperienced — he did not become a Senator until January 2011, and he would have to start campaigning less than half a year into his first term (Obama, who many criticized for inexperience, had two years more in the Senate than Rubio will). His parents were born outside the U.S., making him ineligible by birther standards. He also believes that anything involving space constitutes "exploration."[26]
Paul Ryan, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Paul Ryan
Age: 54
Representative from Wisconsin's 1st District
Advantages: He has risen to national prominence and become a media darling because of his focus on debt issues and his plan to eliminate the deficit. He is steeped in policy questions. (Ultimately became Romney's running mate.)
Disadvantages: His deficit reduction plan is an exercise in radicalism that is bound to alienate the elderly and middle-class voters. He's a prominent member of a very unpopular Republican House leadership. Campaigns based on issues instead of ideology rarely resonate with primary voters.
John Thune official photo.jpg
John Thune
Age: 63
Junior Senator from South Dakota
Advantages: He's reportedly charismatic, adheres for the most part to the Republican Party policy line, and has decent connections with the establishment (having been seriously considered as John McCain's Vice-Presidential pick).
Disadvantages: He voted for TARP, he's unknown to the broader public, and he's relatively inexperienced as a junior Senator.
Donald Trump
Age: 77
CEO, reality show host
Advantages: He's got name recognition and business experience, and polls well among Republicans.[27] He's the only candidate so far to embrace Obama citizenship denial, meaning that he can get out the wingnut crowd. He can use the tagline "Obama, You're Fired."
Disadvantages: He has no political experience. His personality on his reality show could be a turn-off. He's currently trying to appeal to the right-wing of the party, but used to be socially liberal and his sexual history makes Bill Clinton look like St. Thérèse. Birtherism would be problematic in the general election. Also, his hair.

GOP primary polls[edit]

Polling averages[edit]

Moving polling averages to October 2011
  Ron Paul
Intrade odds
  Ron Paul

Shown at the right is a moving average of recent primary polls, obtained from RCP's polling database.[8] For several reasons, these numbers should be taken with a huge grain of salt:

  • The field of candidates is still not settled, and different polls have often offered the respondents a different choice of candidates. For example, Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels were generally considered to be likely contenders and polled quite well until they declared not to seek the nomination after all. Sometimes, pollsters will retroactively process their data and assign respondents' votes for candidates who are no longer running to their second preferences, but sometimes such a choice was never offered and these responses are simply thrown out or just not shown anymore.
  • This early in the cycle, only very few eligible voters have seriously spent time thinking about their upcoming choices, let alone made their mind up. Some candidates are still unknown to many voters, while others will gain a boost simply by virtue of greater prominence. This allows for massive fluctuations in the run-up to the primaries.
  • There are only a handful of firms already in the field with regular polls, and the sample can't be held constant across the different intervals. So far, only Gallup, CNN and PPP are consistently represented, while others are included based on availability.
  • It's still a long time until the primaries, and there's a lot that can happen. At most, these numbers can provide information about how the field developed, but their predictive ability is extremely limited.

Alternative indicators[edit]

An alternative measure for predicting the candidates' chances of winning the nomination is having a look at the odds they're given at betting markets. Intrade allows bettors to take out long and short positions on contracts that trade between zero and 100 points, with each contract assigned to an event that can happen or not — in this case, a given candidate becoming the Republican nominee. As soon as the outcome is clear, contracts expire at either maximum or minimum value. In the meantime, they can be freely traded, and the current point value can be read as the market's overall consensus about a candidate's chances expressed in percentage points.

States won thus far[edit]

Below are the winners of the states which have held primaries or caucuses so far:


  1. Note that Clinton was one of many second-stringers willing to run against GHWB when he had 90% approval ratings due to his little war in Iraq. The subsequent collapse of the economy changed everything, as money always does.
  2. In addition, Romney has won in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
  3. Though he did win the U.S. Virgin Islands.


  1. 'King of birthers' to run for president, Seattle Times
  2. Bachmann wins Iowa straw poll, narrowly besting Ron Paul, CNN
  3. Michele Bachmann to end presidential campaign, CBS
  4. Herman Cain Launches Presidential Exploratory Committee, TPM
  5. Don't ask.
  6. Herman Cain drops White House bid, CBS News
  7. Polls: Newt Gingrich in GOP top three, United Press International
  8. 8.0 8.1 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination, RealClearPolitics
  9. Newt Gingrich’s Child Labor Philosophy, Orphan Trains, and Japanese School Cleaning, Chicago Magazine
  10. Huntsman Says He’s Quitting G.O.P. Race, The New York Times
  11. The Gay Republican Presidential Candidate (Whom You Never Heard of) Calls it Quits, Slate
  12. What was McCotter's official campaign site.
  13. Texas Gov. Rick Perry Jumps In Presidential Race, ABC News
  14. Louisiana long shot seeks 2012 presidential nod, CBS News
  15. Roemer Announces Senator Lieberman as “First Choice” for VP Running Mate, TIME
  16. "Buddy goes Independent"
  17. Michigan and Arizona primary day live: Romney blames Santorum for dirty tricks, The Guardian
  18. They say they're not running in 2012, CNN
  19. Mike Pence Not Running For President, TPM
  20. Sen. John Thune says he will not run for president in 2012, Los Angeles Times
  21. After Hinting Otherwise, Huckabee Says He Won’t Run for President, The New York Times
  22. Republican Daniels says he won't run for president, Reuters
  23. George Pataki Passes On 2012 Presidential Race, ABC News
  24. See the Wikipedia article on Sentence commutations by Mike Huckabee.
  25. Sarah Palin says she will not run for president in 2012, BBC News
  26. "Senator Rubio Comments on Historic SpaceX Mission" (Apparently exploration includes a private firm going somewhere that governments having been going for decades.)
  27. Trump tied for first in GOP horserace, CNN